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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



AD VIVUM Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Sleeping Lady Vineyard, Yountville Appellation 

Composition:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Single-Vineyard:  The fruit for Ad Vivum is exclusively Clone 191 Cabernet Sauvignon from an eight-row micro-block in Sleeping Lady Vineyard, Yountville, Napa Valley. The vines are located at the vineyard’s uppermost western perimeter along the Mayacamas Mountains. Row orientation is southwest-northeast. The vineyard is sustainably farmed by the Bettinelli family.

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

Winemaking:  The fruit is hand-sorted twice: once in the vineyard, and again at the winery, where it is gently de-stemmed. The must is cold-soaked for 5.5 days at 50°F prior to the onset of fermentation. Following four weeks of maceration on the skins, the free-run wine is aged 19 months in 60% new French oak barrels. The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Production:  

  • 2,076 bottles, packed in 692 wood boxes (3x750ml).
  • 12 etched magnums (1.5L) were also bottled.

Tasting Notes:

The color of this wine is intensely red with an iridescent violet hue. Aromas are of freshly-picked cassis berries and dark black raspberry, with background notes of roasted espresso beans and clove. Velvety tannins give the wine a plush, extravagant feel on the palate. The structure is certainly firm enough to provide for 10 to 15 years of aging, yet simultaneously has the gentleness needed for instant gratification. Fresh, well-integrated oak, cassis and black raspberry are present throughout the lingering finish.

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