Napa County was once the producer of many different crops, but is known today for its regional wine industry, rising to the first rank of wine regions with France by local wineries. There are 400+ wineries in Napa Valley… that number alone is simply insane! Most of us dream about that “once in a lifetime” Napa experience. A lush plantation of rolling hills and grapevines. With each branch of each vine weighted down by ripened green and purple grape bunches.
I recently traveled to Napa Valley, and took the advice of friend and fellow blogger, Jamie Alvear (@thedrunkendiva1) who suggested we hire a driver for a more private/intimate tour of some smaller wineries. These “private” vineyards offer quality wines, produced in limited batches. She referred us to Wine Country Safariwhere our tour guide Bruce (I highly recommend him) led us on a chauffeured tour of 4 vineyards/properties: Taplin Cellars, V. Madrone, Frank Family Vineyards, and Midsummer Cellars. All of which offered pours of robust Rosè, Cabernet Sauvignon, Champagne and other varietals.
I highly suggest you take a private tour, as some of the smaller vineyards are only accessible via personal invites from the vintners themselves. At least that was the case for our tours.
Below are my Top Four “Best Kept Secret” Wineries of Napa Valley.
Wine Wholesaler and Importer
Address: St Helena Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Taplin Cellars was founded in 2012 and farms 28 acres on the western side of the valley, in the St. Helena appellation. It’s still nine parts rock and one part soil, and their grapes appear in premier wines of the Napa Valley. We enjoyed a little “Cab + Conversation” with vintner Bill Taplin, who happens to be a 5th generation Taplin. Because Taplin is sold by appellation only, I am hesitant to refer to our visit as a “tasting” per se, but we did enjoy Melinda’s Rosé, 2015 and Taplin’s Terra 9 Cabernet Sauvignon,2010 & 2012. During our time at Taplin we learned about the vineyard, wines and the family that has been working the land since the late 1800’s. All wines tasted at Taplin Cellars were quite enjoyable. From the smooth, light and crisp Rosè to the lively and robust Cabernet.
V Madrone Cellars and their 3.5 acre Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard are located just two miles north of St. Helena. V Madrone produces only 500-700 cases of 100% Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon annually, including 25 to 50 cases each fromtheir Horseshoe, Napayoko and Triquetra microvineyards. V Madrone also produces approximately 400-600 cases each of Carneros Chardonnay, Old Vines Zinfandel and Petite Sirah sourced from select single site legacy Napa Valley vineyards.
In 2007, V Madrone Cellars was declared a Napa County Historical Landmark. On December 6, 2008, on the 75th anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition the V Madrone Tasting Room was opened in the barrel room/barn on an appointment only basis. In July 2013 V Madrone reopened the main winery house for private V Madrone wine tastings. During our private tasting we sauvored V Madrone’s current releases and library wines. The V Madrone Roséwas hands down my favorite. I even took a bottle for the road!
Frank Family Vineyards is by far one of the most unique wineries in Napa and was the most lively. You can hear people having a good time from the parking lot out back of the vineyard. Former Chairman of Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications and Frank family Vineyard Owner Rich Frank, is actively visible at the Winery. The winery produces Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Petite Syrah and several distinctively different Cabernet Sauvignons.
Frank Family Vineyard’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is barrel aged for two and one-half years. It’s emerging as one of the most sought after wines in the valley. Their Carneros Vineyards produced some of the finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir available. Five sparkling wines continue to be handcrafted today: Brut, Blanc de Blancs, Brut Rosé and occasionally the Rouge and Reserve. All of these are made in the traditional French method champenoise style. We truly enjoyed the Brut Rosé.
Midsummer Cellars opened in 2000 with the goal of making small lot handcrafted wines of distinction that reflect the terroir and individuality of their vineyard sources. This vineyard is very intimate, we literally sat at the table with wine maker Rollie Heitz himself, during our tasting.
Midsummer Cellars produces only vineyard-designated Cabernet Sauvignonfrom three vineyards –Cañon Creek Vineyard, as well as the Tomasson, and Clark-Claudon Vineyards. I can easily attest to the fact that the Napa Valley Rosè wines are the best in the country. Mainly due to the temperament of the soil and California’s mild climate.
I hope you enjoyed G&G’s “Best Kept Secret” Wineries, of Napa Valley.