Did you Know? Singer, songwriter, musician and “man of many hats” Gary Koehler has five albums for sale, two available on Pandora.
Steampunk. Wine. Rock ’n’ Roll. Not a traditional recipe, but Capp Heritage isn’t exactly a traditional tasting room. This isn’t to say Capp Heritage and the Capp family don’t have history in California: The Napa brick-and-mortar business has only been around for a little more than two years, but the Capps (or their ancestral name, the Hudsons) arrived in the Golden State in 1845 as frontiersmen entering Mexican territory. The Hudsons built the first two log cabins in what is now known as Calistoga and were involved in the Bear Flag Revolt that separated California from Mexico.
“Eventually, the Hudson family sold its land rights to Jacob Beringer,” says Gary Koehler, the “man of many hats” for Capp Heritage, whose duties include managing the tasting room and entertaining guests by pouring wine and enchanting them with his passion for creating and playing music. “If you go to the Beringer estate, there’s a log cabin up there called The Hudson House. It’s the original home of the Hudsons and it stands as a monument to their influential history in California.
The Capp Hertiage tasting room is a neat representation of history, too. Co-owners Dan and Marguerite Capp’s interest in steampunk style led to the creation of something unique: the conveyor belt-fed fans above it accent the fancy, polished wooden bar. Antique wooden tables, whose cast iron legs spiral up to their base, flank the leather and cowhide seats. The neon green lampshades bring color against the backdrop of the deep emerald walls, accented by lacquered and polished wood. Glass decanters and candle-shaped light bulbs bring home the old-but-new feel of classic steampunk.
The Deco Lounge was inspired by the 1920s, an era of elegance and raucousness that combines fancy with fashion. Chairs spanning from mauve to burgundy red and tastefully off-white flank a statue of two golden figurines holding a vase between their backs. The purple walls pop in the presence of the black and white windowpane-style marble floor. And the whole room is designed around a corner stage, where local songwriters play original music. The dissonance between the two rooms is jarring at first, but it slowly warms up to the idea that Capp Heritage is about variety and self-expression, even if the expressions clash with each other sometimes. You can also taste wine.
The Capps grow winegrapes in the Wooden Valley, part of the Napa Valley AVA. There, Capp Heritage produces six varieties of grapes, including Pinot Verdot, Malbec and beefy Cabernet Sauvignon.
Starting with the 2014 Vintner’s Daughter Chardonnay, I found something different. It’s a good different for me, because this Chardonnay didn’t taste like a stick of clarified butter in a glass (an experience I’ve had with some California Chardonnays that I don’t care to replicate). Instead, this fruit forward, oaky and lemony wine is tempered by a stony, tingling aftertaste and keeps stone fruits like white peach on the palate after the first sip; a wonderfully cooling wine.
The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc had an appropriate dryness complimented by grapefruit notes and a clean finish. As the wine started to warm in the glass, more notable fruit flavors, including pineapple and kiwi, took center stage, and the straw finish wiped the citrus clean off my lips.
The 2012 Muscat uses orange blossoms instead of the fruit retains the sweetness of the summertime citrus in exchange for the slight bitterness of the fruit’s oils. The resulting bouquet was fragrant, smelling more like a dessert wine than a dinner paring varietal. But the taste was mellowed with not-so-sweet orange flavor and no sense of bitterness.
Moving on to the reds, I tasted the 2010 Estate Meritage and the 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. During this tasting, I tried to will into existence a three finger-thick, USDA prime ribeye, because these wines would be perfect with fatty, decadent red meat. The Meritage, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, was the “lighter” of the two, featuring black cherry and blackberries cutting into a distinct leathery aftertaste.
The Cabernet, my favorite of the tastings, was a mouthwatering experience. Dry, but not so dry it puckered my mouth, this beast of a wine was very heavy with black currants and a brightness of fresh cherries. The oak barrel that housed this wine took its opportunity to really shine, and each sip (it might’ve been a swig, but I’m trying to impress you with my restraint) reminded me that bolder is better. This wine was a real knockout.
For Koehler, Capp Heritage is unique because the music flows as freely (and as beautifully) as the wine. The Deco Lounge hosts complementary live music by local songwriters from 8 to 10:00 p.m. Saturday nights. “We’ve also just struck a deal, and are the newest chapter of the West Coast Songwriters Association,” he beams. Every second Tuesday of each month, local songwriters will play their music to a panel of critics, and winners picked each Tuesday night will compete with each other at the end of the year for a chance to be the guests of honor at a dinner featuring national label executives and celebrities. My suggestion: saunter in, order some wine and take in the atmosphere. The ambience will be as good as the show.
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