The whole idea behind Power Tasting’s winery reviews is that we share our impressions at wineries and tasting rooms where we have had tastings.  In this article, we review a winery we haven’t visited.  A story goes with it.

We were on a wine tasting trip to Tuscany and focused on two regions within the province.  One was the area between Montalcino and Montepulciano, where Brunello and Vino Nobile are made.  The other, of course, was the area of Chianti Classico.  We had been drinking the namesake wine of Querciabella (quercailbella.com), a Chianti, at home and liked it a lot so we wanted to meet the people who made it and taste some of their other wines.

Querciabella is located in the tiny town of Ruffoli, on a hillside outside the somewhat larger town of Greve.  On a Saturday, we had lunch in Greve and then drove to the Querciabella vineyard, only to find it deserted.  We knocked on the door of what was evidently a house, and a rather angry man opened the door.  To our embarrassment, our appointment was for Friday.  The proprietor (who we now know to be Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni) had invited his publicist to drive down from Milan to meet us and had evidently planned quite a tasting.  He slammed the door in our faces and he had a right to be angry.

The Querciabella winery.  Photo courtesy of Winedering.

So this article is our attempt at amends.

In a region of Italy where winemaking goes back for millennia and many labels have histories over the centuries, Querciabella is a relative newcomer.  Founded in 1974 on a single hectare in Ruffoli, it now encompasses over 100 hectares in Chianti and Maremma.

Querciabella is famous for several reasons.  While they make Chianti at several quality levels, Querciabella was among the pioneers in producing Super Tuscans.  Eschewing the traditional rules of Chianti winemaking – at least 80% Sangiovese and no more than 20% of grapes such as Canaiolo or Colorino – Querciabella started mixing Sangiovese with French grapes, primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  The first Super Tuscans were produced in the 1970’s; Querciabella’s first was released in 1981.  That wine was Camartina, the winery’s flagship to this day.  Their Turpino is a Bordeaux blend with no Sangiovese at all.  And they also make a 100% Merlot, which they call Palafreno, but only in years when conditions are ideal.  Querciabella has only released it a dozen times.

They are also famous for their commitment to sustainability.  All their wines are organic, biodynamic (without the manure-filled cowhorns), and vegan.  No animal products of any sorts are used in their winemaking.

We can attest that their Chiantis are not to be looked down on.  The Classico is accessible but has lots of Chianti character.  The Riserva is more of the same with greater depth.  Querciabella has had a Gran Selezione since that designation was allowed in the previous decade.  It’s a single vineyard Sangiovese, using their best grapes.

They also make a few white wines.  Naturally enough, these wines are blends of Italian and French grapes, too.

A word about Querciabella’s labels.  They all have drawings evocative of restaurants, for reasons unknown.  They’re cute, belying the seriousness of the wine behind the labels.

So should you be wine tasting in Tuscany, make a point of visiting Querciabella.  Just don’t tell them we sent you.

Bedell Cellars

A Bordeaux winery founded in 1980 is a newcomer.  In Napa Valley, it would have a heritage but wouldn’t be a pioneer.  But on Long Island’s North Fork, a 1980 winery is positively ancient.  Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue (pronounced KUCH-og) is just such a winery.  It has had two owners, the Bedells (Kip and Susan) who started it and the Lynne family who are still there.

Then and now, Bedell made a number of wines, red, white and rosé.  At the outset, the winery focused on one grape, Merlot, to the extent that Kip Bedell was known as “Mr. Merlot”.  In our earliest forays into Long Island’s new Wine Country, we found Bedell Merlot to be a standout among other wineries trying to do everything for everybody.

Bedell Cellars still bottles Merlot, but today it is a wine, not the wine. The wine that Bedell features most prominently now is Musée, which is a Bordeaux grape blend.  It is unusual in two ways: the most prominent grape is Petit Verdot, which is usually used for blending in France.  And the 2019 bottling does not contain Cabernet Franc, which many (us included) find to be the grape most suited to the North Fork’s terroir.

 The entrance to the Bedell winery.

There are a number of reasons to spend time at Bedell when visiting the North Fork.  Not the least is the look of the place, both inside and out.  There is a New England-y quality to the exterior of the winery buildings.  Since the North Fork was settled by émigré Puritans in the 1700’s, the architecture is an homage to local history.  White clapboard and little steeples lead one to expect whalers to be coming home at any minute.  These days, especially in the summer months, it is far more likely that it will be tourists who are coming.

