Promise Wine - A Promise Made, A Promise Kept
If you are one of the few people on this planet lucky enough to taste the portfolio of wines from PROMISE, you are in for a very special treat. Not only is their collection of artisan wines world class, the immense passion that drives their family farm-to-table endeavor is truly one to behold.
The fairy tale of PROMISE begins on the wedding day of Stephen and Jennifer McPherson in 2002. After meeting in Los Angles at a mutual friend’s barbecue, the two New Jersey natives spent their courtship bonding over a shared love of food and wine.
Stephen’s interest began as a boy, when his father moved their family from Princeton, NJ to Paris, France and became the Headmaster of The American School of Paris. Both his parents fell in love with the culture of wine and took classes at Stephen Spurriers famed Ecole du Vin. Steve lived abroad from age nine through eighteen, and when he returned to the U.S. for college a deep appreciation for wine and cuisine was already ingrained.
Jennifer’s food and wine adventures started as a child watching her father cook elaborate Italian meals on Sundays and later open a restaurant. During university days at NYU she worked her way through school in upscale restaurants and elevated her knowledge and grew her passion. She even took a job marketing high end Scotch for a large Whiskey producer and added Sprirts to he repertoire.
So when they decided to marry, they thought there would be no better place than their favorite vacation destination: Napa Valley.
Just before the ceremony on their wedding day, Jennifer popped a question of her own, “Will you promise me that one day we’ll make wine together? I always want this place to be a part of our lives.” Stephen agreed with a lighthearted laugh, not realizing how meaningful this ‘promise’ would eventually become.
At the time, Stephen was a successful television executive and had no plans of diverging careers, though he had admittedly become a wine obsessive—fascinated in everything from farming and fermentation to aging and tasting. He liked the idea of making a little bit of wine for family and friends and did just that just in 2004, making two barrels (50 cases) of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. When the wine was ready to bottle and label, there was no question what the name would be. PROMISE, of course.
The McPherson’s began pouring their wine for family, friends, and over time, word began to spread and they amassed following. The more they shared it with others, the more enthused with the project they became—and so did their audience. PROMISE became popular in circles of wine collectors, critics and amateur enthusiasts alike and their namesake Cabernet Sauvignon became virtually impossible to get. What had started as a leisure activity had turned into a thriving small business and lifestyle.
“About 10 years into making wine, I started thinking of PROMISE as both a serious business and the absolute best way to spend time with my family…doing what I love with the ones I love. We decided we were all in,” says Stephen.
The couple consider this next phase of work and life ‘Chapter Two’ of their shared dream, and took some very exciting steps—or rather leaps—forward.
First, they secured a 100 acre estate on the legendary Prichard Hill (considered one of Napa Valley’s most exclusive grape-growing regions), where they could plant new vines, raise animals, and move their family of four permanently—which of course also meant quitting their longstanding careers.
Second, the couple placed famed winemaker Kirk Venge at the helm of their wine program and added three wines to their collection, each with a unique name representing the family values they hold dear: ‘the joy’ Rosé, ‘the love’ Pinot Noir, ‘the gratitude’ Red Blend.
Why these particular wine varietals, one might ask? The answer came easy to Jennifer, “We made what we personally wanted to drink!” Steve added “our life savings is in this business and we only pursue that that we love.”
Perhaps this is why so many people are dedicated to the brand. PROMISE has a thriving membership program and their extremely limited-production wines (they make just around 300 cases of each wine per year) are carefully allocated to this special group. You won’t find them anywhere else—not in restaurants or fine wine shops—only in the hands of those on the list, whom the McPherson’s have made a great effort to welcome to their dream.
Once you are an insider, you are truly considered part of the family, and there are some big benefits. The couple occasionally makes a ‘secret’ wine, ‘the intention’ Cabernet Franc, produces a single barrel of PROMISE 12-year-old Kentucky Bourbon each year, and are releasing 100 cases of their first Grand Cru Champagne from France in 2022—all of these come exclusively with Membership.
Not only that, you may have the pleasure of visiting the McPherson’s private ranch to share a glass of wine, pick sun-ripened garden strawberries, sample Stephen’s PROMISE Provisions (homemade pickles, jams, barbecue sauce, chocolate), and meet the stars of the family’s latest quest: Red Mangalitsa Pigs.
The pigs, an Old World breed native to Hungary whose name means “hog with a lot of lard” is considered the Kobe beef of pork. Gaining popularity with the best chefs in the world, Stephen is only one of a few people raising and breeding these pigs in the United States.
The vision is to create his own selection of show-stopping salumi, prosciutto, patê, and other Mangalitsa delicacies to share with members and pair with PROMISE wines. “ My ultimate goal is to craft my own version of melt-in-your-mouth Jamôn de Bellota…It changed my entire outlook on Salumi when I first had it.” says Stephen.
In just a handful of years, the McPherson family has transformed from Los Angelenos to full-fledged Napa Valley vintners and farmers. They have created a home for PROMISE Wine and Provisions and a lifestyle rich in simple pleasures: planting and harvesting organic fruits and vegetables; raising rare pigs, Nigerian Dwarf goats and heritage chickens; and enjoying the literal fruits of their labor in the kitchen and at the dining room table—with a bottle of wine, naturally.
“We are genuinely living the life of our dreams,” say Stephen and Jennifer.
If all of this is ‘Chapter 2,’ those who follow PROMISE cannot wait to see what happens in ‘Chapter 3.’