The history and technical information are from a video call with Annie Favia and Andy Erickson on August 23, 2021 8:30 am MDT. The interpretation is by Artisan Wines.
Look closely at the label for Favia’s Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon—see the faint ring around the central imprint? Did you notice the shape of the two Os and the C in the AVA’s name? Add to these the three little circles in the middle of the imprint itself, which also appear on the Carbone label (and look a little like fibre-optic cable. They’re comets, actually). Maybe these shapes include the Zen circle, or the Medicine Wheel of wine, or Yin Yang Favia.
Whatever they are, there’s something calm, intuitive and precise about Favia that’s represented perfectly by a neat 360 degrees. “Oh golly,” you say. “You’re using the circle as a metaphor? Sooo overdone. A way-tooooo-easy trope. Be original.”
First, there was Annie
Annie Favia grew up on a farm in Connecticut where her mother kept their own gardens and her father made sausage and wine in the garage. Growing things on the land with your hands is in Annie’s platelets, but she didn’t pursue farming in her university years. Instead, she studied French Literature and Art History at the Sorbonne in Paris. It was here where she happened upon the concept of wine as lifestyle.
After returning Stateside, Annie took up office work translating French at the esteemed Newton Vineyard in St. Helena, California. It just so happened that none other than John Kongsgaard was in charge at the time. Annie became more interested in what John was doing out in the vineyards than in her office work. From there, she went to work with another Napa wine legend, Cathy Corison, where one day Cathy asked if anyone wanted to go out and prune the vines with her. Annie shot her hand up and the rest, as they say…
Annie would go on to pursue a viticulture degree and grow grapes for David Abreu, whose fruit went to the likes of Harlan, Araujo and Colgin among other Napa cult wines.
Then, there was Andy
New Jersey-born Andy Erickson spent his younger years in Indiana surrounded by farms. His dad was a scientist who brought young Andy to his labs from time to time. Like many a wine professional, Andy’s route to a career was roundabout. After pre-med and international relations at university didn’t pan out, Andy found himself drawn to more creative pursuits and explored architecture and graphic design. Eventually, he landed work at a Bay Area marketing firm.
Now, we just covered a lot of ground in a very vague and short time, but it was during the second two years of his Political Science degree in the Haut-Savoie in eastern France that Andy got a glimpse of what his future might be. The family he stayed with had a large wine cellar dug out under the backyard. He and the family would cook outside and choose some wines and then carry the dining table into the yard for meals under the sky.
These experiences planted the question is his heart, “How do you live like this?” Upon returning from Europe and moving to San Francisco for his marketing job, Andy and his friends would cycle around the hills, forests and vineyards in Napa and Sonoma and taste wine. It was then that he decided to answer that big question. From there, it was experience in Argentina with Paul Hobbs, in Napa with John Kongsgaard, and on to UC Davis for a winemaking degree. This led to roles at Screaming Eagle, Harlan, Bond, Staglin Family, Dalla Vale, and Mayacamus.
Then there was Annie and Andy
The two didn’t meet somewhere in France. Nor did they come across each other at any of the heralded wineries both worked at. Like any proper American co-ed couple, they met at a party. Andy’s party. At St. Helena in 1996. Making wine together was inevitable; they both had the world’s best vineyard sources, relationships, role models, experience, intelligence, intuition and sensitivity. They moved to Napa and took turns completing their viticulture and winemaking degrees, and continued to source fruit and make wine in their garage until founding Favia wines in 2001. It would be another 13 years before they had opportunity with the Carbone property.
They bought the farm
The Carbone estate is an 1886 stone farmhouse on 6.5 acres in Coombsville tucked into the southeast corner of Napa. It came with an old barrel cellar and gardens, and was established by one of the (if not the actual) first Italian families to settle in Napa County. A & A set about restoring the home and cellar, and of course planting vast gardens. Annie even grows and markets Erda, her own line of whole leaf and flower herbal teas.
Annie admits that wine growing, while definitely a project, was more of a side-gig. She planned to give rise to a biological haven of gardens and trees and other cultivated and wild life on the land.
They make wine there, too
When the fruit they grew and sourced and the wine they made turned out to be really good, naturally they did more of it. Since moving to Carbone, the tiny winery means hands-on, old-school winemaking. Andy describes his approach as very “analog”.
He focuses on vineyards and fruit. He emphasizes picking at just the right time, which for him means fairly early. After that, he does a thorough sorting, a five-day cold soak, and keeps moderate fermentation temperatures to prevent bitterness. He likens this approach to cold brewing coffee. The reds can be on their skins for 20 to 30 days to develop the mid-palate before going right into barrels where they’re racked a few times before bottling without fining or filtering. He says, “What you’re getting in the glass is grapes that have been fermented and bottled.”
The understated gentleness to everything about the pair produces strength through subtlety. They don’t need to propound their greatness. They do things well and let others find it. As wife-husband winegrower-winemakers, their roles and skills complement each other like Yin y Yang.
Annie’s involved in the labels
Along with the farm, Annie’s dad had a keen interest in paper. He even had his own printing press. This instilled in Annie her own sense of wonder which she communicated to Data Graphic Design, the team who created the labels. Each label in some way represents the wine’s influences, and all of them include an element of nature.
- Cerro Sur shows a grape flower during bloom with the female part in the centre. Since vines are self-pollinators, when the bloom and centre touch, berries are born.
- Oakville Cabernet depicts Crimson Clover, that vineyard’s cover crop.
- Magdalena conjures the universe’s energy by depicting the moon, a reminder that we’re not at the centre of said universe.
- And back around to where we started: the Coombsville label with its circle.
In Annie’s words, it’s a “fun diversion” with layer upon layer of meaning. Named after Napa’s founder, Nathan Coombs, Coombsville sits in a caldera—a post-magma explosion volcanic bowl. Its circularity has earned it the nickname the “cup-and-saucer appellation”. The ring depicted on the label comes from the bottom of an old British teacup. Finally, the ring encircles an old ironstone stamp of the Carbone family crest with the three comets in the middle.
That label really wraps the totality of what was, is, and will be for these two on this land.
Be Original? Looks like I failed.