Tasting Room: Open Daily 9–6 (Apr–Oct); 9–5 (Nov–Mar)
In 1885, Vittorio Sattui opened a small winery in San Francisco’s North Beach, marking the birth of what would later become, after four generations, a storied Italian tradition in Napa Valley—V. Sattui Winery. Today, the winery, located on a 38-acre organically farmed vineyard, pays meticulous attention to tradition while showcasing an exceptional experience. The winery building, designed from sketches by Vittorio’s great-grandson Dario, has the feel of a small Italian village. Most V. Sattui wines are sourced from the winery’s estate vineyards, providing an optimal range of terroir yielding an impressive variety of superb grapes that compose a long portfolio of awardwinning wines. In fact, for the first time this year V. Sattui Winery is celebrating three distinguished awards: Winery of the Year from the Winemaker Challenge (for the fourth year in a row), Winemaker of the Year from the American Fine Wine Competition, and Wine of the Year from the Monterey Wine Competition for the 2012 V. Sattui Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon. The release date for this eagerly anticipated wine is fall 2015.
What to Buy:
'13 Heirloom Pinot Noir - $95 Plush blackberry, black cherry, raspberry, nutmeg
Aptly named “Etude” after the classical music term for a focused study or technical exercise to perfect technique, Etude Wines is dedicated to mastering the craft of winegrowing. The winery was founded more than 30 years ago on the belief that great wines are grown and not made. This philosophy continues today with Winemaker Jon Priest and Associate Winemaker Rob Fischer. “Etude was founded on the philosophy that winemaking begins in the vineyard long before the harvest, and that superior grape growing diminishes the need for intervention by the winemaker, resulting in wine that is grown, not made,” Jon says. “This remains our approach today as we continue to build the Etude legacy.” Etude’s estate vineyards are located in the far northwest corner of the Carneros appellation. The vineyards are planted to conform to the various soil types and changing contours of topography. The Etude team is dedicated to sustainable farming practices and maintaining perfect harmony with their surrounding environment. The winery is also a Napa Green Certified Winery, affirming its commitment to conserving water and energy, reducing waste, and preventing pollution. As with music, dedicated practice and a passion for perfection has its rewards: in the masterful wines of Etude.
Tara Bella Winery
What to Buy:
'’12 Russian River Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - $75 Dark cherry, vanilla, oak, brown spice
Tasting Room Hours: Private Tastings by Appointment
This little jewel totals only six acres, but it produces some of the region’s finest Cabernet Sauvignons. The proof is in the Gold medals. Nearly every vintage has produced at least one. The winery is owned by Kevin and Wendy Morrow. Kevin brings 29 years of viticulture expertise, taking the wine from bud to bottle, while Wendy brings experience in hospitality. Her parties are legendary. Each bottle is 100 percent estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon—numbered and hand waxed by son, Dillon, who, working side by side with his dad, brings experience in the cellar and the vineyard, demonstrating that Tara Bella wines are a true labor of love. For the past three years, the Morrows have embarked on a goal to have the winery and vineyard gain a sustainability rating. Pruning practices, water conservation, owl boxes, and operating completely on solar energy are just a few of the exciting improvements they’ve put into place. The most recent releases are the 2013 Russian River Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2013 Sonoma County Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon totaling 600 cases. Both wines come from two separate clones that grow in the same soil and climate conditions. Kevin has always wanted to do a small release exclusive to the wine club, so this year they’ve released a 2014 Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon made entirely from estate grapes.
