Kunin Wines

From a wine tasting perspective, Santa Barbara has a split personality.  Uptown is all elegant hotels, fine restaurants and well-appointed tasting rooms.  Downtown, near the Pacific Ocean, is what they call the Funk Zone, which is all, well, funk.  This is not to say that there isn’t good wine to be had in the Funk Zone, just that the overall ambiance is not quite like anywhere else we have ever seen in Wine Country.

The Kunin tasting room in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone.  Photo courtesy of hotelcalifornian.com.

Right in the middle of the Funk Zone is Kunin Wines, which has identity crisis of its own.  Not a crisis, really; Kunin seems to be quite comfortable with its identity.  But it’s a little different than other Santa Barbara wineries.  For one thing, perhaps the most important, there’s the wine.  Santa Barbara is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay country.  Kunin primarily makes Rhône-style wines from grapes as diverse as Grenache (red and white), Syrah, Viognier, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Roussanne and Counoise.  That’s quite a selection for an American-owned winery in southern California.

A quiet time at the bar at the Kunin tasting room.  Photo courtesy of Keepin’ It Kind.

We’ve found that the servers are quite liberal with offering a variety of tastes if you show genuine interest, not just a desire for alcohol.  But then there’s the matter of Kunin’s identity crisis.  Up until around the lunch hour, visitors can sit at the bar, taste, discuss and enjoy in a thoughtful and unhurried manner.  But once the afternoon arrives, so do the partiers.  And we do mean PAR-TEE.

The tasting room is in a building of no particular architectural interest.  But there’s a long front porch, a wide-open door and a large rectangular bar.   Just perfect for wine tasting near the beach.  And so later in the day it becomes packed – bar, porch and street front and the crowd didn’t seem to be involved in a conversation on the relative merits of real Rhône wines and California varietals.

Now we have nothing against parties.  Who doesn’t like a good party?  It’s just that when we drink wine at a party, we expect it to be cold, wet and alcoholic, nothing more.  But Kunin makes serious wine and it’s a shame not to enjoy it on its own terms.  Don’t misunderstand; these are California Rhône-style wines, not imitation anything.  They cannot be confused with wine made in the south of France, nor should they be.

For example, Kunin makes two wines they call Pape Star and Pape Star Blonde.  They’re meant to be a “versatile take on France’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape”.  A take, perhaps, but hardly to be confused with the real thing.  From our point of view, they would be better off calling these wines simply California Rhône Blends, both red and white.  Drinkers should appreciate them for what they are, not what they aren’t.

We were several decades older than any other people in the tasting room and so maybe younger people will experience Kunin differently than we did.  Whatever your age, Kunin is worth a visit.

Foppiano Vineyards

If you’d like to have a glimpse of what Sonoma County used to be while still tasting wines that might appeal to more modern tastes, Foppiano vineyards is a winery to add to your list.  One reason it’s like what Sonoma County once was is that Foppiano was there back then.  It was founded in 1896 by Giovanni Foppiano, an Italian immigrant from Genoa.  To the present day, there are many Sonoma Country wineries with Italian names; in this case, the Foppiano family still owns and runs it.

Foppiano’s winery.  Photo courtesy of Sonoma County Tourism.

The winery is a little bit out of the way although it’s easy enough to find if you start in downtown Healdsburg.  Just head down the Old Redwood Highway and there it is.  (It’s tougher to find coming off Route 101.)  It’s hard to miss, with “L. Foppiano Wine Co.” written in big letters on the side of their production building.

The Foppiano orange tree, in full (sour) fruit.

Foppiano is located in the northeast corner of the Russian River Valley, although it doesn’t feel that typical of the region.  The general image of Russian River is of winding lanes through the forest and alongside vineyards.  Old Redwood Highway and the roads that feed into it are straight as an arrow and the landscape is open and flat.

Foppiano’s tasting room.  Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor.com.

Foppiano’s tasting room is housed in a little white clapboard house with a huge orange tree outside.  (They’re happy to let you take any oranges that fall, because they’re terribly sour.)  The building backs up to their factory, so the overall impression is “rustic industrial”.  The impression is softened by the vineyards that surround the buildings.  The tasting room is a bit dark with a simple bar, lit by big windows that overlook the vineyards.