 Bedell’s tasting room.

The décor of the tasting room belies the rustic sense of the exterior.  It’s modern, metal and high-tech, all rather dramatic.  The servers work behind the bar and interact with visitors languidly on cool, early April days and a bit frantically at the height of the summer.  We do recommend a visit to Bedell to get a sense of where the North Fork’s wines have come from.  But we further recommend that you do so on a day other than a high-season weekend.

In addition to the tourist hordes, you are likely to find some distractions at Bedell.  They often present musical acts, for one thing, and in the summer youmight find yourself surrounded by a lot of surprisingly well-dressed people.  They are probably there for a wedding.  Winery nuptials are becoming quite the thing on the North Fork, and the beauty of Bedell’s vineyards, grounds and architecture attract quite a few.

We view marriage quite favorably and are happy to see people getting hitched in such lovely surroundings.  But the business of winery-as-a-backdrop may have an effect on the business of making and selling wine.  It’s enough that winemaking is part farming, part art and part industry.  Adding ceremonies as a fourth part of the financial equation can alter a winemaker’s perspective, as well as that of wine tasters.  We hope that Bedell keeps its eye on the ball…or at least on the grape.

Peju Winery

We have driven up and down Route 29 in the Napa Valley many, many times.  Often, we have passed the Peju Winery (www.peju.com).  That’s exactly what we have done, passed it by without stopping in.  We guess that’s because we have never seen their wines in stores or on wine lists so, we thought, why bother?  On a recent trip, we did bother and we are glad we did.

The rather distinctive Peju winery.

The winery is named after its founder, Tony Peju, who only recently passed away.  He was credited with being the father of direct-to-the-consumer wine sales.  Thus we hadn’t heard of his wines because he bypassed stores and restaurants.  Peju wines are for sale only at the winery and through their wine club.  The winery is still owned and run by the Peju family, which is something depressingly rare in Napa Valley today.

The winery is distinctive.  As you approach, you see a rather oddly shaped building or, as they prefer to call it, a tower.  Surrounding it are lush gardens which visitors are free to roam.  There is also a spacious patio where visitors are offered seated tastings.  You can also stand at the bar at Peju, which is rather rare these days.  We arrived without an appointment and so had our tasting indoors, in the barrel room.  However, the winery does urge reservations.

The stained glass mural in the winery.

Peju makes an enormous variety of wines.  Of course, not all are available for tasting on any given day, but we did find that the servers were liberal with little extras that weren’t on the official tasting lists.  Located in the heart of Napa Valley in Rutherford, they do specialize in the Bordeaux grapes, especially Cabernet Sauvignon.  But there are also Malbec, Pinot Noir and Sangiovese in the red wines.  Their selection of white wines includes Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc (of course), but also sparking wines and French Colombard, a rarity these days.  We are usually of the ABC (anything but Chardonnay) persuasion, but we rather enjoyed Peju’s.

The servers seem quite knowledgeable, if a bit chatty.  They are attentive, which can be a problem in some wineries.  Combining the renewed popularity of wine tasting tourism with a shortage of staff everywhere, we have often found ourselves sitting and waiting for a server to notice that we wanted to be on to our next wine.  This was not the case at Peju, much to their credit.  For a winery that makes its market with visitors and club members, it is only sensible that they make the tasting experience as enjoyable as possible.  It leads to purchases and memberships.  We would only wish that more wineries would adopt that attitude.

Our visit to Peju is an example of why it is a good idea, from time to time, to take a chance on a winery you don’t know.  We enjoyed our visit, bought some wine, and will gladly return on another trip.  The next time we might even make a reservation.


Cosentino Winery

In a sense, there are two Cosentino Wineries (www.cosentinowinery.com), the historical one and the winery as it is today.  It was established in 1980 in other parts of California and settled in Napa Valley after ten years.  The founder was a fellow named Mitch Cosentino, who was both a pioneer and a rather different sort of winemaker.  For one thing, he was a self-taught winemaker (not quite that rare in those days) but more so because he made the wines that he wanted to drink.  If you agreed with him, fine.  If not, buy from someone down the road.

What he particularly liked were Italian-style wines.  He made a Sangiovese and a Nebbiolo, and his best known wines were well-rated Zinfandels that harkened back to a time when Napa Valley wines were made for local consumption by Italian immigrants.  He was also the first to sell a Bordeaux blend labeled “Meritage”.

