Tasting wine at Stony Hill Vineyard with winemaker Mike Chelini
That’s Stony Hill winemaker Mike Chelini on the left with wine blogger Mike Beltran and myself, Joe Becerra. We did some serious wine tasting, comparing barrel samples alongside wine from the current vintages. Mike Chelini has been the winemaker at Stony Hill Vineyard since 1973. By all accounts, this makes Mike Chelini the longest-tenured winemaker in the Napa Valley. If you have ever tasted Stony Hill wines, you know that the Stony Hill style is one of beautiful fruit with gentle acidity melding into a beautiful food-friendly wine. The Stony Hill Chardonnay is the flagship wine and it compares in style with the great white wines of Burgundy. Mike Chelini uses barrels that are mostly neutral oak. The Chardonnay does not go through malolactic fermentation. Mike ends up with a Chardonnay that is complex without all the oak and butter. The Stony Hill vines are located on the slopes of Spring Mountain. In addition to the Chardonnay, the winery produces an estate Gerwurztraminer, Riesling, Semillon and Cabernet Sauvignon. Stony Hill was founded by Fred and Eleanor McCrea and they produced their first vintage in 1952. Stony Hill Vineyard is one of the great stories in the history of the Napa Valley. For wine buffs and Napa Valley travelers, it should not be missed. Stony Hill is open by appointment only. The winery is very secluded on Spring Mountain, and it is a most lovely trip two miles up from Highway 29. To get to the winery, one must locate the entrance to the Bale Grist Mill State Park near Calistoga. Tours and tastings are currently set at $45 per person.