Get ready to add more stops to your Wine Country tours.
Courtesy of Odette
With hundreds of wineries in Napa and Sonoma, it’s hard to believe there’s room for more. But we’ve found some new wineries you’ll want to visit–not only for the quality of their wines but also to enjoy the overall experience. From big names to small boutique places that you might not otherwise have heard about, we’ve got the insider’s info on the best new kids on the block in Wine Country.
1. Stags Leap District
Opened in August 2012 by California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and billionaire Gordon Getty of the PlumpJack Group, Odette is the sister winery to Oakville’s PlumpJack and Cade on Howell Mountain. It’s meant to be the gateway, the first leg of a tour of their three wineries.
Set on the old Steltzner property in the heart of the Stags Leap District, it’s a breezy resort and spa–styled cottage set amid the estate’s cabernet vineyards. Most of the tasting happens at the marble bar, but the outside patio provides an alfresco alternative for enjoying wines that include Adaptation Chardonnay and Cabernet, as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet from Cade.
Tastings by appointment, 5998 Silverado Trail, Napa, (707) 224-7533, odetteestate.com.
Mark Herold Wines
While cult Cab-maker Mark Herold has been making wines for fifteen-odd years, this tasting room, steps from Oxbow Public Market, only opened in May 2012. Blending his knack for science and art, Herold decorated it with all sorts of beakers, test tubes, and Rube Goldberg–looking contraptions to create a funky, eclectic, lab-like vibe. It’s a nice change of pace, which director Dean Williams attests, “gives the real feel of Mark, the winemaker.”
What really stands out are his wines. A non-competitive clause in 2008 meant that he could not make his own Cabernet for three years (look for the ’10 Cabernet, out now), so he took on varietals like Albariño, Grenache, Syrah, and Tempranillo, and created his Flux and Acha labels.
Thurs.–Tues. 11 a.m.–5:30 p.m., 710 First St., Napa, (707) 256-3111, markheroldwines.com.
3. Howell Mountain
At roughly 1,650 feet of elevation, this year-old tasting room overlooks the mountains as well as several cabernet vineyards. Co-owner Susan Krausz says it’s built to “disappear into
The estate grapes are grown on 24 different blocks and include sauvignon blanc, cabernet, cabernet franc, petite verdot, and syrah. As Krausz explains, “We really want to grow rocky, mountain fruit.”
Tastings occur at the slab table, which is made of fir from a warehouse beam brought from Washington State. Krausz or Sam Kaplan, the winemaker, pour through selections like an estate Sauvignon Blanc, a Bordeaux-style red blend called Obsidian, and a 100 percent Cabernet called Coliseum Block from a steep, terraced Soda Canyon vineyard.
The tour meanders through the crush pad and down into the caves, where the winery is located—and concludes in the vineyard.
Tastings by appointment, 335 West Ln., Angwin, (707) 965-1020, arkenstone.com.
Two-man team Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts grew up together in Napa, started making wine in 2001, and moved their operation to this converted metal storage building in June 2011. According to Meyers, “We kept our day jobs for seven years before we quit.”
Do not let the industrial complex setting deter you. It’s still pretty quaint—and the small front yard dotted with picnic tables shaded by sycamores and redwood trees helps. They specialize in Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Chardonnay from 20 vineyards as far south as the Santa Cruz mountains and north as Mendocino County. Opting for cooler climates, according to Meyers, results in “more balanced, lower alcohol, more elegant wines, with more finesse and detail.”
Essentially, it’s as eclectically homegrown as it gets. All of the winemaking happens under one roof—including building the barrels out of French oak. Roberts is a
second-generation cooper. The glasses are racked on a pitchfork turned glass rack, and a long redwood table on wheels serves as the tasting room.
Tastings by appointment, 33 Healdsburg Ave., Ste. 1, Healdsburg, (707) 433-2400, arnotroberts.com.
Red Car Wine
What started as a hobby for a screenwriter and producer in an L.A. garage is now a bustling winery on the outer edges of Sebastopol, next to the Dutton-Goldfield facility.
According to tasting room manager Jenny Harrow, “The focus is on growing and sourcing in the best areas. It’s a minimalist approach.” Red Car sources its pinot noir and syrah from cold climates on the Sonoma Coast, while its estate is located in Sonoma’s newest AVA, Fort Ross-Seaview.
The tasting room is a welcome bit of midcentury Hollywood glamour amid country surroundings. The entire room feels like a bungalow, with a dining table on one side, and a living room setting complete with a green velvet sofa and chess set on the other. Front and center is the concrete bar illuminated by filament lighting. The best seat is the Indian motorcycle seat from the 1950s.
The Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah are organized into two tiers, Sonoma Coast blends and the Single Vineyard Reserve series.
Daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m., 8400 Graton Rd., Sebastopol, (707) 829-8500, redcarwine.com.
Wineries to Watch
Virtual wineries make up roughly half of the wine world. They’re the little guys who have day jobs, and it’s their passion that keeps them making wine after hours. According to Dan Petroski of Massican (who is also the associate winemaker at Larkmead Vineyards), “A lot of the good stuff is happening at night.”
Petroski makes white wines with a heavy Italian slant, as noted in his zesty Ribolla Gialla/Tocai Friulano/Chardonnay blend he calls Annia. While these Italian varietals are uncommon here, another up-and-coming spot, Matthiasson, sources from the same small vineyard to make its white blend.
As Matt Duffy of Vaughn Duffy Wines says, “One of my biggest challenges of doing this is actually having the time to do it.” His operation is Pinot Noir–focused and very terroir driven. “Pinot shows the site; it can be made in a range of flavors; and it is unlike anything else,” he says.
Healdsburg’s Witch’s Hand, run by Kimberly Matson, who studied under Margi and Fred Williams (the children of Burt Williams of Williams Selyem fame), produces handcrafted, unfiltered Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, and Grenache.
Visit massican.com, matthiasson.com, vaughnduffywines.com, witchshand.com.