The People

Waugh Family Cellars was founded by Ryan and Crystal Waugh in 2000. 

Ryan followed his dream to be a surgeon at Santa Clara University, where he graduated with degrees in Biology and Chemistry. During Ryan’s freshman year at Santa Clara, a friend’s father shared a bottle of wine with Ryan from the year he was born. The bottle was a 1976 Stags Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Lot 2, which hangs in a shadow box in the Waugh’s living room. This wine sparked an intense passion within Ryan, who found a job working in a vineyard near Santa Clara University. During his sophomore year, Ryan attended a career fair at UC Davis and landed a part-time job at a Napa Valley winery, Chateau Potelle. After graduating, Ryan moved to Napa and became the full-time cellar master at Chateau Potelle.

Crystal Kettle enjoyed business and fashion, leading to her obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Business Administration from Texas A&M. After graduating, Crystal entered the Executive Training program at Neiman Marcus. Quickly climbing the ladder, Crystal was soon in charge of the college recruiting program. As fate would have it, Crystal was recruiting Santa Clara students on the campus in the late 90s for Neiman Marcus while Ryan was still attending the University. When she and Ryan eventually crossed paths, it wasn’t long before they were enamored with each other and the wine business alike. With Ryan’s interest, work experience with wine, and Crystal’s background in business administration, the two worked tirelessly to start and maintain a successful wine business.

Waugh Family Wines began with 100 cases of a single label produced from Ryan’s garage. Working together, Ryan and Crystal’s business has seen 4,000 cases produced, three labels, and grapes grown from 17 different vineyards between Napa and Sonoma. They have also built a custom crush winery in California and a distillery in Texas.

The Juice

The grapes that compose this wine were harvested on October 9, 2018. This 100% Merlot is a small production of only 150 cases. The incredible quality of the 2018 vintage is on full display with their first bottling of Merlot. Waugh Family Cellars have been producing Merlot for the junior blend for over a decade, and we thought it was time to give our wine lovers a glimpse of this magnificent varietal.

The Dirt

Merlot flourishes in relatively cool growing regions with moist soils, making it an ideal match for certain parts of the southern Napa Valley. Yountville is a sweet spot between warmer up-valley areas and the cool southern tip. This region is defined by a Mediterranean climate, consisting of long, hot, and dry summers and short, cold, and wet winters. While it might not sound like a glorious place to live on this basis alone, the conditions are well-suited to produce certain varietals like Merlot.

The Taste

The wine is sensationally dense with ripe plum, boysenberry, and blackberry that leap out of the glass and coat the palate. The smooth, rich fruit is complemented by milk chocolate, fresh tobacco, black licorice, mocha, and hints of violets. It’s unusually complex and multidimensional for a variety often spoken about in opposite terms. And don’t forget the classic smooth, rich, soft tannins you enjoy in all Waugh red wines.

The Spill

What I love about Waugh Family Cellars – other than the delicious wine – is the epic story behind it. Ryan Waugh’s passion for wine started when somebody shared with him a wine from the year he was born. This newfound interest in wine would later cause him to cross paths with his eventual wife, Crystal. Although their close but separate beginnings eventually overlapped in the late 90s, they were not destined to meet until March 5, 2004, when Ryan poured his “boutique” wines in the hotel lobby where Crystal was staying for a friend’s bachelorette weekend. She approached him for Zinfandel, and the rest was history. Together, they have truly worked from the ground up. Why Hallmark hasn’t made a movie about them yet, I don’t know.

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