Ad Vivum

Ad Vivum is a tiny Napa project from winemaker Chris Phelps, previously of Dominus and Caymus. Created in 2007, Phelps makes one wine, exclusively from two blocks in the Sleeping Lady vineyard, the southernmost site in Yountville.

Ad Vinum

Phelps trained at UC Davis before spending time in Bordeaux, where Christian Moueix (of Pétrus) hired him to be the first winemaker for his new Napa project, Dominus, starting with the 1984 vintage. In 1996, Phelps moved to Caymus, where he stayed until 2003, before moving on to Swanson Vineyards.

In 2007, he decided to start his own label – having fallen in love with fruit from a site his friend Larry Bettinelli was working with, the Sleeping Lady vineyard. Originally known as Reese, the vineyard is at the southernmost tip of Yountville, right at the foot of the Mayacamas, and at the end of the bench. Underground water flows down from the mountains and the soils, with gravel and sand over clay, allowing the vines to avoid severe hydric stress.

Several other producers work with the vineyard, but Phelps has two specific plots, representing around 1.5 acres, at the very western edge of the vineyard, where the steep slope above aids the flow of cool air through the site. The vines here have an impressive ability to self-regulate.

The fruit is all de-stemmed and spends between eight and 21 days on skins, depending on the vintage. Around a quarter of the blend is barrel fermented (as of 2015), with the rest all in stainless steel. The wine is then aged in 70% new French oak.

The name “Ad Vivum” was inspired partly by a near-death experience, when Phelps was struck by lightning while hiking. Combining the Latin for wine (“vinum”) with “to live” (“vivere”) and “ad” meaning to or towards, it is about the idea of where wine and life meet.

In a good year, production for Ad Vivum is around 450 cases, but is often less.


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