In 2010, Mitch sold his winery to a big conglomerate, which leads us to today’s winery. In one way, it is as it was, at the same location as ever at the edge of Napa Town.  The winery building is still there, an Italianate (of course) structure covered in vines.  But the name and the building are the main links to Cosentino’s history.  Yes, they do make Zinfandel, but it’s not what they are known for any longer.  Today, their premier red wine is the one that Mitch introduced, “The Poet”, a Meritage, about which more later.

The wine tasting experience at Cosentino is quite pleasant.  The winery is easy to find, right next to Mustards restaurant along Route 29.  There is a wide patio with a large stone wall at one end in which there is constantly lit fireplace.  Seating is well spread out and the view of the traffic passing by is softened by a large hill just across the street with a Victorian mansion on top.  If you go, try to have your tasting on this patio; in our opinion the indoor tasting room is far less inviting.

As everywhere in Napa Valley, Cosentino is “by appointment”.  We were seated without one, perhaps by luck or the fact that we got there before the crowds did.   The servers are eager to please, what we would call “hosts” as opposed to “educators”. A typical tasting flight is two whites and two reds, one of which is the aforementioned “The Poet”, which brings us to the issue of price and quality.

In all honesty, Cosentino does not make the best wines in Napa Valley, but they are pleasant and easy to drink.  They fit the surroundings in that they are the types of wines you might enjoy sitting on your patio with friends on a sunny afternoon.  They cost considerably less than wines made at the better known wineries in Napa Valley, and the tasting fee is also lower, currently $30.  The Poet is unquestionably their top wine (so they say and we agree).  It too is priced well below other wineries’ best offerings.

So if your plan for wine tasting in Napa Valley is to visit the Big Names, by all means do so, but be prepared to pay for the experience.  If, however, you want to have a pleasant experience, sipping tasty wines and at least one that’s worth savoring, Cosentino may be what you are looking for.

Stags’ Leap Winery

There are a number of reasons to enjoy a wine tasting visit to Stags’ Leap Winery (https://www.stagsleap.com/): history, architecture, vistas, beauty and of course the wines.  The tasting “room” is actually a house, more of a mansion that has been lovingly restored to its condition around the turn of the previous century.  It has been the home of rich people, a resort hotel, a speakeasy, a home to squatters and, finally, a commercial winery.

You learn all the details and get to see much of the building as a part of what they call a Manor House Experience.  You can also taste the wines without the tour, but we highly recommend being shown around.  As you enter the property, you pass through an arcade of trees and see vineyards that date to the 1880’s.  You climb a hill to the parking lot and view across the estate, with more vineyards below.  You will notice magnificent gardens everywhere around you and then you’ll see this Victorian mansion, made of stone with a grand veranda running along one side.
When you step inside, the room you enter is resplendent of early 20th century design, somewhere between Gatsby and your (rich) grandmother.  The chandelier made of stags’ horns certainly catches the eye, as do all the burnished wood accoutrements.  You don’t have to whisper, but you do feel as though you ought to.

A tour guide takes you through the house, outbuildings and gardens, offering tastings of Stags’ Leaps’ lighter wines as you go.  You wind up in an equally impressive dining room with the crest of the winery in stained glass.  Here you sit and are served their more well-known wines.  Since this is Napa Valley they serve a Cabernet Sauvignon, but interestingly, this is not Stag Leaps’ flagship wine.  They are best known for Petite Sirah, both in the more widely known white label with a leaping stag and their black label premium bottling.  It is the latter, more interesting wine that they serve on the tour.

The overall impression you get from a visit to Stags’ Leap is of old-money luxury.  In fact you learn during the tour that there was once a lot of money but it ran out and was only restored to its former glory in the 1980’s.  It has been kept up by the current owner, Treasury Wine Cellars.  What you see is gracious, as are the guides, and the wines project a full-bodied savor that may not be quite as fashionable as it once was but echoes what Napa Valley has always been.  In fact, that may be said about the visit as a whole.

We cannot fail to relate the history of the apostrophe.  The AVA is Stags Leap, with no apostrophe at all.  It merely says that stags do leap.  Down the road is Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (a leap by one stag).  This winery is Stags’ Leap (the leap of many stags).  Is that clear?  Actually, no it isn’t and it was the subject of lawsuits for quite a few years.  The guide tells the story with a little chuckle, but it’s clear that there are still some bruises felt after all this time.