As is often the case with smaller Sonoma County wineries, Foppiano produces an extremely wide range of wines.  There are Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, Cabernets Sauvignons, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Zin, a Rosé, some sparklers and even a Carignane.  With that many varietals, it is unlikely that all of them will appeal to all tastes.

However, there is one varietal for which Foppiano is best known: Petite Sirah.  A hybrid of Syrah and Peloursin, this grape was developed in France but is now largely grown only in California.  Many use it as a blending grape to provide color and depth; Foppiano began bottling it as a varietal in 1967.  Their Petite Sirahs are dark, unctuous and deeply flavorful.  Prepare for blue teeth if you try some.  In our opinion, even though their wines are drinkable on release, they really need several years cellaring to knock of some of the rougher edges.

With 125 years of history, Foppiano has certainly seen a lot of changes, both in their vineyards and in the life of Sonoma County.  For most of those years, they produced jug wines and in tribute to those days, they still sell half-gallon growlers of Petite Sirah.  We see Foppiano as a bit of a throwback to a slower, less frenzied time when the roads of the county were filled with tractors, not tourists.  As the song says, these are the good old days, but it’s pleasant to visit the good older days, too.

Taittinger and Domaine Carneros

Champagne is a sparkling wine.  If it’s really Champagne, the grapes are grown and the wine is made in the Champagne region of northern France.  Sparkling wine made in California isn’t called Champagne, with a few exceptions.  There are a few, such as Korbel and André that had been using the word historically, so they were allowed to continue using it.  (Many of us had our first taste of sparklers that come from those two producers, but if you’re into wine tasting, you probably haven’t had any of their wines for decades.)

The Taittinger visiting facility in Reims, France. 

Many of the better French producers have established wineries in California.  Among them are Moët & Chandon/Domaine Chandon and Mumm/Mumm Napa.  Taittinger in Reims developed Domaine Carneros in 1987, and the Napa Valley site is among the most visited wineries in the region.  Although the two wineries have the same ownership, they are operated completely independently.

Domaine Carneros, surrounded by vines.

For the wine-tasting visitor, there is a broad comparison between the French and American wineries.  The French winery is essentially a factory complex on an urban street.  Grape vines are nowhere to be seen.  The site was an abbey in pre-Revolutionary times, but nothing remains of it, except its cellars.  Domaine Carneros is also a factory but it looks very much like a French château.  In fact, it is modeled on (but is not a replica of) the Taittinger family manse in Champagne, nowhere near the factory.  The California site is surrounded by vineyards and rolling hills, one of the most appealing vistas in Napa Valley.

The caves at Taittinger, showing the gate used by the monks in pre-Revolutionary Reims.

Both locations offer interesting tours.  At Taittinger, they walk visitors through the caves where they age their top Champagne.  You can see where the monks of the ancient abbey managed the wines in their time.  Even better, you can see a section of the cellars that were dug out by the Romans when Reims was called Durocortorum.  There’s nothing in California to beat that, but then a tour at Domaine Carneros actually gives you an understanding of how sparkling wine is made.

The tour at Taittinger concludes with a glass of Champagne; for an extra fee you can have Comtes de Champagne, their premier offering.  The California tour includes a tasting of several of Domaine Carneros’ sparkling wines, including their top wine, Le Rêve (“the dream” in French).  Better yet, even without a tour you can sit on their expansive veranda and order sparkling wine by the glass.  Sipping while taking in the view is quite a treat.

Taittinger makes only Champagnes.  Domaine Carneros also offers some excellent Pinot Noirs and have recently added a Merlot.  These still wines are also available for ordering at the winery.

The question remains: Which winery makes the better wine?  Domaine Carneros makes excellent California wines, but they’re not Champagne.  And Taittinger is one of the most reputed houses in the Champagne region.  If all you want is a loud pop and some bubbles, Domaine Carneros’ Estate Brut Cuvée will do quite nicely.  On the other hand, if you want to celebrate with the real deal, stick with Taittinger.

 

 

 

 

Paraduxx

Duckhorn Vineyards is one of Napa Valley iconic wineries, best known for its Merlots.   In 1994, they began to expand the number of wineries and labels under which it produced wine, the names of which are all related to our little quacking friends.  The first of these was Paraduxx (www.paraduxx.com) which today occupies a rather unique niche in the valley’s winemaking.

