One of the latest trends among wine lovers is blending your own wine. Read about two vineyards, Cliff Lede Vineyards and Mayo Family Winery, where visitors can learn how.
Artesa Vineyards & Winery
Following a $10 million investment, Codorníu Napa, the California cousin to the longstanding Spanish winery, reopened as Artesa. The roster, which previously comprised only sparkling wines, now boasts a number of premium still wines, all sourced from various Napa appellations. Many are tasting-room only, which provides even more excuse to visit this Carneros property known for its stunning hilltop views and contemporary design scheme. Appointments necessary for groups of 8 or more.
Seemingly suspended between rolling hillside and open sky, Cade occupies a breathtaking location high on Howell Mountain that offers views of the valley floor and beyond. The property itself sprawls across fifty-four lush acres, but some 60 percent of its evergreen forests and blooming meadows were left untouched; the rest is planted with neat rows of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, all farmed organically. The winery is the brainchild of the team behind Plumpjack, the successful brand founded by Gavin Newsom and Gordon Getty in the early 1990s. From conception, the team wanted to qualify for LEED standards, a voluntary certification that serves as the international benchmark for environmentally friendly architecture.
The group’s third partner, vintner John Conover, says that completing Cade was a dream come true. The use of recycled materials is just one of many cool eco-details at Cade. The 35,000 square feet of solar panels lining the roof of the winery produce more energy than is actually needed for nine months out of the year (and which feeds directly back into the St. Helena grid); the caves’ temperature is controlled naturally, thanks to radiant flooring (about four times more efficient than cooling with air); and the sleek table in the barrel tasting room was made of steel salvaged from a submarine from local Mare Island Naval Shipyard.
Best of all, however, is the beauty of the wild expanses surrounding the modern tasting room and its stunning terrace, both places where you can while away an afternoon sipping Cade vintages. Regular tasting are by appointment only, but at $20 for a flight of three Cade vintages served in this bucolic setting, they may be the best value in the valley. “We wanted the winery to be really accessible,” says Conover. “There’s been a lot of interest in green businesses, which I find so encouraging when looking to the future.” Of course, when visiting the state-of-the-art Cade, one cannot help but think that the future is now.
Cain Vineyard & Winery
Set on a former homestead on Spring Mountain, Cain’s terraced vineyards host the five classical Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Owners Jim and Nancy Meadlock purchased the property from Joyce and Jerry Cain in 1991 and continued the tradition of focusing solely on Cabernet blends, like the signature Cain Five. Reservations required.
Far Niente Winery
Gil and Beth Nickel, who moved to California from Oklahoma in 1976, have been running this esteemed winery, since 1979. The property actually dates back to 1885 when it was owned and operated by forty-niner John Benson (uncle of the Impressionist painter Winslow) who abandoned it in 1919 at the start of Prohibition. Of note, Far Niente’s five vineyards produce only two varietals each year—Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon—and all bottles are super high quality. Tasting room appointments necessary.
Opus One Winery
Opus One is a joint enterprise between two of the wine world’s greatest legends—Vintner Hall of Famer Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild. The pair met in 1970 and combined forces to produce a single Bordeaux-style blend that would feature Napa’s Cabernet Sauvignon. Hype over de Rothschild’s involvement was, understandably, high and the first case of Opus One sold in 1981 for a (then) record-breaking $24,000. Tasting room appointments necessary.
Pride Mountain Vineyards
This 235-acre estate straddling the Napa/Sonoma border and known by locals as Summit Ranch, went through 34 different owners since the first planting in 1869. It’s currently managed by the Pride family who has found their niche producing red wines (particularly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot), many of which consistently receive high ratings. Tasting room appointments necessary.
Say Lissa Doumani and Hiro Sone, owners of Terra: “Make an appointment to visit Quixote Winery near Yountville, the winery was designed by the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser who was known for no straight lines and features a gold onion dome. The winery specializes in Cabernet and Petite Syrah.”
Rudd Vineyards & Winery
In 1996 Wichita Kansas native and Dean & Deluca chairman Leslie Rudd purchased this Oakville estate that’s set on a particularly rocky stretch of Napa land in the foothills of the Vaca Mountains. Visitors can taste Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and a variety of blends in a series of subterranean caves, also used for aging and storing wines. Nearby vineyards include Dalla Valle, Plumpjack, Harlan Estate’s Bond, St. Eden, Screaming Eagle, and Phelps Backus. Appointments necessary.
This beautiful winery, located on a plot of enviable countryside near Rutherford, was one of the first to turn a tasting into an haute experience. The salon is like the backdrop for a theater production, with deep-red walls, a massive octagonal Moroccan wood table inlaid with geodes and such dramatic touches as massive silver candelabras, long-stemmed roses and oversized shells. Until now, tastings were by-appointment only, but in May, Swanson will debut a more casual sip room, next to the salon, which will be open to the public. With candy-cane-striped wallpaper and whimsical furnishings and paintings, the room feels trendier than the more elegant salon. Alexis Swanson, the charming creative director, is planning a small retail boutique as well, which she will cocurate with Andy Spade, of Jack Spade fame. “We are currently creating a line of really special wine kits,” she says. “My favorites so far are the Forgive Me and the Housewarming editions.”