In Latin, MAXEM has the distinction of meaning “best of the best.” It also combines the names of the owner’s two children, Max and Emma. With the iconic Ulises Valdez Vineyard as their source on the Sonoma Coast, Sam and Nancy Kaplan make Pinot Noir from the historical Calera clone and Chardonnay from the equally acclaimed Wente clone. Sam is a highly regarded winemaker; Nancy a professional chef with her laser palate, has an equal say. MAXEM wines represent some on the most exciting wines produced in California today and have received rave reviews from the wine industries top journalists.

The grapes lend themselves to the style of wines Sam & Nancy both love: exquisitely balanced with bright acids and high tones yet richly textured and possessing full depth of flavor. After nearly two decades of helping others fulfil their dreams, “Now it’s our turn”. They have been lucky to work with some of the best in the business. Sam, in his winemaking career, has been on the ground floor of some of Napa Valley’s most exciting wine projects in recent history, helping to plant vineyards, build wineries and cement reputations with wines that speak of the unparalleled sites in which they’re grown. Nancy, as a chef, spent years in top restaurants in New York and Napa Valley, honing her craft and her palate beside celebrated chefs who demanded nothing less than perfection. The result is that MAXEM crafts top quality, site specific wines in very small amounts.

Ulises Valdez manages the UV Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast, a site well-known to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fanatics. Sam tasted wines from this vineyard several times, and knew it was a longshot, but decided to see if they could purchase some of its fruit. The site wasn’t the only thing attractive about UV, although its coastal location, well-drained soils, and meticulous farming protocol are precisely what Sam & Nancy sought.

It was Ulises himself - an immigrant who worked for others for decades before striking out on his own - who drew them to this place. His story, his struggle, resonated with the Kaplan’s; after spending a lot of time in other vineyards, this was the one that felt right. When Sam met Ulises over lunch, the first thing he said was that he had no fruit to sell. But as the meal progressed, Sam and Ulises swapped life stories, and even a few tears. A bond was formed, and by the end of the afternoon, Ulises said... “I may have a little fruit for you, mi amigo.” Sadly, Ulises unexpectedly passed away in 2018 at 49 years of age. This has given Sam an even more passion for this project and to carry on Ulises’ dream with the help of his children.