Grapes, no wrath at Maraella Winery


By Jim Lee/Vintner

I want to give you a little background information on myself and my family, with the hope that you will come to know us better, learn to like us and love our wine. 

From the age of four years I was raised with three sisters and three brothers on a 40-acre rock farm. The farm was located in Fords Valley. I am the oldest son of John Chester and Jennie Lou Franklin Lee. On the farm the family grew cotton, corn, vegetables and a variety of fruits.

The farm also seemed to produce a never-ending supply of rocks.

My mother was the most knowledge person about plant life I have ever known. Her gardens supplied the entire community with vegetables and fruits. One comment that mother made to me I will never forget, she said, “Jimmy, I think grapes are a special gift  from God! Humans and all animals love grapes. More grapes are grown on this earth than all other fruit combined, and grape vines will grow almost anywhere.”

After I retired my sons sent my wife and I on vacation to San Francisco in the summer of 2004. Sandra and I spent the entire week in wine country. I think we visited every winery tasting room in Napa and Sonoma.

What a beautiful place. Almost overnight I became convinced to start a vineyard and open a winery.

In early 2005 I contacted Bob Herrick, owner of Herrick (Nursery) Grapevines in St. Helena Ca. located a few miles north of Napa Valley. I told Bob I wanted to start a vineyard, growing Cabernet Sauvignon. I guess Bob picked up on my southern accent, he quickly asked me where will the vineyard will be located. Of course my response was Alabama.

He quickly stated you cannot grow true wine grapes in that climate, too hot, too humid. My response was I am going to give it a try. We purchased 1,600 vines from Herrick Grapevines and put them in ground on the family farm March 26, 2005.

Bob was wrong! The vines love the soil and the climate.

The harvest of Sept. 4 2012 yielded eight ton of fabulous fruit resulting in 760 gallons of wine. The 2012 vintage is aging in American White Oak Barrels and was released for sale in February 2014.

The name of the winery is a combination of the first two letters of my granddaughters’ middle names. Anna Mae, Bella Rae, Savannah Elise and Jessika Lauren. Maraella, the winery name.

We offer numerous varieties from Dorato Vino (White Muscadine, Cremisi (Red Muscadine), Riesling, Rose’ and Cabernet Sauvignon (French and American Oak.  I am currently working on and will soon offer a Zinfandel!

We welcome for you to the winery, free wine tastings are offered from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. We would love you to tour our facility and vineyard, which is available by appointment. We also invite you to book special gatherings with us!

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