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Ad Vivum Cellars


“Life is our most precious gift, and wine, used appropriately, enhances our life.”
– Chris Phelps

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Ad Vivum Cellars


“Life is our most precious gift, and wine, used appropriately, enhances our life.”
– Chris Phelps

AD VIVUM is a story of a special vineyard, a seasoned winemaker, a meticulous farmer, and Mother Nature.

AD VIVUM is a single-vineyard, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine crafted by Chris Phelps, a long-time Napa Valley winemaker who has earned a reputation for his ability to consistently produce unique wines that honestly reflect the terroir of their vineyard origin.

After many years of searching, Chris was introduced to Sleeping Lady Vineyard just south of Yountville by owner/farmer Larry Bettinelli, a fifth-generation farmer with a mission to do whatever it takes to grow Cabernet Sauvignon at the highest level.  Chris & Larry had already collaborated on many small-lot experimental wines, starting in 1990, as Larry researched trellis design, clones, rootstocks and other key vineyard design features.

After several years of collaboration and experimentation with Sleeping Lady Cabernet, Chris knew for sure that this vineyard was not just one more Napa Cabernet vineyard – rather, it was simply some of the most exceptional vineyard ground in Napa Valley. Based on this knowledge, he made the commitment in 2007 to begin his own winemaking project.

Chris knew his new venture needed a name as big as the wine it represented - and that is where Mother Nature intervened. Chris found the inspiration from a personal experience in 2005 that further drove his passion for life and his love of winemaking – being struck by lightning and living to tell the story.  Bringing together the Latin words AD (toward) and Vivum (Vivere, to live + Vinum, wine) AD VIVUM was born – quite literally, in Chris’ mind – as the mystical intersection of wine and life.

AD VIVUM, where wine and life meet.



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The Winemaker


"This wine has soul. And most wines lack soul." 
-Chris Blanchard, MS

The Winemaker


"This wine has soul. And most wines lack soul." 
-Chris Blanchard, MS


Chris Phelps

Winemaker Chris Phelps grew up in the hills of the Livermore Valley, east of San Francisco, in a family of wine lovers.  His early interest in winemaking grew out of his parents’ practice of making a barrel or two of Zinfandel or Cabernet for family and friends.  Chris attended UC Davis with the sensible plan of becoming a doctor. However, his love of wine and France pulled him into the school’s Enology and Viticulture program, an internship at Louis M. Martini in Napa Valley, and the world of professional winemaking,

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Chris then embarked on a 16-month sojourn in Bordeaux, which begin with a year at the Institute of Enology.  He met Christian Moueix, who persuaded him to stay on to manage the 1982 harvest at Château des Laurets, in the Puisseguin-St. Emilion district of Bordeaux.  It was during this trial-by-fire experience that Chris met his mentor, the brilliant Jean-Claude Berrouet, who served for 44 years as the winemaker of Chateau Pétrus. To this day, Chris still credits much of his inspiration as a winemaker and his solid understanding of the technical challenges of the winemaking craft to Berrouet’s tutelage.

Upon returning to Napa Valley, Chris spent twelve years as winemaker at Dominus, as part of the Berrouet-Moueix team. He considers the 1991 and 1994 vintages to be among the greatest wines he has helped to create. He then spent seven years at Caymus Vineyards, managing all red winemaking from 1999 through 2002. Swanson Vineyards then persuaded him to join them as winemaker for 12 years, setting the stage for that winery’s current renaissance.  Chris, who lives with his family in St. Helena, continues to shape wines of great balance, refined texture and singular aromatic and flavor profiles that evoke their place of origin. In addition to his Ad Vivum project, Chris works as a consulting winemaker.

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The Wine


The Wine



2015 AD VIVUM Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Sleeping Lady Vineyard, Yountville Appellation 

Composition:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Single-Vineyard:  Ad Vivum Cabernet Sauvignon is made from one small micro-block of vines at Sleeping Lady Vineyard, in Yountville, Napa Valley. The vines are located at the vineyard’suppermost western perimeter along the Mayacamas Mountains. Row orientation is southwest-northeast. The vineyard is sustainably and meticulously farmed by the Bettinelli family.

Soil: The soil profile shows Keefers dark gravelly-sandy clay loam of alluvial origin.

Winemaking:  Following de-stemming, berries were sorted optically, then by hand. The must was cold-soaked for 5 days and allowed to ferment slowly, over 30 days - 65% in stainless, 35% in new French oak barrels. The wine was aged in 70% new French oak for 16 months prior to bottling.

Growing Season & Harvest:

2015 is the earliest Ad Vivum harvest on record, and was reminiscent of the 1987 season, which was also a couple of weeks early and marked by low yields. While Sleeping Lady escaped the significant shatter that lowered the yield in many Napa vineyards, the clusters were small and the berries were much smaller than usual. We harvested during a brief window between two 100-degree temperature events, when nighttime temperatures dipped down to 50 degrees. Not surprisingly, small clusters and lightweight berries led to an unprecedented level of concentration in the initial juice and resulting wine.

Harvest:  September 25, 2015

Bottling:  July 2017

Bottled Volume:  2,100 bottles (750mL), 24 etched magnums (1.5L), 1 etched Solomon (18L)

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