Blanton Family

For Kentucky-born Joe Blanton and his wife, California native LeeAndra Blanton, Selah Wines represents an opportunity to live in a place they love and pursue a passion they share: making great wine. They purchased their small Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard on Howell Mountain in Napa Valley in 2014, but their fondness for this wine region – and their determination to live and work here – goes back much further.

Joe was a young major league baseball player playing for the Oakland A’s when his interest in wine was stoked at team dinners on the road. Older players – mentors on and off the field – would order wine for the group, and Joe became intrigued. Trips to nearby wine country, particularly Napa Valley, furthered his interest, but it was an “a-ha” moment with a bottle of 2002 Joseph Phelps Insignia that made Joe realize there was much more to wine than he’d experienced so far. His interest quickly turned into an obsession, and though he was traded in 2008, he continued to learn as much as he could about growing and making wine. During travel between games he immersed himself in wine books and tasted as often as he could with likeminded teammates.

At the same time, Joe continued to visit Napa Valley with LeeAndra, who he’d met in California and who shared Joe’s fascination with the area and its wines. Napa Valley was where the couple could unwind and take a break from their busy lives. It was the first place they went on vacation together, and also where they became engaged and eventually married. Ultimately, it was the place they decided to make their home, and they now live in the north valley town of Calistoga with their three children.

Selah Wines is a new chapter for Joe and LeeAndra. A search for vineyard land brought them to their Howell Mountain property, and as longtime admirers of Cabernet Sauvignon wines from the appellation, it was a site that spoke to them immediately. After securing the vineyard, they assembled their team: well-known winemaker Thomas Brown, whose wines they’d tasted and esteemed, and Josh Clark, one of the most trusted vineyard managers in Napa Valley. With several harvests under their belts, Joe and LeeAndra look forward to a long life in Napa Valley, and to applying the same dedication to excellence in wine that Joe has devoted to his distinguished baseball career.

Thomas Brown

When Joe and LeeAndra met Thomas Brown, it was his likeminded philosophy of winemaking and easygoing style that convinced the couple he was the right winemaker for Selah Wines. A native of South Carolina, Thomas was in college when he developed an interest in wine, and he expanded his knowledge of the world’s great wine regions while working at All Seasons Wine Shop in Calistoga, CA. He began making wine himself in the late 1990s and quickly became known for some of the most sought-after wines in Napa Valley, including his own project, Rivers-Marie. In October 2008, Thomas made history as the youngest winemaker to score two perfect “100 point” scores from Robert M. Parker, Jr. of The Wine Advocate. Thomas is known for crafting exquisite wines that speak of the place and conditions that create them, an approach that resonates with Joe and LeeAndra. “Thomas has a great way of making a wine that is approachable, yet also expresses the classic depth, structure and character of the Howell Mountain appellation. It’s a wine anyone can enjoy.”

Thomas Brown
“Winemakers have a talent and skill not everybody has; it’s not just a learned thing. Equating it to baseball, I can tell someone how to throw a curve ball, but it doesn’t mean they can do it. It’s the same with winemaking; someone can tell you how to do it, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be good at it.”

- Joe Blanton

Josh Clark

Josh Clark had the good fortune to grow up in Napa Valley, spending most of his days with his father who ran Clark Vineyard Management, the family’s vineyard management company. After graduating from Cal Poly, Josh worked for a large family-owned vineyard on the Central Coast, but returned to Napa Valley a few years later to work in his family’s company. He worked alongside his father for two years before taking over the family business in 2000. Today, Clark Vineyard Management is one of the leading vineyard management companies in the Napa Valley, managing some of the area’s most prominent  vineyards. Josh, who was introduced to Joe and LeeAndra Blanton through Winemaker Thomas Brown, with whom he works on several wine projects, has been described as a hillside specialist due to his extensive work with mountain vineyards.

Josh Clark
“I learn so much listening to Josh. He’s got a lifetime’s worth of experience in Napa Valley, and his approach – like the vineyards he manages - is always balanced.”

- Joe Blanton

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