All their wines are blends, except their rosé.  That in itself is not so exceptional; many wineries mix their grapes, but most stick either to Bordeaux or Rhône varietals.  Paraduxx follows the Australian example: Blend anything with anything else and if it tastes good, bottle it.  So you’ll find bottles of Paraduxx wines that contain Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, Syrah and Viognier (like Côte Rôtie) and even one made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Tempranillo and Merlot.

Enjoying an outdoor wine tasting at Paraduxx.

The people at Paraduxx want to make visiting their winery a fun experience.  Of course, they want you to come and taste their wines.  But they’d also like you to bring your kids and your dog. (Both need to be well-behaved but only fido needs to be on a leash).  They invite you to relax under trees or umbrellas in their courtyard or on their veranda and stay a while. [Our description of Paraduxx is based on pre-Covid experience.  We sincerely hope that this, like so much else, returns to the way it was in before times.  Today, dogs are still allowed, but no person under 21 years of age.]

The setting at Paraduxx would seem to lend themselves to people who are more interested in a pleasant day out, including good wine to be sure.  A picnic would be perfect, but Napa County’s rules limit the number of wineries that allow picnicking.  However, they do sell plates of charcuterie.

The tasting room at Paraduxx.

The sort of experience offered at Paraduxx may not be to everyone’s tastes.  For our part, we never bring children or pets with us and our objective is to gain a serious understanding of the wines offered by each producer we visit.  And for those like us, you can enjoy wines outdoors or in the winery’s well-appointed tasting room.

One tasting feature we like at Paraduxx is that they pour you glasses of all the wines on offer, provide you with tasting notes and then they leave you alone to enjoy them.  A server will stop by periodically to answer any questions you may have.  He or she usually uses the occasion to urge you to stay a while.  There is, however, a feature we are not as fond of.  They ask you to pay for your tasting as you enter, before tasting their wines.  Of course, we recognize that wine tasting in Napa Valley is a commercial enterprise, but it still feels wrong to ask you to pay ahead of tasting and it leaves a bad impression.

The fun atmosphere at Paraduxx does not preclude serious wine tasting.  Come try their rather individualistic wines and have some fun too, if you wish.

 

 

 

 

Domaine Paul Autard

There are many wines that show the skill of the winemaker.  There are only a few that demonstrate the artistry of a winemaker.  Today, especially in America, rich people or corporations own wineries; they hire winemakers.  It is difficult to be both an artist and an employee.

When a person owns the vineyard, makes the growing and harvesting decisions and then produces the wine, he or she has the means to express creativity, individuality and style in a bottle.  To experience such artistry, we recommend a visit to Domaine Paul Autard (http://www.paulautard.com/, in French only).

Jean-Paul Autard.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

The winemaker is Jean-Paul Autard; Paul was his father.  Jean-Paul took over in 2005 and the vineyard was soon mentioned among the best of Châteauneuf du Pape.  Today, Autard makes four Châteauneufs: a white and three reds, foremost among which are La Ronde and Juline.  There is also a Côtes de Rhône and, true to tradition, some local wines unavailable in North America.

Interior of the winery.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

The Domaine is not actually in the town of Châteauneuf du Pape but just outside it in a hamlet called Courthézon.  It’s not hard to reach, just a short drive away from the main town.  In our experience, the winery is nothing like what we Americans are used to.  It’s a large farmhouse, where Jean-Paul and his family make, store and sell wine.  It is not set up for visitors in the way we find in California, although you can expect a pleasant welcome.  When we visited, it was Madame Autard who welcomed us and chatted amiably with us (in French, of course).  After a tasting, we asked some rather specific questions about the winemaking technique and distribution back home, so she called out “Jean-Paul, please come.  We have visitors.”

We then had an interesting conversation and offered him to visit us when he was next in New York (an offer never taken up, alas).  It was not so much that we had a unique experience (although we did) but rather that the man is as approachable as is his wine.  We make no guarantee that you will have a similar experience if you should stop by, but we do think you will enjoy the wine.

Domaine Paul Autard has been making wine since 1924, a talent passed down through the generations.  This continues today.  Jean-Paul is communicating to his children, Jules and Pauline, “une somme précieuse de connaissances, d’observations et le travail de la vigne” (“a precious sum of knowledge, observations and work in the vineyard”).  The winery’s flagship wine is Juline, derived from his kids’ first names.

