AWG Correspondent

Mark and Sonja

Pine & Brown Estates Photos

Pine & Brown Estates Review

Regions: Napa Valley AVA, California

Reviewed: June 30, 2016 by Mark and Sonja
Published: February 21, 2017

This past spring, I attended an event that boasted around 40 small producers all from the Napa Valley. Included in the cost of admission was an inexpensive crystal glass and a coupon for $20 off a single bottle. I tasted around 50 Cabernet Sauvignons that day, in addition to a myriad of other wines, most of them truly excellent, before I used my coupon to purchase a single bottle of Cabernet, a Pine & Brown 2013, to take home and share with my wife. I asked winemaker Tom Rees to sign it, a request which he obliged with a flourish across the label in a silver sharpie. I thanked him, tucked the bottle under my arm, and headed out the door for home.

Fast-forward several months, and that same lovely wife for whom I bought the bottle granted me enough leave time to spend almost a week visiting wineries, writing, and taking classes in the Napa Valley. Crediting her generosity of time at least in part with my generosity of wine, specifically the incredible Pine & Brown Cab I brought home to share with her, I called up Tom and asked if I could schedule a visit to his winery. Ever agreeable, again he acquiesced.

Tom Rees is the kind of guy you’d like to have over to your house for dinner; he’s relaxed and courteous, makes good conversation, and has a terrific sense of humor. But if you visit his winery in Napa, on the corner of Pine and Brown, you’ll be the one who is the houseguest. Tom doesn’t have a tasting room in the traditional sense, and his winery would be easily confused from the outside as the detached garage of his beautiful old home – probably because that’s what it once was. Pine & Brown is truly a one-man operation, with Tom serving as owner, winemaker, general manager, sales rep, chemist, and chief custodian. Tom’s license allows him to make a maximum of eight barrels of wine (i.e. 200 cases, or a mere 2,400 bottles) annually, and he devotes most if not all of his limited space to Cabernet Sauvignon. He has a day job to keep the lights on, which means all of the aforementioned responsibilities fall outside the parameters of 8 and 5 or on the weekends, a fact that confirms that making wine is a labor of love for Tom Rees.

After being greeted at the front door by Buddy, Tom’s dog, we walked through his living room, past the kitchen, onto the patio, past a vegetable garden, and finally to the winery out back. Stepping inside, a 1976 Rockola Jukebox stood tucked in a corner and was later prompted with a quarter to play “Ring of Fire” while Tom used a wine thief to pour us tastes from the barrels stacked two high and four across. Maybe the coolest thing about the place is how utterly genuine it feels; there’s literally nothing set up in the small winery to accommodate guests. There is a work bench, a rack of tools, a shelf full of boxes containing wine labels, corks, chemicals, etc., and, of course, a lot of French oak barrels full of grape juice in various stages of fermentation. In short, it’s just a tiny winery, and if you are fortunate enough to be a guest there, then the utilitarian authenticity is yours to take in and learn from.

A visit to Pine & Brown promises an opportunity to barrel taste several of the wines that Tom is working on and having recently visited, I can say with authority that they are excellent without exception. Tom’s Cabs are just incredible, bold and rich and in your face – the quintessential Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, and he’s recently started branching out into multiple takes on the varietal. One of my favorites he’s sourcing from Mount Veeder, while another is blended substantially with Merlot with both grapes sourced from Rutherford, giving the young wine that notorious, dusty sensation upon the palate. In the past, Pine & Brown has also released a really wonderful Sauvignon Blanc, though, despite my numerous pleas and protests, Tom insists he has no plans to produce another vintage of that nectar at the present time. (I’m not going to stop badgering him about it, though.)

Together with a friend of mine, we tasted through every barrel, perhaps jotting the occasional note, but mostly just shooting the breeze with Tom, scratching Buddy behind the ears, and holding up the barrels for a while. It was by far one of the most laid-back wine tasting experiences I’ve ever had, right there on the corners of Pine Street and Brown Street in the heart of the famous wine producing mecca of Napa, and as such, it was also one of the more enjoyable tasting experiences I’ve had. If you enjoy small-production Napa Cabernets, and if you don’t need swans, minstrels, and famous works of art on hand to enjoy it, then I highly recommend you call up Tom Rees and schedule yourself a visit to Pine & Brown.

Address & Contact Information: 1045 Pine St. Napa, California 94559. Telephone: 707-363-4057, email:, website: Tasting Hours: By appt..

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