Bragg Vineyards – Back to the Basics in Calistoga

Bragg Vineyards in Calistoga –  family owned, small and hidden There are said to be more than 400 “Brick and Mortar” wineries in the Napa Valley. For such a small wine region, the distance from one end of the Valley to the other is 27 miles, that is an enormous density of wineries. Many tourists drive along … Read more

Kelly Fleming Wines

kelly fleming winery

Kelly Fleming Wines – a hidden winery in Calistoga Looking for something a little different in wineries? Kelly Fleming just might be a good choice. It is small, boutique, and very much off the beaten path in the Napa Valley. It is located way up north on Pickett Road near Calistoga. Kelly Fleming is the … Read more

Young Inglewood Vineyards – Napa Valley Boutique Winery

Jim Young Vintner

Young Inglewood off the beaten path in St. Helena For those who enjoy visiting Napa Valley boutique and hidden gems, is one to add to your list of must explore wineries.  The winery produces only 600 cases of wine and the location is hidden near the end of Inglewood Avenue. Inglewood Avenue branches off Highway 29 in St. … Read more

Napa Valley Cave Tour

Napa Cave Tour

Napa Valley cave tour and tasting at Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards One of the many fun things to do on a wine country getaway is to take a Napa Valley cave tour. Many of the wineries that have caves, old and new, are finding that wine country travelers enjoy the uniqueness of sitting in a … Read more

Pope Valley Winery – Above the Napa Valley

The winery was established in 1896 and much of the winery looks the same as it did the first day it opened. It was originally named the Burgundy Winery founded by Ed Haus. The winery was built into a hillside and you can still see the rock and stones that form the walls of the bottom two floors of the winery.

Nichelini Winery – 121 Consecutive Harvests

This is the final article on our recent visit to three very different mountain wineries in the Napa Valley. Our first visit was to the Stony Hill Vineyard on Spring Mountain, then on to Ladera Winery on Howell Mountain. Our final winery visit took us south of Howell Mountain to Chiles Valley and to one of Napa Valley’s oldest wineries, Nichelini Winery, atop Sage Canyon Road.

This little hidden winery in the Napa Valley may perhaps be best described as the “The Little Winery That Could.” Through the prohibition era this winery kept chugging and chugging, making wines. Prohibition forced many wineries out of business and a few others survived by making sacramental wines. The Nichelini Winery kept making wines and rumors say that none of it was for the Church. Rumors abound regarding who the Nichelini clients were, and how the family managed to elude the law. Whatever this means, the winery has had 121 consecutive harvests and the family has proclaimed that they are the oldest continuous winery in the Napa Valley.

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Ladera Winery on Howell Mountain

This is the second of our three-part series on visits to mountain wineries in the Napa Valley.

We left Stony Hill Vineyard on Spring Mountain and traveled across the Valley on Deer Park Road, then up the mountain turning left onto White Cottage Road to Ladera Winery. Talk about opposites in wineries! Stony Hill’s first vintage was 1952, Ladera’s was 2000. At Stony Hill the winery is still hanging on to equipment used when the winery was first established with no signs of any high-tech equipment anywhere. At Ladera, it is quite the opposite with no expenses spared in this state-of-the-art winery facility. Here you find beautiful stainless steel fermenting and aging tanks, gravity floor crush equipment, and a beautiful and elaborate cave system lined with oak barrels.

Ladera Winery - Ghost Winery Howell Mountain

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Mike Chelini is Longest tenured winemaker in the Napa Valley at Stony Hill Vineyard

Last week we toured three completely different Napa Valley mountain wineries. We visited Stony Hill Vineyard on Spring Mountain, Ladera Winery on Howell Mountain, and Nichelini Winery at the summit of Sage Canyon Road. This will be the first of three posts comparing these Napa Valley mountain wineries.

Stony Hill Vineyard on Spring Mountain is one of the oldest wineries in the Napa Valley and one steeped in tradition. Fred and Eleanor McCrea purchased the land in 1943 and released their first vintage in 1952. In 1972, young Mike Chelini began his stint as winemaker at Stony Hill and he continues in that position to this day. He loves his work, the land, and the owners. As he says “Life is good here at Stony Hill Vineyard.” When we asked Mike Chelini if he is the Valley’s longest-running winemaker, he says: “I think I am tied with Bill Sorenson over at Burgess.” Bill Sorenson began his stint at Burgess in 1972, so who knows who started first. Nevertheless, these are impressive careers for both these winemakers.

Winemaker Mike Chelini Stony Hill Vineyard
Winemaker Mike Chelini

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A Visit with Winemaker Vince Tofanelli

It is such a wonderful change of pace to visit a winemaker like Vince Tofanelli. Too often when we visit the Napa Valley we get caught up by the big and the fancy wineries and tasting rooms and tend to overlook the smaller names of the Napa Valley. It is much more fun and a truly rewarding experience when you meet and taste the wines of the small winemaker. We made an appointment with Vince via email to visit his family vineyards on Dunaweal Lane in Calistoga. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate that day and we had to forego the vineyard walk and instead met Vince at Envy Winery in Calistoga where he makes and ages his wines. We went into the barrel room where we tasted his 2007 Zinfandel and 2007 Charbono, and also got a barrel taste of a Grenache and a Petit Sirah that he will bottle and release later this year.

Vince Tofanelli and his Zinfandel wine

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Discover Mount Veeder – Great Day Trip to the Napa Valley

From both the San Francisco Golden Gate and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridges, Mount Veeder AVA is about one hour and 15 minutes driving time. It is the perfect quick wine country getaway for folks visiting San Francisco who want to get a quick glimpse of the Napa Valley. We say visit Hendry Winery, Yates Family Vineyard, and Hess Collection Winery and then go to the town of Napa for a late afternoon lunch.

Mount Veeder is a beautiful and lovely mountain, one of the highest in the Mayacamus Range and was once a blistering volcano. The area is very rugged and the soil and climate vary widely as the mountain elevates to a height of 2600 feet. The first stop on this quick getaway is the Hendry Winery at the base of Mount Veeder. Here you can kill two birds with one stone, because the Yates Family Vineyards uses a portion of the Hendry Winery to make and showcase their wines. To get to Hendry, take Redwood Road off Highway 29 in Napa and head west. On Redwood Road, go to the left when the road splits (about one mile). Continue another 1.5 miles. Watch on the right for the tiny sign indicating the entrance to Hendry Winery at 3104 Redwood Road. If you are not looking carefully and alertly, you will surely miss it. Both Hendry and Yates are open by appointment only, so be sure to call ahead.

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