When Exclusive Resorts Members Rosemary Dunbar and her husband, retired lawyer Barry Murphy, were looking to launch their boutique wine label, they drew inspiration from Rosemary’s life as an artist. The couple wanted to stand out amid the mass production and commodification of everything, wine included. “This was to be made carefully, by us, on a small scale,” Dunbar says. But so many artsy terms they considered—sketchbook or perspective, for example—were already registered. What about silverpoint, she wondered? Artists using this Renaissance-era technique, like da Vinci and Michelangelo, took a fine silver wire to sketch on a gesso-covered surface; it allowed them to work in more detailed ways than either pencil or brush. “The precision, the delicacy—that was just what we were striving for.”
That was just over a decade ago. Since then, the Napa-based duo has carved out an impressive niche among boutique wineries. Silverpoint Cellars is renowned for its Chardonnay from the Petaluma Gap and a Napa Valley Red, blended from four Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot). Rather than investing in land, however, Barry and Rosemary opted to develop long-term relationships with top grapegrowers, andhire a facility to produce it on their behalf—all under the guidance of renowned winemaker Don VanStaaveren. He first found fame in the 1990s via his award-winning Bordeaux blend for Chateau St. Jean (his wife, Margo, is equally accomplished, helming all operations for Treasury Estates, which includes Beringer).
Barry and Rosemary have made an equally long-term commitment to Napa—the California natives returned to their roots to be closer to family. Exclusive Resorts Members since their three children were in grade school, they still travel extensively, usually on a Once-in-a-Lifetime Journey. They experienced Japan in 2014, Antarctica in 2015, and are considering Rwanda next.
Anyone should add Napa to a travel bucket-list, though, they add. “It’s a combination of what we love about Provence and Tuscany,” says Murphy. “You can live in great, rural beauty but sacrifice nothing in terms of food, wine, and culture.” He recommends the astonishing modern art collection at the Hess winery. “No one is ever there. We can’t believe it,” he says. And make time to visit the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, also attached to a winery. Nothing is better, he stresses, than the simplest pleasures of their adoptive home: the farmers’ markets, especially in St. Helena every summer. “There’s bocce, a mellow guy with a guitar, and produce beyond comprehension.”