When we visited, the Autards gave us a corkscrew with the Domaine’s name and logo on it.  To this day, we use it to open his (and other people’s) wines.  Each glass of Paul Autard comes with an extra dollop of memories.

 

 

Château Cabezac

At virtually the eastern-most extreme of the Minervois region in southwest France, there is a winery in the village of Bize-Minervois called Château Cabezac (www.chateaucabezac.com/copie-de-home).  It is housed in a yellow building that combines Mediterranean architectural touches with some medieval parapets and an inviting terrace where you can sip your wine under skies that seem always to be blue.  You may encounter some confusion because there is also a Château de Cabezac just down the road which is an actual castle renovated today into a hotel.  It is not associated with the winery.

Photo courtesy of the winery.

 Cabezac makes sprightly, fruit-forward wines that are respectful of the terroir.  Most of their wines are from the traditional Rhône-style grapes:  Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan in the reds and Roussanne, Muscat Sec and Grenache Blanc in the whites.  With thirteen wines to choose among, you can have quite a tasting.

The tasting room is handsome and airy, made largely of wood.  When we were there it was not very busy, but that was a weekday in late September.  We understand from our server that it can be quite bustling at times, which makes their terrace even more valuable.  We received quite an education in Cabezac’s viticulture and winemaking philosophies.  We also learned that the same proprietor has properties in Calvados and Champagne, producing the wines and spirits associated with those regions.  Alas, they were not available for tasting.

Cabezac takes its tasting program quite seriously.  Of course, you can just drop by as we did and have a standup tasting of four wines (although we found that “four” is more of a concept than a limitation).  They also offer half-day and full-day tastings that include more extended explanations and tours.  Cabezac also has a program for corporate clients to host tasting events there.

Cabezac is a relatively young winery, established in 1997.  The proprietor, Gontran Dondain, has invested in wine making in a modern, sanitary manner.  We found that these practices at Cabezac are exemplary of a trend that has, happily, swept across Languedoc.  Improved winemaking practices are being followed across the Languedoc region.  When you visit Cabezac tasting room, you’ll find a window that allows to view the production facilities.  They are gleaming and spotless, indicative of the investment and the care that has gone into this winery.  We have observed this in many other leading wineries in the region.

Where once wines were thin in the mouth and harsh in the throat, today Languedoc wineries such as Cabezac are producing wines that, in our opinion, are comparable with many of those from the Rhône valley (excluding the top-most in that region).  Many of the new generation of Languedoc wineries have adopted bio and vin methode nature growing techniques.  Although Cabezac is not among these, they did tell us that they are scrupulous about their growing methods.

Sadly, Château Cabezac’s wines cannot be found in the United States, to our knowledge.  It does make a worthwhile stop if you are wine tasting in southwest France.

 

Beaulieu Vineyard

There are few wineries in California with more history than Beaulieu Vineyard, familiarly known as BV. Georges de Latour, a Frenchman, established his holdings in Rutherford at the turn of the previous century.  He had the foresight to obtain a license to make sacramental wine, so that when Prohibition came into effect in 1919 and almost all other wineries had to close, BV was still operating, sending bottles to churches across the country.  If a few found their way to a restaurant or a speakeasy, what could Mr. de Latour do about it, eh?

Critically for the California wine industry, in 1938 he induced a famed French winemaker, Andre Tchellichef (“The Maestro”) to be BV’s winemaker, which he was for 30 years.  In his time at the helm, Tchellichef bottled the wine that the de Latour family was keeping for its own use and sold it commercially.  It was one of the first signs of the possibilities of California winemaking.  To this day that wine, the Georges de Latour Private Reserve, is the top of the line at BV and one of the most sought after Napa Valley wines.  If you visit the winery, you can taste it (including well aged versions of this wine).

As with all Napa Valley wineries during the pandemic, tastings are served outdoors.  In the past and we’re sure again in the (near?) future, there are two wine tasting experiences at BV.  As you enter the property, there’s a modern building on your right and a vine-covered old stone building on your left.  There, you can taste BV’s copious selection of widely available commercial wines.  The stone building is where you can taste their finer wines.

The lights are kept low in their reserve tasting room, perhaps to give the impression of a church (remember those altar wines) or a fine restaurant.  The room is not very large, but they have other facilities in the building if they get crowds.  The servers are, for the most part, quite knowledgeable about BV’s wines and wine in general.

