We tasted some Saddleback Cellars wines at the recent Family Winemakers event in San Francisco. We thought all the Saddleback wines were very good so we decided to visit this small winery in the Napa Valley.
The winery is open by appointment only so we scheduled an appointment via email for noon during the mid-week. We also asked if they had picnic facilities, which they said they did.
We drove along Oakville Cross Road in Oakville and turned up Money Road to the winery. Once we drove into the small winery, we were directed to park our car and then sit at the picnic tables for wine tasting. The tasting fee is $5 a person.
Our server brought out a tray of wines and gave us some brief details about the winery and the wines. From the get-go, we just did not get that warm and welcoming feeling you get at most small wineries. We did not feel any passion or enthusiasm for the Saddleback wines. Something was definitely missing. Occasionally, our server would go back into the winery to retrieve something. This gave us the feeling it was private and visitors were unwelcome inside. There was also a nearby boom box that was blasting music. That definitely destroyed any vineyard ambiance.
Following our tastings, we asked if we could purchase a chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio so we could enjoy a glass with our picnic lunch at Saddleback. Our host checked inside and returned saying that no chilled Pinot Grigio was available. It was then we discovered there had been a misunderstanding and that Saddleback does not have a permit for picnicking. That meant packing up and trying to find another winery for a picnic as our stomach growled with frustration.
Despite our disappointing experience, we did purchase a few bottles of the Saddleback wines. We think their wines are top notch.
The Good: Very tasty wines, especially the Zinfandel and Cabernet. Beautiful vineyards.
The Bad: No picnicking available. An overall drab experience in wine tasting. Maybe it was just a bad day.