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

During her time at Comdisco, there were lots of sales meetings and negotiations spent over dinner, often accompanied by a fine bottle of wine (or two). Is was during this time that Suzanne discovered that she had a discerning palate, and was amongst the select few (around 1% of the population) who could perceive the aroma of violets in wine.

Suzanne’s husband Shane also traveled extensively for work so they developed an important ritual of meeting somewhere in the country to connect and have a “Date Night”. Every big decision they ever made together was on “Date Night” and on one of those life-changing evenings they decided to compile a list of dream places to live and things they would do, irrespective of the inherent impracticalities.

Image what found its way on both of their lists? The dream of having their own small winery. And after searching for their perfect site throughout Oregon, Washington State and California, it was a 24 acre dirt plot that was for sale by owner in Calistoga, Napa Valley that sealed the deal for them in 1999. According to Suzanne and Shane, it was their best decision ever.

Phifer Pavitt

Appearance: Pours a vivid, dark garnet with flecks of violet. 

Nose: The nose is aromatic, floral and layered revealing violets, redcurrant, black cherry, black raspberry and anise framed by hints of dusty cocoa, menthol, cedar and toffee.  

On the palate: The medium to full-bodied Phifer Pavitt Date Night Cabernet is seamlessly textured and balanced in its delivery of lush red currant, black raspberry and chocolate flavors at its core. The mouthfeel is spicy and enlivened by zesty acidity. With more time in the glass, it becomes even richer revealing darker fruit characteristics and rich toffee notes. A polished, balanced effort that manages to be elegant yet full of personality. It finishes long and smooth with fine, supple tannin.

Varietal Composition: 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot

Vintage: 2011

Origin: Napa Valley, California

Value Rating:  3.5 / 5

How I Got It: Media Sample

Price: $80

Score: 92

Should you buy? If you’re buying wine in this price range, the Phifer Pavitt Date Night Cabernet merits your consideration. It’s sustainably grown and produced with meticulous attention to detail. Elegant, expressive and charismatic, the Phifer Pavitt Date Night Cabernet is fairly priced considering the rarefied world of top Napa Cabernet in which it competes. It’s quality, relative affordability and limited-production lead me to believe that it does have the potential to achieve cult Cabernet status. Phifer Pavitt

Value Proposition | Phifer Pavitt Date Night Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2011

Phifer Pavitt’s Date Night Cabernet has been not only been described as a future ‘Cult Cabernet’, but they have sold out every year even as their production has increased from 250 cases in the inaugural 2005 vintage to just over 1,400 cases today. An impressive 85% of Phifer Pavitt wines (they produce a Sauvignon Blanc as well) are sold directly through their Verona Society membership club.

Their artisanal approach to winemaking emphasizes quality and sustainability and a hand-crafted, hands-off philosophy. They collaboratively farm organically the same single-vineyard, single-estate farm with Claire and Arthur Spencer. Their winemaker Ted Osborn, who has been with Phifer Pavitt since its first vintage, believes that old-world winemaking methods produce distinctive, terroir driven wines.

For example, they are among the few wineries to utilize often unpredictable native yeast fermentations and they have recently joined the rarefied ranks to become recognized as a Napa Green Winery. While some wineries use 50 to several hundred gallons of water to produce one single bottle of wine, Phifer Pavitt uses only one gallon per bottle. An incredible feat that respect considering the pervasive drought conditions throughout California.

Too many people wine country and fail to see this side of Napa Valley. If you can’t make it to the winery, I recommend incorporating the Phifer Pavitt Date Night Cabernet into your “Date Night” – you won’t regret it!

Phifer Pavitt

The ‘tasting bar’ is formed from a reclaimed black walnut tee and is actually suspended from the ceiling of the barn.

The Specifics | Phifer Pavitt Winery

Coincidentally, I was scheduled to visit Napa a few days after meeting with Suzanne in my neighborhood. Since I enjoyed the wine I decided to visit Phifer Pavitt Winery , which Suzanne and her husband built from scratch (she actually managed the entire project). The entire feel is authentic, elemental and respectful of its environmental impact.

For example, the insulation is 90% recycled blue jeans and the wood used in the construction of the barn is recycled, decades old Wyoming snow fence that flaunts a luxurious, rustic patina. It’s beautifully executed yet extremely eco-friendly.

I was also pleasantly surprised to be greeted by Luke Spear, who was responsible for making my previous visit and experience at Whitehall Lane memorable. In my opinion, good people make all of the difference and his passion for Phifer Pavitt is sure to make your visit a memorable one as well.

Location: 4660 Silverado Trail N, Calistoga CA 94515

Tasting Fee: $50

Included in the Tasting: A tasting of current release wines paired with cheese and the opportunity to meet proprietor Suzanne Phifer Pavitt.

Wine Prices: $30 for Sauvignon Blanc, $80 for the Date Night Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker: Ted Osborne, who got his start with a harvest job at Cakebread Cellars in 1995.

Appointment Required? Yes, make a request online here. Telephone is 707-942-4787 for follow up purposes.

Time to Allot: Approximately 90 minutes

Should You Go? This boutique Calistoga winery is a must-visit for its excellent wines, it’s sustainable approach to producing them and its personal approach to selling them. With such limited production and the fact that they have sold out in every vintage, it’s only a matter of time before there’s not enough to go around!

Phifer Pavitt


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