Black Stallion Estate Winery

We first encountered Black Stallion (https://www.blackstallionwinery.com/) about a decade ago.  All that stuck in our minds since then was the large statue of a horse and the fact that they were emphasizing the food they served then more than the wine.  We are happy to report that the statue is still there; the facility has been greatly expanded and improved and that we will now remember the wines they serve.

Before discussing the wine tasting experience at Black Stallion, it’s worthwhile explaining a bit of the back story.  The winery is owned by the Indelicato family, now in its fourth generation in America.  Gaspare Indelicato arrived in 1924, planted a vineyard and expanded his holdings so that the company named for him today owns many wineries, the best known of which is Coppola.  Now, about that horse: The land on which the winery sits was previously an equestrian academy.  Situated in the Oak Knoll AVA, the land is better used today for wine than horses, so we believe.  All that’s left is the statue, which they call Bucephalus, the horse of Alexander the Great.  Great horse, great wines – get it?

We did not realize, on our previous visit, that the winery had just been erected and wasn’t yet finished.  The tasting room was long and narrow, had a bar and some outdoor seating.  The bar is still there, but is no longer used in this era of seated tastings.  The tasting area is in a large, canopied patio furnished with low tables and comfortable chairs, from which you can see vineyards and olive trees.  It’s the patio you wished you had, times thirty.  That’s the impression that Black Stallion wants to give, that you are at home, relaxing with some fine wines.  We felt welcome the moment we sat down.

We were offered a choice of four tasting flights, running from $40 to $80 for the Prestige Tasting of their better wines.  In the latter flight, two wines were a mini-vertical of the 2014 and 2018 Barrel Reserve Cabernet Sauvignons.  There were also a Cabernet Sauvignon called Gaspare, named for Grandpa, and a Bordeaux blend that they call Transcendent.  We expressed interest in the Tempranillo and the Pinot Noir from other lists, and so were given tastes of these as well.  Power Tasting does not review wines, but suffice it to say that these wines pleased us much more than those we can (barely) remember from a decade ago.

The educational vineyard at Black Stallion.

Alongside the tasting patio, Black Stallion has planted a micro-vineyard with vines of all the grapes they use in their wines.  It’s there for educational purposes and adds a serious vibe to the comfortable setting.  We can’t resist relating the comments of one patron who clearly needs some wine education.  “Oh, Malbec is a grape, too.  I thought it was a brand.  And the grapes all come from France!”  There is another garden which they call the “insectory”, where they raise plants that attract birds and bugs that are beneficial to grape vines.  This is further evidence of Black Stallion’s commitment to informative wine tasting.

One of the pleasures of wine tasting travels is the opportunity to discover new experiences.  In the case of Black Stallion, the revisit was just such a discovery.

Iron Horse Vineyards

The first time we ever heard about the sparkling wines of Iron Horse, it was because Ronald Reagan served it to Mikhail Gorbachev at the White House.  It was such a funny name that we wanted to learn more about it, but it took us a while to actually visit the winery.  As to the funny name, it comes from a railroad spur that was erected in the 19th century specifically to serve a nearby winery.  The fact that Iron Horse is located on Ross Station Road in Sebastopol indicates there was once a stop there.

Aside from the wines, which we’ll get to later, there are three reasons to visit Iron Horse.  The first of these is that it is family-owned.  In these days of corporate takeovers, it’s a good idea to support the families who develop, farm and vinify on their own.  Sure, there are software zillionaires who buy wineries as a hobby.  They have families, too, but they’re not real wine people.  We should all help to make sure that these traditions continue.

Tasting at Iron Horse.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

The second is the tasting room.  Or, rather, make that the tasting “room”.  It’s actually an extended shed with a porch outside and an overhanging wooden roof (so that tasting is possible on a rainy day).  On that porch, there are rough-hewn planks suspended between wine barrels.  Here you can sip rather elegant sparkling wines, physically proving that these wines don’t have to be reserved for fancy occasions.

The view from the Iron Horse tasting “room”.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

Finally, if you tear yourself away from looking at the wines and turn around, there is one of the most impressive vineyard views in Sonoma County, or maybe anywhere.  The tasting area (let’s stop calling it a room) is atop a steep hill and the vineyards extend through the valley below.  So when you visit, don’t just stand at the “bar” (there’s something about the Iron Horse experience that just demands quotation marks).  Turn around a look over the rows of vines, or better still take your glass and sit on a bench, soaking in both the wine and the view.

