As fajitas sizzled in the cast iron skillet on their Calistoga car-camping campfire, Suzanne and Shane Pavitt sipped and savored a glass of wine, while day dreaming out loud. It was a beautiful time on their newly purchased property, and its possibilities overflowed with promise.
As with anything she does, Suzanne Phifer Pavitt was revving up for a new passionate pursuit of making the couple’s dreams come true. This project would be most special. This project would be one filled with love of the land, appreciation of the wine its grapes would produce, and would lend itself to become a legacy for their future children.
Together, Suzanne and Shane built not only a homestead, but an incredible & unique winery in Calistoga, CA. From the floating 100 year old walnut bar to the hog fencing chandeliers and the reclaimed Wyoming snow wood that lines the walls, these mindful details come alive as visitors walk through the doors. Even what can’t be seen, like the recycled blue jean insulation in the walls, has been carefully thought out. It didn’t come easy and it didn’t come fast. What began as a conversation during their weekly “Date Night” commitment, became a successful Napa certified green winery that hosts visitors who enjoy the winery’s two flagship varietals, the Date Night Cabernet Sauvignon and the Date Night Sauvignon Blanc.
As Suzanne explains, “In 1999, we developed everything from ground up. I (began to) serve as the general contractor and it took six years for permits.” But they persevered and built the winery, though it took even more years to get the vineyard permit. The couple’s winery farms about 950 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Temple Family Vineyard in the Pope Valley. For their 900 cases of Sauvignon Blanc, they farm the Juliana Vineyards, also located on Pope Valley. As Suzanne shares, they “Cooperative farm the grapes. (The vineyards) own the land and we farm the fruit.” They’ve been farming that land annually since 2005, and have never looked back.
Suzanne has also never looked back on her former career in hi-tech. Though she and Shane did not come from a wine background, they have a shared passion that more than makes up for the previous lack of experience. As a result of the winery, the couple has been able to leave their former careers and dive successfully into not only their wine business, but also establishing a closer family bond with their children, Jackson William, 14, and Rhett James, 13. While Suzanne runs the day-to-day business operations, Shane is acting CFO, works harvest and is able to be sure their boys are attending time-consuming sports practices, year-round travel team football games, dirt bike races and more.
This family business has captured the interest of so many over the years, including Shane’s uncle, George Francuch. He was instrumental in drawing the label for Phifer Pavitt wines. Suzanne encouraged Uncle George to draw a strong woman to represent the winery because she knew that he would be able to create a woman from an era, like Patsy Cline’s, who did it all during the day and cleaned up, put on a beautiful dress at night. She wanted to capture the moxie of the women of that era. Suzanne explains, “I wanted a woman who was approachable and appreciated by a man, but also to a woman’s palate.” And Uncle George delivered.
So in keeping, the Phifer Pavitt Winery continues to deliver a special kind of moxie to its customers at each and every visit. Suzanne confides, “I really designed this whole experience to be very intentional and authentic. I try to be authentic in everything we do. At the end of the day, I hope (visitors) feel a very personal experience, because I have literally overseen every detail and my fingerprints on design are evident at every corner of the property, whether its the gates, the exterior of the winery or the interior of the tasting room. When you come on the property, you’re coming into my house. We want people to feel part of it.”