Category Archives: Winery Visits

Ehlers Estate | Where To Start Your Day In Napa

Ehlers Estate | Your Mornings Will Never Be The Same

Ehlers Estate

I’m not much of a morning person. It typically takes me a few hours, and a least as many coffees before I’m completely awake. My morning routine is pretty mundane here in Washington, D.C. Up at 7:20, make a quick coffee and then take the kids to school. After returning home,  I make some fried eggs, another coffee and get to work in my home office. Exciting stuff, right? But after my recent visit to Ehlers Estate, it has been quite the challenge to return to my normal morning routine…

I’ve been to many tastings that start at 10 am, but to my knowledge Ehlers Estate is the only Napa Valley winery offering the opportunity to wake up over a flight of estate-grown wines paired with buttery, flaky croissants delivered fresh from Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. Where else but in Napa Valley can you literally wake up to a wine tasting?!

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Young Inglewood | Mastering the Tightrope in Napa Valley

Young Inglewood | Mastering the Tightrope in Napa Valley

Young Inglewood

What I look for in a good Cabernet Sauvignon is a combination of depth, structure and balance. If that doesn’t sound like a tall order, believe me it isn’t often enough that all of these components come together in a truly compelling and harmonious fashion – yet the 2012 Young Inglewood Cabernet Sauvignon manages to makes it seem effortless.

Before Jim and Jacky Young founded Young Inglewood Vineyards, they asked themselves what their favorite wines had in common. They keenly pinpointed that it was in fact the often elusive element of balance that made these wines so special.

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Franciscan Estate Winery | An Under the Radar Overachiever

Franciscan Estate Winery | An Under the Radar Overachiever

Franciscan Estate

I have been buying and drinking Franciscan Estate wines for years now. In fact, shortly after tasting the 94 point 2007 Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon I promptly added a few cases to my stores. Considering that I paid just under $20 at the time, these wines were amongst the most reliable, consistent values I had come across in Cabernet, especially Napa Cabernet, in some time.

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Rombauer Vineyards | More Than Just Chardonnay!

Rombauer Vineyards & Winery | More Than Just Chardonnay!

Rombauer Vineyards

Sometimes the best surprises happen where you least expect them, right? That was certainly the case on my most recent visit to Napa Valley. After visiting over 10 wineries (it was a long trip), Rombauer Vineyards managed to make a lasting impression. You might be as surprised as I was to discover why.

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Cairdean Estate Winery | The Complete Package in Napa?

Cairdean Estate Winery | The Complete Package in Napa?

Cairdean Winery

I have driven past the Cairdean Estate Winery several times yet never fully appreciated the scale and quality of the project. The modern structure that’s visible appears relatively understated and unassuming from Highway 29. Simply passing by you would never guess that newly completed Cairdean Estate Winery is actually a fairly expansive compound replete with one of the more complete, all-encompassing visitor experiences in Napa Valley.

Sure, you could come just to taste their award-winning estate-grown Cabernet Franc, or to grab a gourmet coffee (or bloody mary for that matter) at Butterscots Cafe, where the warm, welcoming aesthetic draws inspiration from a European kitchen. You could also do your best to resist the carefully curated, luxurious, checkbook-draining temptations on display at the Redolent Mercantile.

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Lokoya Winery | Raising The Bar for Terroir

Lokoya Winery | Raising The Bar for Terroir

Lokoya Winery

Lokoya is a place that’s quietly tucked away along the Mayacamas Mountains in Napa Valley, in-between Mount Veeder and Spring Mountain. Meaning “the place where the geese fly over”, the area is remote and serene. There isn’t much happening here… unless of course you know where to look.

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Phifer Pavitt Winery | Upgrade Your Date Night!

Phifer Pavitt Winery | Upgrade Your Date Night!

Phifer Pavitt

I had the good pleasure of meeting Suzanne Phifer Pavitt of Napa Valley’s Phifer Pavitt Wine this past week in Washington, D.C. Despite juggling a rather busy schedule (having just left a meeting with superstar restaurateur Jose Andres and his Master Sommelier Andy Myers) she took the time to personally introduce me to her Date Night Cabernet and the story that inspired it.

Suzanne has become quite adept at not just tackling a busy schedule, but also overcoming obstacles. She spent 14 years working for Chicago tech firm Comdisco in high tech equipment leasing, as one of only two women on a team of over 70 men. Needless to say, she is no push over and oozes an endearing combination of passionate determination and southern charm.

Phifer Pavitt

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Wren Hop Vineyards | Crafting Pinot for Cab Lovers

Wren Hop Vineyards | Crafting Pinot for Cab Lovers

Wren Hop

Google “Wren Hop” and amongst the results is Google’s own description as a ‘Place of Worship’. So you might understand my confusion after looking for directions to a winery that was the top recommendation of Nora Mahan, a well-connected travel concierge for American Express’ destination club Inspirato.

While Wren Hop Vineyards might not be a place of worship in the traditional sense, you might not find this to be such a gross mischaracterization after you visit and taste through their portfolio. To be frank… I’d be surprised if you didn’t find yourself worshiping their Pinot Noirs. Wren Hop

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Davis Estates Winery | A Changing Landscape in Calistoga

Davis Estates Winery | A Changing Landscape in Calistoga

Davis Estates

This renovated historic barn at Davis Estates is a California Historic Landmark

As the epicenter of America’s evolving and increasingly interesting wine scene, Napa Valley is the hottest place to be – and having its namesake on your label lends quite a bit of cachet and prestige in the marketplace.

Being so sought after has translated to the highest prices nationwide per buildable acre, with prices ranging from $150,000 all the way up to $2 million. While it’s still primarily an agricultural-centric region, long gone are the days of diversified crops in this fertile valley – today the cash crop is the wine grape – and it thrives here.

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Smith Madrone Vineyards | A Spring Mountain Must…

Smith Madrone Vineyards | A Spring Mountain Must

Smith Madrone

The views of Napa Valley below from Smith Madrone Vineyards

Something From Nothing | The Beginnings of Smith Madrone Vineyards

Tucked away at the very end of Spring Mountain Road lies Smith Madrone Vineyards. Situated at the highest point in the Spring Mountain District, its steeply sloped mountain vineyards reach grades of up to 34% at elevations between 1300 and 2000 feet.

Notable and familiar neighbors include Bothe Napa Valley State Park directly to the North, Barnett Vineyards immediately to the West and Keenan Winery lies due South.

The history of the property dates all the way back to the 1880 when a man by the name of George Cook secured a land grant authorized by then President Chester A. Arthur and planted vineyards and olive trees on the estate.

But when Stu Smith discovered this special parcel of land, with its expansive views of Napa Valley and rocky, well-drained volcanic soils, the existing vineyards were in disrepair and the property was still mostly just a forest!

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