A. Lange & Söhne Akademie in Napa
11 September 2013
Every year, a group of collectors and press are invited to participate in the Lange Akademie in Napa, California. My wife and I joined the group this past week, where we were treated to wine and food the equal of Lange & Sohne. As part of the visit, we also had an extensive presentation on the history of the brand, had the opportunity to try our hand at some engraving and servicing techniques, and of course handled many of the brand’s current collection of spectacular watches.
The weather was late summer warm, and off we go….
The lobby of the Meadowood resort was fittingly adorned with Lange catalogs, and some fine watchmaking books
The first night we had dinner at the Napa Valley Reserve, a club whose superb wines are available only to its members.
The setting was stunning, which pretty well describes every moment of the weekend…
Our viticulture education for the weekend was the ever passionate Master Sommelier Gilles de Chambure, who for three days and nights drew easy parallels with Lange watchmaking.
It can take 15 years to yield a suitable crop from a planted field. Patience, passion, perhaps even compulsion.
Here is Gilles speaking about the qualities of French Oak
After the cellars, we had the chance to tour the grounds
And sample some fine champagne
And of course, excellent food
Over the weekend, we visited three estate wineries, which are extremely rare these days. Estate wineries manage the entire winemaking process–planting to bottling–on their own property. They don’t source grapes, crush them elsewhere, or enlist a bottling service. It’s the winemaking version of entirely in-house.
Gilles gave us a history of the Napa Valley which believe it or not produces only 4% of the wine produced in California.
**The state of California produces 80% of the wine produced in the US.
Many a household name owns a vineyard in the Napa Valley.
From Mondavi to Coppola, from the Gambles (of Proctor & Gamble) to the Swansons (of Swanson Foods).
First stop on our tour, Gargiulo Vineyards…
With the annual grape crush approaching, crews everywhere worked to cultivate and separate the best of the crop…
The view was breathtaking
Before the wine tasting, we had fresh grape juice from Chardonnay grapes…
Kick up your feet and sit all day
Vineyard owner Jeff Gargiulo played some blues, with superb accompaniment from our own Dave Vargo and Chris Hislop from Lange.
Jeff has an extensive collection of vintage guitars, and as it happens, he was playing with country music star Tim McGraw the following night.
The wine was outstanding, and of course many of us went home with some.
Imagine waking to this each morning…
Our next stop on the vineyard tour was the Martin Estate, which sits on 12 acres behind an unmarked gate, which itself was the catalyst in their initiation to winemaking.
After their home was completed, the Martins put up a gate that was apparently too high for county regulations on residential properties. So rather than install a shorter gate, they went commercial and became winemakers.
We were toured the beautiful property, with our sommelier Gilles and Greg Martin leading the way…
…as we ate grapes
and circled back their home.
Which can only be described as a living museum
Where the Martins have assembled precious antiques as many as 500 years old.
Swords from the War of 1812
Greg, Petra and their daughter Greta Martin hosted an al fresco lunch for our group. And once again, we were absolutely shocked by the caliber of the food and wine.
Here is Greg with Gilles de Chambure…
As if that wasn’t enough, the Martins then pulled out the stops with a sampling of their Martin Estate Gold, a dessert wine in the vein of a French Sauternes. This was only the third time they had ever produced the wine, which had a natural–rather than syrupy–sweetness, and an earthy quality of a vintage French champagne.
Our final stop was the Viader Winery, owned by Delia Viader, and her three (now adult) children. Delia has more university degrees than most tenured professors, and was the first in the Napa Valley to plant their 100% organic vines up the hillside to track the sun’s path.
Apparently, she was onto something, because Delia–known as the “Queen of Cabernet Franc” placed their proprietary blend in the top-100 wines in the world, according to the Wine Spectator.
Wine and Watches…a natural pairing
Which brings us to Lange.
As many of you know, Lange was founded in 1845, but after World War II, there was a 45-year gap in its existence. From 1945-1990, the watchmaking companies of Glassutte became part of a state-owned company that produced pieces that are nowhere near the caliber of Lange watchmaking today.
For more on the history and evolution of A. Lange & Sohne, you may want to re-visit my report of my Lange factory visit from June.
Tools of the trade…
During our visit in Napa, we had the chance to handle many of the watches from Lange, and frankly there’s not much to say. They’re flat-out phenomenal…
Richard Lange Tourbillon Pour le Merite
Grande Lange 1 Lumen, a 100-piece Limited Edition announced this year
And a Lange 1 reversal of sorts, in the Daymatic. A Lange 1 dial reversed, with day indicator, 1mm larger case, and an automatic movement.
Zeitwerk Striking Time.
The 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar
The new 1815 Up/Down
The 1815 Chronograph
Lange 1 in Platinum
Lange 1 Timezone in white gold
Saxonia Annual Calendar…my wife is dreaming of this one!
Some very special pieces amongst our group…
The new Lange Perpetual Tourbillon
One from the 25-piece edition of the Datograph in yellow gold
And the now discontinued Datograph on the ultra rare platinum bracelet
Grande Lange 1 Luminous
Zeitwerk Striking Time
I want to thank Master Sommelier Gilles de Chambure for infusing his love for wine as a perfect parallel to our love for watches. As someone in our group said, “Gilles is so passionate he would have prohibitionists drinking wine in no time.”
Thank you to all of the wineries who opened their doors to our group. And to our group itself. We all became fast friends, and this was of course enhanced by the graciousness of our hosts…Lange & Sohne.
To Kate, Chris, Gaetan, Alex, Joanna, Simona and all of the people at this wonderfully friendly brand…THANK YOU!
It was truly a memorable weekend of fine watches and fine wine.
From Napa, hope you enjoyed that!