I don’t know why so many of my adventures start with an element of panic. I sometimes think it is so I can appreciate them all the more.
As I drove up Rutherford Hill Road, I finally started to relax and realized that the road looked familiar.. and the reason why became clear a moment later.. as I passed Auberge du Soleil, a restaurant that Kevin and I and our friend Charles visited and ate at when we were all in Napa together. As I pulled past the restaurant I reached a large parking lot at the top of the hill. Now, I had really reached my destination.
I left the car and approached a woman pulling out her cell phone. From her picture on Facebook, I immediately recognized Karen McFarland who is Anthony Terlato’s assistant in Napa Valley. We exchanged greetings as we headed toward the winery and stopped briefly to admire the view of the valley. The picnic grove and olive grove were beautiful, the olive are pressed for oil, but had recently been trimmed back so they would be another season before they bore fruit again.
We walked into the tasting room, walking past the outdoor tasting bar which was complete with a BBQ grill. I can imaging fun summer events there… and since it is California.. long into the fall as well. The tasting room consisted of a large u-shaped wooden tasting bar with pourers in the middle of the two sides to the bar.
Karen introduced me to the folks working in the tasting room as poured me a glass of wine (I think I suggested Rose, just to break my Sauvignon Blanc habit from the weekend ) Karen started telling me about the history of the winery. The winery was established in 1974 and specialized in producing Merlot. When the Terlato family purchased the winery in 1996, the first thing that they did was REDUCE production in order to concentrate on a higher quality of wine. The family also invested money in state of the art winery equipment such as fermentation tanks that had glycol sleeves to heat or cool the wine to the appropriate temperature to adjust for changes in the environment.
We began our tour looking at area behind of the winery that was being set up in preparation for the coming harvest. Of course, the winery had previously been state of the art, when the original owners built the cave system at the winery. The original cave was constructed from 1984 to 1986 and the additional space was completed in 1989. The caves extend for almost a mile and allow the wine to be aged in their oak barrels at a consistent 59o F with 98% humidity.
While we walked through the caves, we stopped occasionally at the displays that were located along the path. A sign at each location would describe a type of wine or winemaking process and taste a different wine. Additionally there is room set aside for meetings or other events. In fact, the caves themselves can be rented for special events and has often been used for special celebrity chef dinners hosted by the Terlato family. The caves include plaques commemorating these special events.
As we left the caves and headed back into the winery and continued the tour. The winery is a state of the art winery within a winery facility.
At this point my tour of the winery returned me to the tasting room. I had already tasted some of the selections from the Terlato Wine Group, but there would be more to come….