Venge Vineyards will be changing its location soon. We found this out when we visited the winery earlier in the week. This is quite regrettable because the setting is so lovely and the wines so delicious. The winery is located at the base of Howell Mountain on Crystal Springs Road.
First, though, let’s discuss our tasting of the Venge Vineyards wines. The tasting fee is $25 per person. This includes a tasting of six wines accompanied with a cheese platter and a tour of the caves. The $25 can be applied to the purchase of wine provided you buy $100 worth of wine. We were very impressed by the structure and character of each wine. The Sangiovese, Scout’s Honor (mostly Zinfandel), Merlot and Syrah were big on the nose, full of flavors, with a velvety feel on the palate and a great finish. Even more spectacular was the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville vineyards. This wine is priced at $125 and could perhaps become a collector’s item because the wine is so good, and its label, a sketch of the rebuilt ghost winery, will be the last of its kind.
Now to the moving news. We noticed that the barrels were being shuffled about and when we asked our host David why, he reported that the property had been sold to Bill Foley of the Foley Wine Group. Bill Foley is the retired CEO of Fidelity Financial and he owns several wineries and vineyards. This includes Foley Estate, Lincourt Vineyards, and the recently acquired Firestone Vineyards in Santa Barbara.
In the mid 1990’s this historic property known as the Rossini Ranch was sold to the Nils Venge Family of Saddleback Cellars’ fame. The Rossini winery building was padlocked during prohibition and remained a ghost winery until the sale to the Venge Family. The Venge Family completely rebuilt the winery. An exquisite tasting room was added as a loft to the main structure. 7000 square feet of caves were excavated and the vineyards were replanted. Kirk Venge, the son of Nils, has been the principal winemaker at Venge Vineyards.
Unfortunately, Kirk’s parents are in divorce proceedings and this prime property needed to be sold as a result. As we were finishing our tasting, Kirk Venge came by and confirmed the information. Kirk is currently moving the barrels to a custom crush facility and will continue to produce the Venge Vineyards brand. Kirk stated that he is in negotiations to purchase a property near Calistoga that will become the future home of Venge Vineyards. On a positive note, Kirk Venge will be completely on his own in this venture giving him the chance to showcase his individual winemaking skills.
We are not sure how much longer the winery will operate here as Venge Vineyards. Our host Dave says he already has a job lined up as a tasting room host at another winery down the road on the Silverado Trail.
The Good: Beautiful setting, ghost winery, delicious wines.
The Bad: The sale of the property