Not every vineyard gets to have such a history


Our interest in wine—pinot noir in particular—began when we were in our twenties with ten bottles of red Burgundy remaining from our wedding (which we saved to celebrate ten successive anniversaries). We were inspired to learn more about wine, including experimenting with making our own wine at home. When the prospect arose to be part of a project to revive a storied Santa Cruz vineyard, we jumped at the opportunity. It only took one visit to appreciate the potential of this historic vineyard to produce a great California pinot noir.

The Jarvis brothers first planted this vineyard, known as Union Vineyard, in the early 1860s during the Civil war, making it one of California’s oldest vineyards. In the 1960s, David Bruce owned the property, followed by Ken Burnap, who bought the vineyard from David in 1974. Ken built an on-site winery and established Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards. In the subsequent years, Ken produced wine that clearly demonstrated the vineyard’s quality. In 2004, we purchased the property from Ken, and after replanting the six-acre vineyard, we waited patiently for the vines to mature before resuming production of estate pinot noir in 2012.

With a nod to the property’s rich history, we revived the Union Vineyard name and branded the wine U.S. Grant in honor of John Jarvis’ hero, Ulysses S. Grant. Referring to the name, Jarvis had written in his journal,

“It was suggested by the peculiar topography of the country, the union of the hills that form the Vine Hill Section, and my love for the Union as represented by the stars and stripes.”

Later, Jarvis named a giant redwood on the original property ‘General Grant’; this tree remains standing today.

In 2012, we teamed with Michael Terrien, previously of Hanzell, who brought his sensibility for venerable pinot noir traditions. After years of experimentation and discovery, we have implemented our winemaking strategy: minimal manipulation. Employing pre-industrial craftsmanship, we do not use pumps or filters in the cellar, the vineyard is organically dry-farmed, and we do not till the soil. This reliance on technique over technology is the method that best expresses the terroir, while capturing the vineyard’s authentic character.

The winery’s focal point is Michael’s patented teacup-shaped fermentation vessels. In each of these twelve concrete cups, whole-cluster pinot noir wild ferments without acidulation or pigéage. This passive and cool fermentation allows for a very gentle six-week maceration, which results in a delicate and complex wine having low alcohol and great structure. We make only a single wine, with production ranging from 200 to 700 cases.

It has been a long time coming, but we feel that we can now share with people a wine that represents what we always hoped U.S. Grant could become. While Union Vineyard is still evolving and we are learning more every season, our goal remains the same as it was in 2004: to produce a pinot noir of true distinction.

Nat Simons & Laura Baxter-Simons
January 2021

General Grant Tree c. 1870s
Union Vineyard, from the east, c. 1880s

The “S” in Grant’s name didn’t stand for anything.

Grant’s given name was actually Hiram Ulysses Grant, and the middle initial is a vestige of Congressman Thomas Hamer’s error when he accidentally wrote the future general’s name as ‘Ulysses S. Grant.’

U. S. Grant detested wearing army uniforms.

During his study at West Point, Grant received numerous demerits for his unkempt uniforms. His distaste for military attire continued even after he assumed command of the Union Army during the Civil War.

Mark Twain published U.S. Grant’s memoirs.

Grant began compiling his memoirs in the mid-1880s, Twain offered him a deal with his own publishing company. Just days before dying of cancer, Grant finished the book. Within the year, Twain had turned it into a best seller.