Napa History with Gamble Family Wines & a Lamb Feast with Friends

Back in May of 2018, I had the chance to visit Gamble Family Wines in Oakville, Napa Valley. My friend Laura accompanied me, and we had the chance to tour the winery and chat with Tom Gamble about his winery, the history of Napa Valley, and the role his family has played in the unfolding of that history. My friend Laura accompanied me on the visit, which then turned into two, because we were so engrossed in the conversation and their story. 

The Gamble family has been involved in agriculture in Napa since 1916, first in cattle ranching and farming other crops. Tom Gamble shifted his focus to commercial grape-growing, purchasing his first vineyards with partners in 1981 at the age of 20. He grew and sold grapes for twenty years after that point. Over this time he also increased his vineyard holdings. Then in 2005, he finally established Gamble Family Vineyards and began building his winery a few years later in 2012. The land which it’s built includes an ancestral farmhouse, barns, and water tower, which Tom and his wife, Colette, are devoted to maintaining. Incidentally, Colette’s family has also been in the valley since the 1870’s.
Tome with his dog Koa
During our visit and conversation, we got a sense of his sincere respect for the land and desire to care for it to the best of his abilities. He farms sustainably and conscientiously, and his winery and vineyards are certified Napa Green and certified by Fish Friendly Farming. I got the sense that he’s always looking for ways to improve his practices at all levels from methods of farming, to ways of reusing and prolonging the life of barrels, and ways of reducing energy usage across all aspects of the operation.

An activist spirit runs through the family. Tom’s mom, Mary Ann McGuire, had a big role to play in the way the valley developed. Mary Ann was a key participant in establishing the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve, an ordinance that protects vineyards from commercial development and ensures that the land is used strictly for agricultural purposes. We’ll dive further into this in an upcoming post soon, but Laura and I had the chance to speak with her at length and were really inspired by her story. 

After our visit, Tom sent us home with a few bottles of his wine.  Later in the fall, I hosted a Friendsgiving dinner for a few friends during which we opened the wines and enjoyed them with a potluck dinner. I made a Lamb Roast with Roasted Sweet Peppers and my friends all brought various sides.

On the menu:
Crostini with kale and goat cheese as an app.
Caprese Salad
Squash with cheese, hazelnuts, and pomegranate syrup
Turnips braised in apple cider vinegar.
Mushrooms suatéed with onions and sesame.
Roasted potatoes
Lemon tart for dessert
The lamb dish was inspired by a recipe in Perfect Pairings by another son-mother duo, Evan Goldstein and Joyce Goldstein. Evan Goldstein is a Master Sommelier and his mother, Joyce, is a noted chef and cookbook author. Perfect Pairings is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to better understand food and wine pairings. The book walks you through different grape varieties, their different expressions, and recommendations for how to pair them along with suggested pairings. This book focuses on relatively familiar grape varieties, while the follow-up, Daring Pairings, moves beyond these to explore lesser-known grape varieties. I highly recommend both books. 

Perfect Pairings recommends a recipe for Spanish Lamb Ragout with Roasted Sweet Peppers as a match for rich, fruit-forward, New World-style Cabernet Sauvignons. I decided to give it a try alongside several of Gamble’s wines. Rather than cutting up the meat in advance and cooking it in batches, as is called for in the recipe, I decided to adapt the recipe for a roast preparation. I thought this worked out really well and the dish did pair well with all of the Cabernets.

Good times with friends.
My friend, Laura, and partner in crimefor these tastings.

Some time has passed since this dinner. Things got busy, as they tend to do, and then 2019 in general just flew by and got away from me. I’m now writing this as the COVID-19 is sweeping through our country, and I’m thankful for memories like this of times spent with friends. At present we’re in the midst of social distancing and under a shelter in place order in the Bay Area, but I will look forward to hosting gatherings like these once again on the other side of this pandemic. In the meantime, let’s be grateful for the wonderful people in our lives and find new ways to connect as we wait out this difficult period. For example, friends and I have been having online happy hours. We can still enjoy a glass of wine together, even while apart. For those at home with loved ones, let’s make the most of this time by coming together at the table with those that are near us. Some of these wines are also on the pricier side, but I say now is the time to open those baller bottles. If not now, when?!

Stay well friends!


Winemaking details are taken from the tech sheets. 

Sauvignon Blanc Gamble Vineyard Yountville 2017

There were notes of fresh lime, kiwi, green apple and green melon, along with a light grassy, herbal note. A nice streak of minerality ran throughout, with a touch of cream on the mid-palate. Overall, it was an elegant Sauv Blanc with an attractive, aromatic nose and a crisp finish.

13% new French and Hungarian oak. The wine was cellared 76% in barrel on the lees for six months, with the remaining 24% in stainless steel on the lees for six months.
Alcohol: 13.1%

Avg Price: $25

Pairings: Not surprisingly, this wine went very well with our Caprese salad. It also paired with our squash dish topped with hazelnuts and pomegranate seeds, which was not expected. It was excellent with turnips that had been braised in apple cider vinegar. The winery also recommends this “with crispy fish tacos or a fresh, green summer salad.”