The first pour will usually be a Chardonnay but BV has built its reputation on Cabernet Sauvignon.  They have quite a few Cabs at different price points.  We have always been fond of their Bordeaux blend that they call Tapestry.  Like many Napa Valley wineries, BV is experimenting with different, non-traditional grapes.  Today they make a Cabernet/Syrah with a nod to Australia and a Touriga Nacional from Portugal.  We have found that if they’re not too busy and you show a proper appreciation of the wines, the servers will find some gems just below the bar.

Depending on what they’re serving that day, you may get a pour from one of BV’s original vineyards or some single clone wines that are quite unique.  If you want to taste the George de Latour, they’ll charge extra.  We advise you to pay the fee; it’s worth it if only to know what a foundational Napa Valley wine tastes like.

A little extra tip.  BV shares its parking lot with the Rutherford Grill.  We often eat lunch there before we go tasting; if you want to go, you’ll need a reservation. It is a popular restaurant and the food is quite good.

We are never quite sure what Rutherford Dust was all about, but you certainly can find it (if it exists) at BV.

Château Puech-Haut

Château Puech-Haut (www.puech-haut.com) is just about the eastern-most winemaker in Languedoc, France.  Their winery is located in the Pic St-Loup appellation, with vineyards in Saint-Drézéry and in the Cevennes mountains further north.  The tasting room is an easy drive from the city of Montpellier, which is well worth a visit itself.  Now, all these place names may be fairly foreign to American readers.  They’re in a less visited section of southwest France, and they’re worth knowing about.

The tasting room at Château Puech-Haut.

There are a number of reasons to visit Puech-Haut if you’re in the vicinity. Of course, there’s the wine.  For the most part, their wines are quite pleasant, especially their rosés.  They make them from the usual Rhône grapes: Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne.  Their usual tasting menu gives you a good idea of what they make in white, red and rosé.  We found that if you show a serious interest in what they make, they’re quite willing to open some of their better bottles for you.

Puech-Haut is located near the foot of the Pic St-Loup mountain, which gives its name to the AOC.  The winery is surrounded by grape vines and overlooked by a vine-covered château that is more of the nice French country house.  A big deal is made about the massive barrel near the château.  It is indeed large, holding so they say, 300,000 litres, which they claim to be the biggest in the world.

One of the painted barrels, with some containing wine in the background.

There is more to say about barrels at Puech-Haut.  It’s not often that we take any notice of bulk wine, a bag-in-a-box.  These serve a purpose; Puech-Haut has a different approach.  They sell wine in bulk is three-litre barrels.  Moreover, the barrels are painted in colorful, amusing, modernistic themes.  When you finish most boxed wines, you throw away the box.  Puech-Haut’s are collectibles.  They also show off some of their actual aging barrels, which are also gaily decorated.

They also make a deal out of some of their bottles.  They’re elongated and nearly triangular in profile with a squarish base.  The bottles for the whites and rosés are frosted and they have glass stoppers (pink ones for the rosés).  In a wine store, your eye is immediately attracted to these bottles and we bet that many people buy one with the thought of reusing the bottles as vases or carafes.  Puech-Haut realizes that they make good advertising and give them away at the tasting room.

A few notes in case you do visit Puech-Haut.  The tasting room is spacious and well furnished, but the layout is such that it can get quite crowded rather quickly.  Those of us who go wine tasting often are used to heading for one winery and then visiting others in the area.  This doesn’t work well at Puech-Haut; there’s virtually nothing else around.

Oh, and by the way, it’s pronounced (sort of) poosh oh.

The Hess Collection

The Hess Collection winery (https://www.hesscollection.com/) is a little out of the way, up on Mt. Veeder.  It’s worth the trip, for two reasons.  The obvious one is to taste their wines.  The other is to see their art.

The winery was founded by one of the Napa Valley pioneers, by Donald Hess of Switzerland back in the 1980s.  He had already made a fortune in Swiss sparkling water and had started collecting art.  So when he opened a winery in California he also used the location to house his paintings and sculptures.  And he continued to collect more widely.  For a visitor to Napa Valley, a trip the The Hess Collection is both an aesthetic and gustatory experience.

The Hess Collection winery.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

The art gallery adjoins the tasting room.  There are other wineries, especially in Napa Valley, that also exhibit fine art.  But The Hess Collection has a museum of modern art with artists and pieces of the highest quality.  Many artists are quite well-known: Francis Bacon, Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella to name a few.  All the works are from Donald Hess’ personal collection.  (The Hess Collection, get it?)

