Ric Forman, who earlier in his career put the wines of Sterling Vineyards on the map during his years as winemaker there and subsequently co-founded Newton Vineyards, bought his own property in the hills above St. Helena at the base of Howell Mountain in 1978. He planted the steep 9.5 acres next to his house the following year, dynamiting the hillside to clear it of rocks. He vinified his first Cabernet in 1983, from the vineyard he calls Grande Roche.
The vineyard’s uplifted riverbed soil, very light and quick-draining, features more than 200 feet of gravel and decomposed volcanic tufa above the rock layer far below. From the start, Forman has made his Cabernet mostly from this vineyard, although between 1990 and 2006 he frequently included a portion of fruit from the 20-acre Thorevilos Vineyard located just above Grande Roche on somewhat lighter, chalkier soil. (Forman leases Thorevilos with his friend David Abreu, the noted viticulturist with whom he co-founded David Abreu Vineyard Management in 1980.