As to those wines, Iron Horse does make some still wines, Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.  There’s nothing wrong with them, but they’re not the reason to visit.  Iron Horse is famed for its sparklers, and justly so.  They make twelve (!) different sparkling wines, ranging from an ultra-brut to a somewhat sweet wine that they claim is the best choice for a toast.  Their biggest seller (and the one often served at the White House, over five more administrations) is their Wedding Cuvee.  The name is clever marketing for a beverage that often accompanies nuptial celebrations.  They say that it’s their “interpretation” (those danged quote marks again) of a Blanc de Noir, but they use some Chardonnay so it’s not really pure white wine from red grapes.

It seems that Iron Horse hasn’t been served at the White House in the current administration.  So, come on, Joe, get with the program.

We admit to a weakness for any winery that still offers service behind two barrels and a plank, but as noted there are lots of reasons to visit Iron Horse.  It’s a bit of a trek across Sonoma County to the far reaches of Green Valley, but’s it’s worth the trip.

Domaine le Clos des Cazaux

In the village of Vacqueyras, just beyond the center of town, there is a winery that we have visited several times when we have been in the Southern Rhône.  The first time, it was highly recommended by the hotel where we were staying so we headed there after lunch in the village.  The rest of the story belongs in the Experiences section of Power Tasting as much as in Wineries, but it is also instructive about Clos des Cazaux.

The vines of Clos de Cazaux, just outside the village of Vacqueyras.  Photo courtesy of Kysela Pere et Fils.

Over 20 years ago…as we parked, a petite elderly woman came out to greet us.

Elderly Woman: Bonjour, Monsieur.  Bonjour, Madame.

All the rest of the conversation was also in French, so we’ll translate from here on.

EW: A taste of my wines, perhaps?

Power Tasting: Of course, that’s why we’re here.

EW: Please enter my cave.

The cave was little more than a shed.  Inside was a shelf with four bottles of red wine.  Clos de Cazaux makes more wines than that today.

EW: There are two Vacqueyras and two Gigondas.

This is a relevant point.  Many of the Vacqueyras wineries own parcels of land both in that village and in the neighboring hamlet of Gigondas.  Although they are as close together as uptown and downtown in a city, the elevation and soil conditions in the two are substantially different.

EW: The two Vacqueyras wines and one of the Gigondas are traditional, a blend of Grenache and Syrah.  The other is pure Syrah, pour les anglais (for the English).

PT: (to ourselves) Oh, she means us!

And that says a lot about Clos de Cazaux and the Vacqueyras vignerons in general.  While they can be innovative in their winemaking, the winemakers of Vacqueyras are tightly wedded to tradition.  Still, they try to please, even us anglais.

A Templar, with the Dentelles de Montmirail in the background.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

That wine that was made just for us was and is called the Cuvée des Templiers (or Templars, in English, who were freebooting soldiers who fought for and occupied the Holy Lands during the Crusades.  It is no longer just Syrah, but having tasted it again in ensuing years, it’s still our favorite from this winery.

The Clos des Cazaux vineyards. Photo courtesy of the winery.

As then, Clos des Cazaux makes wine from grapes of both Vacqueyras and Gigondas.  There are whites and a few rosés, but most of their wines are reds.  The whites are predominantly Clairette from vines the elderly woman might have planted in her youth.  The reds are mostly Grenache, Syrah and some Mourvèdre.  There are a few interesting exceptions, including a pure Grenache from Gigondas (maybe the anglais have changed their tastes).  There’s also a wine they call Grenat Noble, which is a Grenache, with 30% of the grapes having been infected with botrytis, the Noble Rot, that is the base of Sauternes dessert wines.  It’s not quite a dessert wine, not quite a table wine.  It’s just unique.

We’re sure that the elderly woman has long since passed on, but there is an interesting coda to this story.  Years later we were at the tourist information office in Rasteau, village near Vacqueyras, and we related the story above to the young woman who was helping us.  She looked at us, amazed, and said, “That woman is my grandmother!”

Rodney Strong Vineyards

The Rodney Strong winery is located in the northeastern corner of The Russian River district in Sonoma County.  It is a little out of the way, since the Old Redwood Highway, where Rodney Strong sits, isn’t chockablock full of wineries, as compared, say, with Dry Creek Road or Westside Road, both relatively nearby.  While there are other wineries we favor close to Rodney Strong, such as Limerick Lane or Foppiano, you pretty much have to consider it to be a destination, rather than a place you would be one stop among many.

