Explore America / Travel Tastes

Three Boutique Wineries in Napa that You Should Visit

After a two year hiatus I was thrilled to return to Napa Valley for Flora Springs release party I usually attend every February with a group of friends from San Antonio, Texas. An ice storm in Texas caused some to be delayed or completely cancelled which meant impacted some winery visits. After many trips to Napa I’ve learned the unexpected is usually fabulous as was a day of changed plans resulting in three new boutique winery visits for me and I became a big fan off all three.

On a beautiful Friday in Napa, most of the group attended a 10am tasting at Ackerman Family Vineyard’s Heritage House in downtown Napa. Before stepping into the 1889 Victorian mansion originally known as the Gifford House, we started in the carriage house known as “The Aviary” with glasses of the 2018 Sauvignon Blanc while learning a little history about the Ackerman Family. They purchased their Coombsville vineyard in 1994, well before that corner of Napa Valley became well known for its Bordeaux-esque wines. In 2007 they released their first commercial vintage, the 2003 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. They vineyard has also been practicing sustainable farming since 2003 and earned the California Certified Organic Farm (CCOF) label in 2009 as the first to do so in the Coombsville appellation.

Our group split into three smaller groups of 6-7 to tour the beautifully restored historic home. Daughter Lauren bought the iconic home in 2010 and spent five years restoring it to its grandeur. The home’s exquisite carved doors hardwood floors, stained glass windows blend beautifully with more modern features like the state-of-the-art kitchen where my small group started in. While sipping the 2015 Le Chatelaine, I admired the tin ceiling and the many nooks of the kitchen in between nibbles of truffled Gouda cheese, which paired perfectly with the red blend. Joe, the hospitality and sales manager, explained this unique red blend. These vines only make up an acre and because of drought conditions they are smaller berries with tighter clusters. It was paired with Sonoma Rosso, but since I don’t eat meat I can’t tell you how the salami was or the smoked duck pastrami paired with the 2017 Alavigna Tosca served in the sitting room and parlor with Leo, the wine maker. He said “alavigna tosca” means “in spirit of Tuscany” and this wine is fromSangiovese grapes from Atlas Peak sourced from vines with a lineage dating back to 1520. This wine would be fabulous with pizza or pasta. I loved the period pieces and wonderful settee by the front window.

In the formal dining room, Molly, the house and events manager, served us the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon. The table and chandelier in this room are stunning, but I was more intrigued with the small reading room off to the side. It was my favorite, especially as we ended the tasting with bonus sips fo the 2019 Stonehaven blend. They only made 50 cases of the 50/50 merlot/Cabernet Franc blend.

For the rest of the day the big group split into multiple smaller groups. My group decided to make a stop for lunch at Oakville Grocery. Founded in 1881, it’s a must stop in my book when you’re in Napa. It’s a grocery, deli, coffee, and pizza place. I went for one of the wood-fired wild mushroom pizzas. We snagged a table outside and I devoured my pizza of wild mushrooms, carmalized onions, and goat cheese. It was delicious, especially paired with bubbly.

Our next winery stop was Revana Family Vineyard, a small, family owned winery just north of St. Helena. It owner is a Houston cardiologist who’s originally from India. They’re known for their ultra premium Cabernet Sauvignon. If you want to visit, you must make a reservation in advance. Their tasting room is beautiful. It was originally a barn in a hay field. We started with the just released 2020 Revana Carneros Chardonnay. I found it to be very butterscotchy.

Next we tasted two Cabernet Sauvignons and I was fascinated how the weather impacted the aromas and flavors of the two vintages. The 2017 Revana Estate Cabernet Sauvignon was a cooler vintage as the result of a cooler summer that year. It was also a significant fire year resulting from very dry conditions and a heat spike for four days over Labor Day weekend caused a quick harvest. That resulted in a Bordeaux-esque vintage. In contrast the 2018 Revana Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a warmer vintage. With a long harvest season of July to close to Thanksgiving it was considered an easy year resulting in characteristic of traditional iconic St. Helena wines. The estate wines are produced with grapes exclusively from the 8.2-acre Revana Estate Vineyard. To get these wines you have to join the Revana Priority Membership waitlist. Needless to say, these wines are extra special but my favorite was the 2017.

Next we tried two single-vineyard cabs from the same year – 2017 Rutherford and 2017 Howell Mountain. The locations are drastically different. With Rutherford being the widest point in Napa Valley, extensive sunlight on gravelly, sandy, and loamy topsoil traditionally result in flavors of dark fruit with silky tannins With Howell Mountain, you get the infusion of iron-rich red volcanic ash, limestone and rhyolite from the vineyard’s topsoil for more minerally flavors. Both are fabulous but my win goes to the 2017 Howell Mountain.

Revana is part of a family of three wineries. The other two are Alexana Winery in Williamette Valley, Oregon, and Corazon del Sol in Uco Valley, Argentina. Both of those are now on my wish list of wineries to visit!

Young Inglewood Vineyards sits on the benchland between St. Helena and Rutherford. I instantly fell in love with this place before I even tasted the wine. The wines are handcrafted by a mother and son team. The historic vineyard dating back to the late 1870s uses 100% organic farming and focuses on being highly sustainable. Because of persistent drought conditions, they do dry farming as much as possible and only water when absolutely necessary. From their welcome area with a fabulous reclaimed wood wall, Hospitality Director Peter Greerty gave each of us a glass of 2020 Vin Clair, their version of a rose. It sipped like sunshine in a glass as I walked the grounds. It’s vibrant with just a hint of sweetness. It could easily be my pick for a summer afternoon or evening sipper. We headed into the art salon and tasted the 2018 Chardonnay. Next we tasted the 2019 Aligote Oak Aged. As we sipped the white burgundy and Peter was talking about the barreling of this wine, he said, “Great wine is made in the vineyard, not in the cellar.” When he said that I immediately thought about how much weather plays into that. As we tasted their reds, their balanced style of Bordeaux forward wines was very apparent espeically in the 2018 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m a cab franc fan and the 2017 Right Bank Blend was a delightful surprise with its blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The chocolate finish on the 2016 Petit Verdot was pretty spectacular too.

Three wineries in a day is max for me in Napa. When winery hopping hire a driver, use Uber/Lyft, or have a designated driver like we did. Make sure you have great dinner reservations too. I’d suggest making them earlier than later. We pretty much went from tastings to dinner at Pasta Prego in downtown Napa. It was a great ending to a wonderful day exploring three boutique wineries for the first time.

While some of us were enroute on Thursday, Flora Springs had to cancel their party because some of their staff had tested positive for COVID. But, since we have a group that comes every year and was close to 30 people this trip they did a special tasting for us on their rooftop deck of the tasting room. The party was supposed to be 70s themed and our group decided to still go dressed in our best hippy or groovy attire.

Jennifer loves a great wine. Check out some other posts on wineries including When It Rains in Napa, You Still Have at Flora Springs, Allora, and JCB Wineries and The Sparkling Story of Schramsberg. For another wine region check out Northern Virginia’s Wine Region: Three Days in the Napa Valley of the East Coast

Leave a Reply