What to Buy:
'14 Rosé of Pinot Noir - $22 Strawberries, watermelon, rhubarb
'12 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast - $42 Silky rose petal, black cherry, truffles
In 1989, Rick Moshin, a former San Jose State University math instructor, and his family purchased a small Pinot Noir vineyard, and this year, they observe their tasting room’s 10th anniversary and the family’s 25th anniversary of wine growing. Rick’s fascination with fermentation began with homemade beer, but he soon turned his attention to wine. “I sold wine between teaching math classes and traveling to France to get a better understanding of how to capture the lovely elegance and finesse that emanates from Burgundy,” Rick says. As a result, Moshin Vineyards pays special attention to Old-World techniques. Respect for the environment is a Moshin family value and it is enthusiastically practiced in the vineyard. Through the use of sustainable farming methods and gentle handling, grapes retain their true flavors with the goal of becoming wines that express the heart of the vine. Although he has retired from teaching, Rick’s equation for gentle winemaking using sustainable farming and minimally invasive handling adds up quite nicely in every bottle of Moshin Vineyards wine.
What to Buy:
'11 Noceto Sangiovese - $18 Cassis, cranberries, plum, oak, peppery spice, cherry
Tasting Room: Open M-F 11am to 4pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am to 5pm, and by appointment. Daily Tours at 11am, 1pm & 3pm
When Jim and Suzy Gullett, owners of Amador County’s Vino Noceto, purchased their first parcel of vineyard land in 1984, they knew they wanted to do something different. The region was primarily known for its Zinfandel, but the Gulletts decided to break from the norm and followed their passion for Sangiovese, a fairly novel grape in the United States at the time, planting their first vineyards in 1988 and quickly becoming pioneers in the revival of this Tuscan grape varietal in California. Today, Vino Noceto is a renowned Sangiovese specialist, producing eight different premium Sangiovese wines as well as an array of Italian and foothill varietals, including Pinot Grigio, Barbera, Zinfandel, and Moscato.
What to Buy:
'13 Private Reserve Chardonnay, Napa Valley - $46 Bright citrus, rich, sweet oak
Tasting Room: Open Daily May–Oct 10–6; Nov–Apr 10–5
The beauty of Beringer Vineyards is evident in the wines and fully realized when one visits its historic grounds in the Napa Valley. Beringer is the region’s oldest continuously operating winery, with a winemaking tradition dating back more than 130 years. It was first to offer public tours and remains at the top of the savvy Napa Valley visitor’s list of places to tour and taste. And there is much to learn. Beringer is the only estate to ever win Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year for both a red and white wine. Winemaker Mark Beringer, great grandson of founder Jacob Beringer, works to uphold the singular heritage of Beringer Vineyards. Mark is passionate about maintaining the consistency and tradition for which Beringer has long been known, and has a talent for crafting wines that highlight the best of Napa Valley terroir.
Castello di Amorosa
What to Buy:
'14 Pinot Bianco - $26 Crisp, dry, tropical fruit, citrus
'12 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - $49 Black plum, cassis, green olive, cinnamon, ripe red cherry, mocha
'14 Il Raggio del Sole Moscato - $29 Honeysuckle, hibiscus, ripe peach, orange peel
Tasting Room: Open Daily Mar–Oct 9:30–6; Nov–Feb 9:30–5
Inspired to build an authentic medieval castle to honor his Italian heritage and showcase his exceptional wines, Dario Sattui studied architecture for 30 years before he created Castello di Amorosa. The 121,000-square-foot fortress took 14 years to build, stone by stone. The Castello has 107 rooms, 95 of which are used for winemaking and wine storage. It stands four stories high, with an equal number of levels underground. Each handcrafted wine is classically structured, intensely flavored, well balanced, and elegant, showcasing the terroir of its vineyard site. Most of the vines at Castello di Amorosa grow on hillsides that provide optimal growing conditions. The vines are hand farmed, and sustainable practices are used. Named a “must-see destination” by The Wall Street Journal, the Castello offers a myriad of ways for guests to enjoy their visit. Regular tastings at the main tasting bar are always fun, but it’s best to take time for a tour. All tours feature a barrel tasting and last a little less than two hours. The Royal Food and Wine Pairing is a real treat. The program was developed by the castle’s own sommelier who dreams up succulent Italian food bites to accompany each wine.