The Rodney Strong facility.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

And a destination it should be.  It is not a Sonoma Palace, but it is rather grand.  You enter up a long staircase with splendid foliage all around you.  Once inside, you find an elegant, if a bit austere tasting room with servers who know quite a lot about the Rodney Strong wines.  They had better, because there are so many of them.

The tasting room at Rodney Strong.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

The reason we say that this winery is atypical for Russian River is that they don’t just make Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Chardonnay, although they do produce all those varietals.  But there are also Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Sauvignon, red and white blends and rosé.  In this regard, Rodney Strong is more like a winery in Napa Valley than Russian River.

The sheer number of wines that are available for tasting is one of this winery’s strengths.  Particularly for those who are not familiar with Sonoma County wines, this is a great place for an introduction, especially to Sonoma County as it used to be.  For Rodney Strong has been making wine here since 1959, with a family history stretching back to the beginning of the 20th century.  Mr. Strong himself was a Broadway dancer, who retired to buy vineyards and make wine.  It is always a pleasure to acquaint yourself with some of the pioneers of California winemaking as we know it today.  Since Mr. Strong was among the first to plant Pinot Noir in Russian River and Chardonnay in Chalk Hill, you really have a chance there to indulge in wine history.

Another way that Rodney Strong reflects the past is the price points for its wines.  In these days when the top bottles in many wineries go for well north of a hundred dollars, their most expensive wines under the Rodney Strong label can be purchased for two digits.  The cost of a wine is not necessarily indicative of its quality, but the overall pricing does set expectations.  Within that restriction, Rodney Strong delivers good, drinkable wine, some definitely worth sampling.

Unfortunately, the strength of such a wide range of varietals is also a weakness.  No one can make that many wines equally well.  But if your intent is to have wine for everyday dinners or barbecues, you can do very well at Rodney Strong.  And there are some wines you might taste that will do well with a weekend steak dinner as well.

The experience of a tasting at Rodney Strong – ambience, selection and wine – make a trip there quite satisfying.

Groth Vineyards and Winery

There’s a certain mystique about visiting Groth (www.grothwines.com).  When we tell knowledgeable friends that we’ve been there, we often get that look, as though we had joined them as members of a secret society of wine insiders.  It’s hard to call Groth a cult wine but many of those who love their wines treat it that way.

So let’s deal with the wines first, before discussing the tasting experience there.  They make Cabernet Sauvignon.  Oh yes, they grow other Bordeaux blending grapes and they do have some white wines.  But believe us (and the Groth people themselves) Groth is all about Cab.  We don’t review wines at Power Tasting, but suffice it to say that their Cabernet Sauvignons are rather good and have won awards over the 40+ years they have been growing grapes and making wines.

The entrance to the Groth winery.

You don’t just drop in for a tasting at Groth.  Their policy is strictly “by appointment only”.  So, as you drive along the shady Oakville Cross Road and see Groth’s remarkable building, you will want to visit.  To do so, however, you would have needed to make a reservation well in advance.

The building seems from afar like a pink stucco Spanish hacienda.  It is set well off the road behind acres of vines, so that when you actually do approach you might find it surprising to see how large it is.  That’s because it’s an industrial property where people crush grapes, age wine and then bottle and sell it.  But it is also the home of the Groth family, so a visit to the winery is also a house call.

Inside the Groth winery.

That spirit is carried forward by the guide assigned to your visit who shows you round and serves you some wine.  The hacienda feeling is enhanced by the furnishings, made of gleaming wood and seemingly antique.  The daughter of the winery’s founder, now in charge of their operations, had once intended to be a professional artist and you can see several of her paintings on the walls.

Not surprisingly, the guides talk reverently about the Groths, particularly the founder, Dennis.  We’ve also heard that tone applied to winery owners who inherited their wealth or bet early on Microsoft.  When you walk around the winery, you might see old photos of Mr. Groth with fellows such as Mr. Mondavi, Mr. Winiarski and Mr. Heitz, you realize that he was one of Napa Valley’s pioneers.  True, the Groth family came to the valley “only” in 1982.  They intended to make fine Bordeaux style wines and they did it.  It’s no mean feat to look back on your career and say that you accomplished your goal.

All that history means nothing to the visitor if the essentials aren’t there.  But fine architecture, a warm greeting and good wine should always go together in Wine Country.  Sadly, that’s not always the case in Napa Valley and elsewhere.  Visitors should treasure the combination when they encounter it, as we have done at Groth.