Photograph courtesy of Incollect.

As you enter the gallery, the first painting you see is an enormous portrait entitled Johanna II by Franz Gertsch, a Swiss artist.  It is photorealistic and is the most widely featured artwork in publicity for the museum.  Perhaps that’s to entice visitors who are not as familiar with abstract art, which makes up the majority of the paintings and drawings on display.

There is much sculpture shown as well.  Some are easy to relate to, such as the full length male nudes by Deryck Healy, a South African artist previously unknown to us.  And others, such as the enormous oak log by Polish artist Magdalena Abakonowicz…well, you just have to see it.

Oh, yes, you can taste wines, too.  At one point, there were two quality levels available for tasting, Hess Select and The Hess Collection.  The former was (and is) intended for the mass market.  These wines are still available at retail but not at the winery.

The strength – and in some ways, the weakness – of the wines you can taste there is the enormous variety of wines they make.  Their top wines, in the Icon series (a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay), are quite refined and really only for connoisseurs.  It is rare that these will be available for tasting.  Those bottled under The Hess Collection label are the ones you might see in a quality wine shop and they lean towards Cabs.  There’s also a Lions Head series with the same mix of grapes.  Then there are the wines they source from nearby and distant vineyards, which they call Small Block wines; these are only available at the winery.

Overall, you might not like everything in the Hess Collection museum or the winery, but that’s all right.  We don’t like everything in the Louvre, either.  But there is much to admire, and an hour or so spent at this museum is as much a part of the Napa Valley experience as their wines.

 

 

V. Sattui Winery

  1. Sattui Winery (www.vsattui.com) is an American success story. Vittorio Sattui was born in a small town near Genoa and emigrated to San Francisco. He opened a winery there in 1885 and prospered, along with family members who followed him, until Prohibition closed the winery down.  Then in 1976, Vittorio’s great-grandson Dario revived the family business in St. Helena.  (As it happens, our first trip to Napa Valley was in 1977, so we thought that V. Sattui had always been there.)

The original winery in San Francisco.  That’s Vittorio’s son Mario and brother Romeo out front.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

Today, V. Sattui has become an institution.  If you visit Napa Valley for only a few times, you are sure to wind up at their doorstep.  Everybody does.  There are several reasons why this is so.

The first is location. It’s right on Route 29, so anyone going to taste in the northern end of the valley has to pass by.  Heitz and Louis M. Martini are just up the road, so we guess Dario figured back then this was a good spot for a winery, and maybe he knew that Flora Springs would open across the street in a few years.  But he couldn’t have known that Pahlmeyer, Belle Glos and Hall would

someday be neighbors as well.  You could do a day’s wine tasting in walking distance of V. Sattui.

Then of course there’s the wine.  V. Sattui has always had an enormous selection of them, many of which were quite affordable.  This is still the case, but they also have pricier wines sourced from some of the most reputed vineyards in California, including Morisoli, Ramazotti and Quaglia.  Their wines include four white varietals, ten red varietals (plus blends), eight dessert wines, five rosés and four sparkling wines.

So how come you’ve never seen any of these in your local wine store?  It’s because they don’t distribute their wines outside the winery.  These days, of course, everything is for sale on the internet as well.  But for decades, V. Sattui has relied on visitors to buy up their stock.

The picnic grounds at V. Sattui.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

And the visitors have come, year after year, many attracted by the expansive picnic grounds on the property.  Napa County has limited the number of wineries that can have picnic tables, with those that have long had them allowed to continue doing so.  It is a common sight in good weather to see families gathered at the tables eating feasts, like you see in Italian movies.  Somewhere, old Vittorio must be smiling.

The people are eating and drinking food and wine purchased on the premises.  In addition to selling wines, V. Sattui has a very fine deli, or salumeria as Vittorio would have said.  There are cold cuts, cheeses, sandwiches, salads, hot dishes and desserts.  And of course, it all goes with V. Sattui wines.  They have a rule that food and wine must be bought there, and that’s only fair.

Many visitors are new to wine tasting in Napa Valley, so they’ve never heard of, much less tasted, V. Sattui’s wines.  So if you sit the shady picnic area and listen carefully, you’ll hear people saying, “Hey, this is pretty good”.  And it is.