Have you heard of Tudal Family Winery? I doubt it. Even though its first vintage was in 1979 and its vineyards are located in the famed St. Helena AVA, most visitors to wine country have never seen or visited this small family-run winery just north of St. Helena. Despite its fine reputation for Cabernet Sauvignon, the Tudal winery has been lost in the shuffle of big wineries, fancy tasting rooms, and its hidden location. All that may be about to change as Tudal Family Winery is revamping its image under the guidance of John Tudal, son of the founders Alma and the late Arnold Tudal.
The revamp began in 2009 when John hired Kirk Venge to be the Tudal winemaker. Kirk is a winemaker on the move. At 33, Kirk not only heads up his own winery, Venge Vineyards, but is consulting winemaker for several boutique wineries in the Valley. He is in demand and one to watch in the coming years. Kirk likes full-bodied wines that will certainly be a change of pace from the current offerings made by Tudal.
Next on John’s “To Do” list was to hire someone to get the word out about the Tudal Family Winery. For that job, John hired Alan Goldfarb. Alan is best known for his stint as a wine writer for the St. Helena Star and later, a senior editor at Appellation America for five years. Alan certainly knows the ins and outs of the Valley and has made many a friend and colleague in the Valley and wine business. Also new to Tudal is Doug Eisele who will manage the tasting room in addition to another half dozen duties at the winery.
We met with both Alan and Doug at the Tudal winery on a very cold winter day in the Napa Valley. We got the lowdown on all the changes in store for Tudal and a chance to taste most of the Tudal wines. They told us that the first big change will be the replanting of the original Tudal vineyard. The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are nearing the end of the life cycle and will be replanted with Cabernet again and a small amount of other Bordeaux varietals. A new lineup of wines is being introduced, so that means sourcing grapes from various growers. As Kirk Venge takes the realm for the 2009 vintage, the search for sourcing the highest quality grapes will be an ongoing process
We had our tasting in a very small, cozy building called the Tractor Shed. It was the only building on the property when the Tudals purchase the land in 1974. There is a ton of old photos of famous guests who’ve stayed at the winery. There are some terrific photos of the legendary Joe DiMaggio and several other celebs who have been to Tudal. There is even a bottle of 1981 Charles F. Shaw on display. More about Charles F. Shaw in my next post. We enjoyed all the wines we tasted; the Zinfandel, Syrah, and Clift Vineyard Cabernet were our favorites.
The winery is open by appointment only but someone is there working daily, so it should not be a problem if you wish to visit. Doug says he will waive the $5 tasting fee if you mention you are a reader of this blog. What you will enjoy about visiting Tudal is the old Napa Valley environment. Hidden and remote, low-key and fun, you will get a totally different experience than you will at a fancy winery with an elaborate tasting room. Put it on your list for a visit any time of the year.