If you’ve heard of Tank Garage Winery, you’re familiar with the risk-taking wine label with the funky bottles. An “amazing passion project… [and] an often-needed creative outlet,” says James Harder, owner.
However, down the street, there is a quieter, more intimate brand that Harder has a deep love for. That brand, he says, is James Cole Estate Winery.
“James Cole is way more personal; it is the dream of my wife Colleen (Cole) and myself. It is our home and where our love for the land began,” he says.
The approach here, he says, is more about continuing to raise the bar on quality and consistency, while focusing on the varieties that the brand specializes in. But, he says, it’s more than that, really. James Cole is about family and friends; about creating and capturing an intimate experience in a bottle. That experience transitions right to the tasting room in Napa, CA, which doubles as the Harder home.
“Our winery has the small and intimate family feel. I think people see it when they come to visit and often can relate to us maybe more than some of the larger scale production wineries. We live right here on the property, so you’re likely to see us coming and going and shuttling kids around as we manage to balance both work and life,” he says.
He and Colleen want to talk to their guests, not at their guests. They make an effort to make it a relaxed experience. And, they don’t have to talk about just wine, either — the couple really enjoys getting to know their guests for who they are and what they love, wine be damned.
But, the atmosphere at James Cole may surprise you, especially if you’ve sipped the wines prior. The bottles basically scream “luxury,” with a rich dark black label coupled with copper highlights. Influenced and mentored by Robert Mondavi, the brand’s offerings include stunning pinot noirs; cabernet francs that are ripe and fruit-forward; and, of course, James Cole’s specialty, Cabernet Sauvignon.
“We believe that since wine is made from fruit, it should taste like fruit. Reaching optimal ripeness is very important to us, but beyond that, the wines should also have great structure, acid, oak integration and soft textures,” says Harder.
The perfect combination of science and wine, he credits his winemaking team with developing the science that creates such delectable sippers, while himself and Colleen gravitate more to the “art” side of things. A blend, he says, has attributed to the success of James Cole.
“We have certainly learned a lot about ourselves and the style of wine we like and that is deeply personal to us both. We have stayed true to that. We haven’t tried to chase trends or make wines for someone else. We know what we like, we share it with others and hope that they will like it as well,” Harder says.