These four vineyards offer an unforgettable taste of Wine Country.
COURTESY OF CONTINUUM ESTATE
Head to most popular wineries in napa and sonoma, and you’ll find bustling tasting rooms visited by thousands of people each month. For a truly memorable experience, though, look for a more intimate setting with exclusive wine clubs and private tastings.
Many of these small artisanal wineries—most of which are off the beaten path—represent the fusion of modern architecture, culinary expressions, and eco-friendly approaches to farming. Here are just a few of the region’s best new destination wineries.
Tamber Bey Vineyards at Sundance Ranch
The Waittes bring a Western vibe to Wine Country.
When entering the Tamber Bey estate, you may think you are driving into a famous horse ranch in Texas. And that was exactly what vintner Barry Waitte and his wife, Jennifer, had in mind when they purchased Sundance Ranch to house Tamber Bey Vineyards, the brand the family started in Yountville in 1999.
In addition to serving as a working ranch where the Waittes train Arabian racehorses, the property is home to the state-of-the-art wine-making facility and a charming tasting room with dynamic views of Mount St. Helena and the Palisades in Calistoga.
Designed by Napa Valley architect Howard Backen, the 22-acre property was originally owned by horse enthusiast Carol Green. After purchasing the land in 2013, the Waittes converted the equestrian center into the wine-making facility and the original clubhouse into the tasting room. The family also created a courtyard enclosed by a 16-stall barn where guests can sip wine and mingle with horses.
The tasting room offers a wide range of wines crafted by the talented team of Frederic Delivert and Thomas Brown. The standard tasting is a collection of five current releases while the Signature Series is more focused on reserve and limited-release wines. Vertical tastings of the reserve wines from the Waittes’ Deux Chevaux and Oakville Estate vineyards are also
available by request.
Tastings can be served with scrumptious, savory cookies, such as crisp Sauvignon Blanc matched with wafers of crystallized ginger, butter, and wasabi. Wines can also be paired with boxed lunches, including the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon with smoked peppered bacon and sprinkles of Alaea Hawaiian and English Maldon sea salt.
“We don’t follow our passions: We live them,” says Barry Waitte, smiling. Open daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tours and tastings are by appointment and cost $25–$75. 1251 Tubbs Ln., Calistoga, (707) 942-2100, tamberbey.com.
Hamel Family Wines
Explore caves and sip Bordeaux at this blossoming winery.
Five miles from downtown Sonoma, Hamel Family Wines is relatively new to the scene. But it has already made a big impact on the community: Since the family began developing the 124-acre property in 2012, it has garnered attention for its commitment to biodynamic farming practices, modern architecture, and world-class Bordeaux-style wines and Zinfandels, with fruit grown on the family’s four estate vineyards.
With the magnificent backdrop of the towering Mayacamas Mountains, the new winery is a delight for the senses. The tasting room, VIP rooms, and administrative wing are divided into separate pavilions constructed with a combination of metal and recycled cedar siding, and framed with rammed earth walls.
Just below the open space terraces in front of the pavilions is a demonstration vineyard, overlooking hillside wetlands and a grove of ancient olive trees. In the future, guests will be able to make their own wine blends from this special block of bordeaux varieties. Behind the buildings, wine caves are graced with smooth, rounded walls with an opaque hue.
The finished wines express the beauty and character of Sonoma Valley, from the vibrant Estate Sauvignon Blanc—with floral aromas, zippy acidity, and flavors of melon, grapefruit, and tropical fruits—to the playful ripe red fruit and peppery sensations of the Estate Zinfandel.
The winery offers three tours daily—the Estate Experience, with a tasting of four labels; the Premiere Experience, an exploration of the vineyards and caves, plus a tasting and snacks; and the Reserve Experience, which includes wine pairings with fine cheeses and charcuterie.
Picnic lunches are also available for larger groups. As a stylish touch, all guests receive a bottle of filtered water from the winery’s fresh well. Tours and tastings are by appointment and cost $40–$100. 15401 Sonoma Hwy., Sonoma, (707) 996-5800, hamelfamilywines.com.
This winery’s new property is all about hospitality.
Napa Valley’s newest vision of the ultimate wine and food experience is B Cellars. Founded by Jim Borsack and Duffy Keys in Napa in 2003, the winery has gained a solid reputation for producing world-class wines crafted by winemaker Kirk Venge. Several years in the making, the new Oakville property is designed to provide memorable group experiences.
For starters, the winery has no tasting bar. Instead, upon entry to the stylish Hospitality House, guests are taken on a guided tour through the
culinary gardens, wine-production barn, and wine caves, while tasting wines along the way.
In the old days, the land—located across from PlumpJack Winery on Oakville Cross Road—was used for a local dairy, grazing pasture, and walnut orchard. Today, in addition to the Hospitality House, outdoor patios, and an innovative winemaking
facility, the property is home to a mature, one-acre block of cabernet sauvignon, as well as newer
cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc grapevines.
In addition to a selection of lively and intriguing white and red flagship blends, B Cellars makes
special vineyard-designate wines, including the Julianna Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Dutton Ranch Chardonnay, Stagecoach Sangiovese, Caldwell’s Kreuzer Canyon Syrah, and Frediani Petite Sirah.
To showcase the strengths of each of these wines, chef de cuisine Brian Michael Green and the in-house culinary team create tasty bites for group events such as the Grand Pairing Lunch, the Culinary Garden Tour and Tasting, and a series of exclusive chef’s demonstrations that showcase the gastronomic delights of each season.
“Think of it as coming over to somebody’s house, where everyone wants to gather in the kitchen,” says Christina Machamer, the winery’s director of wine and culinary programs. Tours and tastings are by appointment only and cost $45–$125. 701 Oakville Cross Rd., Oakville, (877) 229-9939, bcellars.com.
The Mondavi legacy lives on at this sprawling estate.
At the peak of Pritchard Hill, above Lake Hennessey, lies the Continuum Estate, the newest chapter for the Mondavi family. Winemaker Tim Mondavi started the Continuum brand in 2005, and he and his sister Marcia Mondavi Borger purchased the property in 2008 and 2009.
The dominant force at the estate is the spectacular vineyard, a mixture of cabernet sauvignon and smaller blocks of cabernet franc, petit verdot, and merlot grapevines. Rocky, iron-rich volcanic soils, warm weather, and the enticing garrigue smells of wild sage, bay laurel, bristly chaparral, and craggy madrone trees give the wines produced on the property lofty aromas and concentrated flavors. Add in the breathtaking panoramic view of the landscape from 1,500 feet above the Napa Valley, and it’s easy to see why the estate is a special place for the Mondavis.
“It’s a humbling feeling and one that makes you believe the winemaker is never as important as the power of a great site,” says Mondavi.
Tours of the Continuum Estate are given twice a day, Monday to Saturday, at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. In addition to exploring the vineyards and the newly finished eco-conscious winery, guests can taste Novicium, an exclusive red wine blend made with fruit from the younger vines on the estate. Guests can also indulge in the highly sought-after, limited-release Continuum Estate wine paired with fine cheese and other gourmet nibbles.
Family pride in the wines runs deep. Mondavi’s daughters and sons are involved in various ways, from designing the estate’s wine-bottle label to selling the wines across the country. “Vines, wines, and people—the best get better with time,” says
Mondavi. Tastings and tours are by appointment only and cost $75. 1677 Sage Canyon Rd., St. Helena, (707) 944-8100, continuumestate.com.
Christopher Sawyer is a Bay Area sommelier and freelance writer. Learn more about him at sawyersomm.com.