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.

Thomas Rivers Brown, a renowned consultant, heads up the winemaking team at Theorem Vineyards, a hillside winery in the northern Napa Valley’s Diamond Mountain District. Kathleen Ward is the estate’s on-site winemaker. Cabernet Sauvignon has been the calling card since Houstonians Jason and Kisha Itkin founded the winery in 2012, but Brown and Ward also produce Merlot from the Diamond Mountain property and Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah from an estate in Sonoma County’s Moon Mountain District. Some tastings of these classy aromatic wines involve excellent food pairings by culinary director Josh Mitchell. Below are quick impressions of a few wines from recent vintages.

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.

2019 Theorem Vineyards Moon Mountain Chardonnay

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 and with a smooth and silky mouthfeel backed by well-tamed tannins, this wine’s got 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 (lead photo) is a classic hillside Napa Valley Cab – 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 owners Jason and Kisha Itkin 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 wine is a rich and polished knockout. As silky and supple as one might expect from Thomas Brown, especially with Merlot, this wine nevertheless 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. Brown and 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 the point subtly and stay true to the varietal. 

Why go: beautiful estate; Diamond Mountain Cabernet by Thomas Rivers Brown and Kathleen Ward; wine and food pairings by Josh Mitchell.


Theorem Vineyards appears in 48 Perfect Hours in Calistoga.


255 Petrified Forest Rd., Calistoga 94515

Grilled peach slices with burrata and bacon lardons at wine and food pairing.

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Woodsy setting for Diamond Mountain Cabernet.
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