Vol 2: At First Sight

“The stars aligned.” ~ Proprietor Don Dady, on Seven Apart’s stellar inception

The Journal | Vol. 2

Don Dady is not your typical proprietor of a world class Napa winery. He has spent the majority of his professional life immersed in the world of finance, pioneering innovations within retirement planning. Throughout his career, however, Don has been a passionate collector of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and a lover of wine since his teenage years. A native of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, he passed through a valley of vineyards on a daily basis and dreamed of one day owning his own winery in Napa. 

Though the story of Seven Apart is not quite that simple, there were some benevolent forces working together to make the dream of “jumping over the hill” a reality.

A Diamond in the Rough

Don believes one of the biggest challenges in discovering unique opportunities is being patient enough to find the “proverbial diamond in the rough.” After decades of dreaming about a winery, the stars finally aligned in 2018 when he, along with his longtime friend Jason Kyle, discovered that Stags Ridge Vineyard, which sits on top of Atlas Peak, was for sale.

When evaluating opportunities, as a rough rule of thumb, Don has always looked for seven things to set a venture apart–a lesson that his finance professor William Nye taught him in college. Through Don’s career, whether he was building a new business, evaluating a potential investment, or starting a winery, he has known that he has something special on his hands when he can find seven distinct qualities that set it apart.

Seven Apart’s Stags Ridge Vineyard is one of those rare instances. Don discovered seven characteristics which would collectively set it apart:

  1. Soil
  2. Topography
  3. Climate
  4. Orientation
  5. Winery facility
  6. State-of-the-art equipment
  7. Top winemaker

When Don first saw Stags Ridge Vineyard, he was intrigued by the way in which it sat beautifully in a valley on top of Atlas Peak. Yet he was also shocked by the property’s extreme terroir.

“As you get closer and start to walk through the vineyard, you can’t help but notice the volcanic soil and ash is primarily rock,” said Don. “You ask yourself, ‘How does anything even grow here?’  The soil, or lack thereof, is so rocky that it’s almost like you’re walking down a cobblestone street.”

The vineyard is perched along the western slopes of Vaca Ridge in a valley 1,400 feet above the fog line facing the Pritchard Gap. The vineyard not only soaks up the early morning sun thanks to its elevation, but also has a perfect layout to capture a cool afternoon breeze that flows in from the San Francisco Bay. It is no wonder that Stags Ridge Vineyard has consistently produced wines that have scored from 95 to 100 points under the original Beau Vigne brand.

Don knew he had found his diamond in the rough. To make Seven Apart one of Napa’s recognized jewels, he believed the vineyard had to enact operational improvements and to hire a world-class winemaker. Hence, Don built a state-of-the-art winery to have complete control over the quality of the winemaking. He also began networking with one of Napa’s most reputable winemakers: Andy Erickson.

A self-described romantic when it comes to Cabernet, Don fell in love with Stags Ridge Vineyard, and luckily so did Andy, a Napa icon whose legacy includes Screaming Eagle, Staglin Family Vineyard, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Ovid Napa Valley.

Don was a “huge fan” of Andy’s work prior to acquiring the vineyard. When his partner Jason suggested they reach out to Andy through a mutual friend just two months before harvest, Don was excited to put a breakfast meeting on the calendar.

At the Top

The trio talked shop over breakfast, and when Andy asked if they could reconvene later that day, Don and Jason were thrilled. At 11 a.m. they sampled their wines and then drove to Stags Ridge to walk the vineyard. At about 3 p.m. after spending nearly the entire day together, Andy left to discuss the project with his team.

Don and Jason were ecstatic when Andy called back shortly after informing them that he would love to take on Seven Apart as his new project. At this point, Don realized Seven Apart would be something special, since they had top vineyards, a top facility under construction, and a top winemaker.

 “The stars aligned,” said Don. “We’ve built a state-of-the-art winery, managed excess capacity, purchased the best equipment, and added a lot of flexibility.” 

For Don, Seven Apart is the realization of a dream conceived during his youth: one of wine as a catalyst for spending quality time with friends and family and creating memorable experiences that last a lifetime.

“I love to expose people to great wine, and Seven Apart makes this happen on an impressive scale,” said Don.

Everyone at the winery is excited to share the upcoming release with the Seven Apart allocation list this fall. 

“Everything about Seven Apart has magically come together,” said Don. “We couldn’t be more excited for others to experience this amazing vineyard for themselves.”

More about Don

Don is the co-founder of Annexus Group, a developer of leading financial services products based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Don is an established thought leader in the financial services industry at the helm of an evolution in retirement planning. Along with his longtime friend Jason Kyle, Don has built Seven Apart to be a world-class brand that blends the art of and science behind winemaking and hospitality.