Paramount Napa Valley 2014

A Bordeaux blend with notes of smoke and chocolate-dipped cherries on the nose, along with plum and raspberries, and hints of herbs and violets. Notes of black pepper, green peppercorn, cedar, cigar, and vanilla joining the mix. It was elegant on the palate, but still rich and velvety, with dusty tannins on the finish.

Winemaking: 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Cabernet Franc, 28% Merlot, and 8% Petit Verdot. After gently destemming and cold soaking, each variety is fermented, pressed and transferred to French oak barrels for malolactic fermentation. A 20-month aging process follows, and ultimately, the separate lots become one, as Paramount is blended and bottled. 46% new French oak.
Alcohol: 14.2%

Avg price: $87

Family Home Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville 2014  

Velvety, red fruits showed on the nose, along with notes of cedar, tobacco, dried herbs, lavender, and a light hit on menthol. A mix of fruits notes joined on the palate, including notes of currants, red berries, cherries, and plums, along with savory notes of cigar box, olives, and a hint of iron.  It was well-structured with dusty tannins and a full body.

  As the name suggests, Family Home rests on the land where Tom Gamble spent his childhood.  It’s a rocky volcanic plot perched on a knoll top in Oakville, with free-draining soils. The vineyard is divided between north-west and south-east facing slopes. This wine spends 20 months in barrel, but I could not find the additional oak percentage details.

Avg price: $119

Both the Paramount and the Family Home paired well with the lamb, but Paramount was more ready to drink now, while Family Home could use more time in the cellar.

Spanish Lamb Roast with Roasted Sweet Peppers

Spanish Lamb Roast with Roasted Sweet Peppers

Yield: 6 to 8
Prep time: 15 M plus marinating time  Cook Time: 4 H & 15 M          Total: 4 H & 30 M, plus marinating time
Inspired by Perfect Pairings by Evan Goldstein, with recipes by Joyce Goldstein


  • 4 to 5 pound lamb shoulder, fat and sinew trimmed
Spice Mixture
  • 1 Tbsp paprika, sweet, smoked, or a combination
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup mild olive oil, and more as needed
  • 2 Tbsp paprika, sweet, smoked, or a combination
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 ½ cups meat stock
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 2 Tbsp finely minced garlic
  • 5 Tbsps tomato paste
  • 4 whole red bell peppers
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup oil-cured black olives (optional, not used here)
  • Salt
  • Pepper


How to cook Spanish Lamb Roast with Roasted Sweet Peppers

  1. Make the marinade. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon paprika, 2 teaspoons cumin, the bay leaf. Whisk in ½ cup wine and ¼ cup oil. Place the lamb in a large non-aluminum container. Pour the marinade over the meat. Cover and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. The next day, bring the marinated lamb to room temperature by taking it out of the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to cook it. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 425°F. Remove the lamb from the marinade and pat dry.
  3. Mix together the remaining spices. Sprinkle about half of the spice mixture over the lamb with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Place the lamb in a well-oiled roasting pan or Dutch oven and place lamb in the oven and let roast at a high temperature for 15 minutes.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F. Add the remaining ½ cup of wine to the pan, as well as ½ the meat stock. Add the onions to the pan with the garlic, tomato paste, the remaining spice mixture, and more of the meat stock as needed. Cover the pan with aluminum foil or lid, and continue to cook the lamb for another 3 to 4 hours.
  5. Place peppers strips on a separate baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Add the peppers to the oven during roughly the last 30 minutes of the lamb’s cooking time. Note: If you want to reduce the number of pans you’re using, you can add the peppers to roasting pan with lamb, as long as your pan is big enough. However, cooking them separately helps preserve the color.
  6. Remove the lamb from the oven and allow it to rest from 15 to 20 minutes before serving. The lamb should be very tender. If needed, remove the lamb from the pot and allow the liquid to continue reducing in the oven uncovered while the meat rests. If you like your peppers with a little char on them, raise the temperature of the oven to 425°F once the lamb is out of the oven and continue cooking for approximately another 15 minutes while the meat rests, or until tender and starting to brown.
  7. Slice up the lamb and serve topped with the onion mixture and surrounded by the bell pepper strips. Garnish with the olives (if using) and parsley.

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We had a few other wines during this Friendsgiving, but the Gamble wines were the featured players.

The rest of the Wine Parings Weekend Bloggin Group is exploring California wines & cookbooks. Check out their posts here: 

This post contains affiliate links, including these Amazon Associate links, from which I might receive a commission at no cost to you.



  1. What a delightful post during these truly strange times. What a great way to make do with the current situation by remembering old times and doing virtual happy hours! Plus I feel like all the stockpiling of wine I've done over the years is truly helpful now! Great recommendations too; I'll have to check out Gamble and those wine pairing books!


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