Elan Vineyards' owner and winemaker, Patrick Elliott-Smith, was born in the United States to a French mother and an American father. His grandfather Rene´ had an extensive wine cellar, with many pre World War II Bordeaux wines. The grandchildren were allowed two to three drops of red wine in their water, barely enough to change its color. Grandmother Madeleine would always exclaim, "Rene´, you will make them drunk!" And that's how Patrick began to appreciate fine wines at a young age.
After graduation from high school in France, Patrick returned to the United States and received a B.A. in philosophy, which he says was excellent preparation for dealing with the climatic challenges of agriculture. After finishing college, Patrick traveled to the Napa Valley and was enchanted by its similarity to areas he frequented in southern France. The topography and climate brought back fond memories. Deciding to settle in the valley, Patrick and his brother Dennis, an artist, purchased a parcel of land. For four years they worked the land raising horses, sheep, and goats; making goat cheese; and growing gourmet herbs and vegetables that they sold to upscale Napa Valley restaurants. Most important, they experimented with French intensive gardening techniques and bio-dynamic farming which takes organic farming to a whole new level. The brothers shared the 60's dream of making their living on the land.
In 1979, Patrick located his dream parcel at the top of Atlas Peak Road. The property sits approximately 2,100 feet above sea level—about 1,900 feet above the average Napa Valley vineyard. Patrick entered the world of viticulture by developing vineyards for wineries such as The Hess Collection, Liparita, Dominus, and Beaulieu Vineyards, as well as many private hillside estate vineyards. In 1980, Patrick built a small stone house on the property while he lived in a teepee on the future winery site. He also cleared manzanita brush from five acres, which was planted in Cabernet Sauvignon on 110R rootstock with a French-style trellis, uncommon in California at the time. For the first seven years Patrick sold the fruit to Caymus Vineyards.
Over the years, Patrick planted additional acreage and currently farms eleven acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, one acre of Merlot, and half an acre of Petit Verdot and Malbec. Patrick still does all the tractor work on the property and is a firm believer that great wines are made in the vineyards, and are the result of hard work and attention to every detail.