This will be the first in a series of blog posts reviewing and comparing three family-owned wineries in the Napa Valley. Dieter Tede and his family purchased Hopper Creek in 1996. By far, Hopper Creek Winery is the most unusual of the three wineries we visited on a recent trip and one of the most unusual that any visitor is likely to encounter in all of the Napa Valley. It is small, off the beaten path, with a very funky tasting room character. You absolutely will not find anything at this winery that is pretentious or smacks of wine snobbery.
When we approached the Hopper Creek winery, we were greeted by tasting room manager Dan Blach, working on his laptop at the winery’s one and only picnic table. “Hi” he said, “we are only open by appointment so would you like an appointment for 1:00 pm?” 1:00 pm just happened to be the exact time we arrived. Dan is wearing a sweat outfit, baseball cap, and saddles, not exactly what you would expect from someone who runs a tasting room in the Napa Valley. Dan hands us a wine stained tasting menu that looks like it has been in use for months.
The tasting room dÃ©cor is a total contrast from William Hill and Salvestrin, the other two family wineries we visited. Our tasting room experience was refreshing in that we felt we were at a different place at a different time in the Napa Valley. The tasting room is located in the winery’s barrel room. The dÃ©cor is a rustic mishmash of photos, souvenirs, Wappo Indian relics, and wine barrels.
Dan opened, and was delighted to serve, several of the Hopper Creek wines. The white wines we tasted were okay but the reds left us with a much better impression. The Merlot, Zinfandel, and Cabernet were very nice. Our favorite wine of the tasting was the Zinfandel. Our one gripe, one that we often encounter in the Napa Valley, are wines that are priced too high. Another way to judge a wine other than a point system is to judge by its price. If the wine is priced at $40, does it measure up to most wines at that price? Or, another way of looking at, how much would you pay for this bottle of wine? The Zinfandel, for example, was priced at $30 but we would consider it good value at about $20.
Case production is at 2500 cases and there are 6 acres of estate Merlot. The family has hired Barry Grushkowitz as their winemaker. If you want to find something different in tasting rooms, visit Hopper Creek. For contrast, visit Bell Winery just across the road, also open by appointment.
The Good: A much different Napa Valley wine tasting experience, hidden winery, no tasting fee.
The Bad: A little too rustic and informal. Wine priced on the high side.