Norman and Norah Stone started with —
In 1990, Norman and Norah Stone found and fell in love with a white farm house tucked at the base of Diamond Mountain in the Napa Valley. In their mind’s eye, the San Francisco couple saw a second home filled with friends and pieces from their private art collection.
That the two-story home — built from Redwood lumbered on the property in 1887 — was skirted by seven acres of premium Merlot grapes was peripheral to the Stones. Norman, a psychologist; Norah, a former corporate attorney and registered nurse, weren’t vintners. Art was their passion.
But when famed winemaker John Kongsgaard advised the couple to “forget the house and buy the place for the vineyards,” the Stones took note and set out to know their vineyard better: Its grapes had never been bottled but only sold in bulk to other wineries,
The couple bottled their Merlot under the label Azalea Springs and devoted themselves to making improvements that would, as Norman later recalled, “result in the making of the very best wine we could produce from the vineyard.”
The Stones bottled 11 vintages of Azalea Springs Merlot, among them a ’94 that Wine Spectator rated 91 points. Steven Spurrier of U.K.-based Decanter singled out Azalea Springs 1997 Merlot as the “Best New World Red” in May 2002.
Phylloxera reached the Stone’s vineyard in 2000, motivating the couple to replace their infested Merlot vines with Cabernet Sauvignon, a premier varietal even better suited to the Diamond Mountain Appellation. While the vineyard was being replanted, the Stones bottled a 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon under the transitional label AZS from grapes sourced from the Rock Cairn and Stage Coach vineyards in the Napa Valley.
The Stones bottled the first vintage of their estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon — 164 cases worth — in 2004. The vintage, released in October 2007 also under the AZS label, marked the start of a new era for the Stones and their Diamond Mountain property.
Norman and Norah — “No-No” to friends — ended up with —
The Stones’ wine country estate came into its own in October 2007 when, after seventeen years of discovery and evolution, the couple gave it the name — Stonescape.
A decidedly permanent fixture in their lives, the property has become a complete expression of who the Stones are — both as esteemed art collectors and fine wine producers.
Not only have the Stones overhauled their vineyard — cutting it down to three and a half premium acres — but their estate showcases a custom designed James Turrell Skyspace that looms out of a black granite swimming pool set on the edge of the Stone’s vineyard, along with another James Turrell Skyspace installed in the adjacement pavilion .
Deeming their property too small to support a commercial winery, the couple opted instead to build a 5,000-square-foot Art Cave in its limestone hillside where friends and fellow art enthusiasts could view — in a museum-like setting — curated exhibits from the Stones’ private collection.
With their property now in proper perspective, the Stones say their next step will be to release a truly premium label appropriately named Stonescape.
In the interim, limited quantities of various vintages of Azalea Springs Merlot, as well as 2004 and 2005 vintages of AZS Cabernet Sauvignon are available for purchase online.