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Maxem Sonoma Coast

In Latin, MAXEM has the distinction of meaning “best of the best.” It also combines our two children’s names, Max and Emma.

With the Ulises Valdez Vineyard as our source, we make Pinot Noir from the historical Calera clone and Chardonnay from the equally acclaimed Wente clone. Sam is winemaker; Nancy, with her laser palate, has an equal say. The grapes lend themselves to the style of wines we both love: exquisitely balanced with bright acids and high tones yet richly textured and possessing full depth of flavor. It is our palates that have driven us here, to this style of wine and especially to the amazing UV Vineyard.

For nearly two decades we helped other people fulfil their dreams. Now it’s our turn. We know we’ve 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.

Sam Kaplan

Sam Kaplan Winemaker

Sam often reflects on what drew him to winemaking and the culture of wine as a way of life. It started one day in college when he walked into a friend’s winery in Oregon and was overcome with the aromas of fermentation. It was a pivotal moment. “It smelled like home, and reminded me of my early childhood”, he says. Evoking a memory of his dad and physician friends making wine in their garage. He jokingly calls his dad “an early garagiste,” he remembers how wine always brought family and friends together.

As an undergraduate at Lewis and Clark University, Sam spent a summer studying abroad and living with a wine-loving family in Spain. This experience paved the way for a deeper appreciation of how wine serves as an integral part of daily life and culture. Sam greatest inspiration in life is his wife Nancy. They met at ZD WINES where he cut his teeth in Winemaking, and Nancy worked on her off days to expand her palate as a professional chef.

In 2006 Sam was presented with the once in a lifetime opportunity to craft wines from Howell Mountain. He joined Arkenstone Estate as winemaker and vineyard manager and has been hands-on in since day one.

Sam launched his winemaking consultancy with Memento Mori. Sam has been a driving force in the success of Memento Mori since their first vintage, 2010. Through Memento, Sam established a direct line to some of the very best Cabernet Sauvignon in the Napa Valley sourcing fruit from the historic Beckstoffer Dr. Crane and Las Piedras vineyards, as well as Weitz, Oakville Ranch, and Vine Hill Ranch. In 2011, Sam helped design and launch Nine Suns on Pritchard Hill. Sam’s newest project started in 2014 with Vangone Estate.

In 2015 he and Nancy knew it was time to start an amazing brand of their own. A tribute to their kids, Max and Emma, MAXEM is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sourced from the renowned UV Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast. The vines were planted by the late great Ulises Valdez and are still farmed by his family.