Theorem Vineyards Team Crafts Classy, Aromatic Wines

Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is the calling card of one of the best Napa Valley wineries for food and wine pairings.

Houstonians Jason and Kisha Itkin founded Theorem Vineyards, a hillside winery in the northern Napa Valley’s Diamond Mountain District, in 2012. Cabernet Sauvignon from old and new vines is the calling card, but the winemaking team also produces a small amount of Merlot from the Diamond Mountain property and Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah from an estate the Itkinses purchased in Sonoma County’s Moon Mountain District. The winery consultant Thomas Rivers Brown set the house style, with more recent bottlings credited to his protégés Kathleen Ward and Andy Jones. Some tastings of Theorem’s classy aromatic wines involve excellent food pairings by culinary director Josh Mitchell. Below are quick impressions of a few wines from the past several vintages.

Mt. St. Helena view from tasting barn’s rear deck.

2021 Theorem Vineyard Moon Mountain District Chardonnay

There’s much to recommend about this deceptively expressive wine whose stone-fruit minerality plays well off the citrusy notes and mild rounding via judicious French oak aging (17% new, 58% neutral, with the remainder stainless steel). Though focusing on balance, winemakers Kathleen Ward and Andy Jones allow the acidity to assert itself mid-palate before softening the rest of the way. An excellent sipper, this well-crafted Chardonnay is a natural for pairing with mild cheeses, seafood, and chicken.

2021 Theorem Vineyards Moon Mountain District Syrah

The intense impression of stewed berries and plums on the nose hints at the mostly dark-fruit flavors of this 100% Syrah. Its tannins, though polished, come off friskier than one expects from this producer, even after an hour’s decanting, followed by an equal interval in the glass. But youth is good, and though drinkable now and pleasingly complex, this wine will likely evolve gracefully if you can wait. As with the 2021 Chardonnay, this one’s great on its own but reveals its brilliance even more with food: it showed well one day with Chinese five-spice duck and even better the next with medium-spicy Singapore-style lamb curry.

From left, 2021 Moon Mountain District Syrah and Chardonnay.

2019 Theorem Vineyards Moon Mountain Chardonnay

The deft use of French oak (20% new, 55% neutral) amplifies layered flavors including stewed pears and lemon curd in this mineral-driven wine. Despite honeylike tones, it registers as clean, complex, and pretty, owing at least in part to 25% aging in stainless steel.

2019 Theorem Vineyards Diamond Mountain Merlot

Plummy and brambly with cumin and other spice notes, this wine plays against expectations. The fruit is decidedly ripe, but an underlying earthiness tempers the effect. We’ll call this the thinking person’s Merlot.

From left, 2019 Chardonnay, Merlot, and Syrah.

2019 Theorem Vineyards Moon Mountain Syrah

What a nose on this one! Redolent of plum, pomegranate, cocoa, eucalyptus, and dried herbs, with a smooth and silky mouthfeel backed by well-tamed tannins, this wine has everything that makes Syrah fanatics wonder why the grape isn’t more beloved in these parts. It’s great with spicy food.

2019 Theorem Vineyards Hawk’s Prey Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 

From vines planted in 2014, Hawk’s Prey is a classic hillside Napa Valley Cabernet – rich, textured, black-fruit forward, with lingering tannins.

A clean, well-lighted modern place for winemaking.

2017 Theorem Vineyards Voir Dire Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

I’ve always been captivated by the sturdy lushness winemakers coax out of Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon. One case in point is 2017 Voir Dire 100% Cabernet. With a name like Voir Dire, Latin for “to speak the truth,” for the wine, it should come as no surprise that a lawyer (Jason Itkin) cofounded the winery. Made from estate-grown grapes, the flagship Theorem Vineyards wine instantly seduces with well-integrated tannins that register strongly throughout and acidity that facilitates a mid-palate burst of flavor. A spicy back-palate jounce sets up the lingering finish of this polished, balanced wine whose power and intensity reveal themselves on subsequent sips. I count it among my favorite 2017 Napa Cabernets.

The grapes for Voir Dire come from the Diamond Mountain estate’s oldest vines.

2018 Theorem Vineyards Diamond Mountain Merlot

Best to work backward on this Merlot from an acre of grapes planted in 2014. The finish was oh-so-satisfying that it got me to thinking has the finish ended if you’re still recollecting it (not just how good it was but the actual sensations) a day later? We’ll leave that to the pros, but this Merlot is a rich, polished knockout. Silky and supple, the wine speaks to its volcanic hillside site with a density and complexity not always found in Merlot. Gently insistent tannins register on the front, and the mouthfeel is marvelous throughout, with the touch of spice on the back a final reminder of the wine’s mountain origins. The winemakers, Thomas Rivers Brown and Kathleen Ward, dare to remind us how luscious Merlot can be when the fruit’s this good, but the wine is all the more elegant because they make their point subtly and stay true to the varietal. 

Why go: beautiful estate; Diamond Mountain Cabernets; wine and food pairings by Josh Mitchell.


Theorem Vineyards appears in 48 Perfect Hours in Calistoga.


255 Petrified Forest Rd., Calistoga 94515

Grilled octopus with corn, andouille, romesco, and lemon at wine and food pairing.

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Buildings on the Diamond Mountain property include the modern winery on the left and two restored 19th-century structures, a small schoolhouse and a residence. The tasting barn (lead photo) is adjacent to the winery.

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