POSTED ON September 30, 2006 | IN Hidden Napa Wineries, Tasting Rooms | BY Joe Becerra

Nichelini Winery is one of three wineries that make up a wine trail in the Chiles Valley Appellation called the Napa Valley Backroads Winery Experience. We recently reviewed the other two wineries, Catacula Lake Winery and Rustridge Winery on this blog.

Nichelini Winery is on Highway 128 just about the summit of this the mountain road. You can easily miss the winery as there is a little warning as you approach. There is an intersection just ahead should you drive past the winery. Parking is limited to the shoulder of Highway 128. Nichelini is open on Saturdays and Sunday and by appointment during the week.

Nichelini Winery is one of the oldest and historic wineries in California. This family-owned winery was founded in 1890 by Anton Nichelini and has been in continuous operation ever since. They managed to even operate through the prohibition era. You might ask when you visit the winery how they managed to pull this off.


We popped in on a Thursday afternoon without an appointment. Toni Nichelini-Irwin greeted us graciously and led us the stone stairs to the tasting room. Nichelini is probably best known for its old-vine Zinfandel. The vines were planted in 1929 in Chiles Valley. It is a lush wine with lots of good flavors. We had tasted this wine previously at various wine events and we love it. However, today was a different story. All the wines we tasted at Nichelini on this visit were a little off. We were puzzled but later realized that the wines had probably been opened since the previous Sunday. There is no tasting fee, so you really can’t blame the winery for opening fresh bottles of wine for two people who might be the only visitors until the weekend. This is one of the major downsides of not having a large number of visitors on a daily basis. We ended up purchasing a delicious Primitivo port wine made at Boeger Winery in the Sierra Foothills. Boeger used the Primitivo grapes from Nichelini to make the port.

The garden area of the winery extends even farther below the hillside where there is a secluded picnic area along with a Bocce Ball court. It is a beautiful area where one can enjoy a quiet and peaceful time in wine country.

The Good: One of the oldest, continuous family wineries in California. Excellent old-vine Zin, secluded picnic area with Bocce courts.

The Bad: Parking limited to the shoulder of the highway, a good distance from the Valley floor.