V. Sattui Winery 1111 White Lane
St. Helena, Calif. 94574
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
Tasting Fees: $20-$40 for five wines
Wines Offered: 2014 Chardonnay, 2014 Pinot Noir, Ancient Vine Zinfandel, 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Madeira.
Picnics: Yes, V. Sattui products only.
Pets: Yes, dogs. Iguana and cats welcome, too.
Did You Know? V. Sattui is one of the most visited wineries in the Napa Valley, second to its sister winery, Castello di Amorosa. Producing 60,000 cases of wine annually, it’s considered “boutiquey.”
[Photos courtesy of V. Sattui Winery]
If you’ve ever visited V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena, you’ve likely been wowed by the lengthy wine selection, artisan deli and quaint picnic grounds. What you might not know is V. Sattui Winery is celebrating 134 years in business, a milestone that all began with a bread maker, a breadwinner and delicious homemade wine.
In the 1880s, Vittorio Sattui and his wife, Katana Sattui, left their hometown of Genoa, Italy, for San Francisco’s North Beach district. She was a seamstress and he was a bread maker. Vittorio’s bread-making skills weren’t as strong as his winemaking, and while his wife was bringing in the money as a seamstress, she encouraged him to further pursue winemaking. “He essentially started the direct-to-consumer concept,” says Marc Golick, food and wine expert for the property. “He put the entire barrel of wine in the back of a carriage and would fill jugs for consumers.”
The Sattuis had reached great financial success with their winery when Prohibition hit in 1922. It was crushing, and they returned to Italy while their son stayed behind. The winery was brought back to life in 1976 when great-grandson, Dario Sattui, purchased land in Napa Valley and slowly grew the business into what it is today.
On this sunny winter day, the reserve tasting room is quiet and intimate. The rustic Italian décor transports visitors to Genoa where it all began. A wineglass is filled with black truffle potato chips, part of Golick’s out-of-the-box pairing program he started five years ago with themes such as, “elevate your tailgate,” serving barbeque off the back panel of a truck and, “when opposites attract,” the winery’s most popular program where guests pair reserve wines with junk food. Golick pours a taste of the 2014 Reserve Chardonnay, which has a luscious and velvety texture, made with 100 percent malolactic fermentation, better known as “adding the buttery element.” The wine is well-rounded and pairs nicely with the truffle chips. “Salt and fat soften the tannins and blooms fruit,” says Golick. “The fat is the magic.”
Next, he serves up a taste of the 2014 Estate Pinot Noir from the Los Carneros region of Napa Valley. These cooler valley grapes are from the same vineyard as the Chardonnay, and deliver a bright and acidic flavor, fruit driven with red berry notes. It’s soft and rounded, with a mild barrel taste.
“There’s no middle man, so the prices are kept low,” Golick explains. “We’re direct to consumer, and our wine club members are our ambassadors. Our wines are only sold here. We don’t make enough wine to supply the markets.” The winery focuses on quality over quantity, keeping standards high and prices down. Winemaker Brooks Painter has been with the winery since 2005, and his goal is to produce terroir driven, fruit forward and full-bodied wines, maintaining layered richness throughout.
For our next taste, Golick pours the Ancient Vine Zinfandel from Russian River Valley’s Crowe Ridge. While old vine grapes may range from 50 to 100 years old, ancient vines are more than 100 years. Planted in 1915, the grapes are produced using dry farming, with a natural aquifer beneath the grape’s soil. This Zinfandel is everything you’d expect from the Russian River Valley—soft texture and light jam tones. ”It’s drinkable on its own, but pairs well with smoky, spicy barbeque or baby back ribs,” says Golick. “We use this Zin to make the barbeque sauce for the elevate your tailgate pairings.”
Golick pours a splash of the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from their estate vineyard in the coveted Mt. Veeder appellation in Napa Valley. “It’s the second highest elevation farming in the valley,” he says. The rugged mountain elevation and marine soils allows the fruit to mature slowly, developing rich concentration. They age for 18 months new French oak, however, so the wine isn’t overly oaky or woody. It’s bright, floral and full of minerality.
For our final taste, he brings out a bottle of their famous Madeira, a Solera blend that traces back to 1885. Vittorio made and hid the Madeira in the walls of the Sattui family house in San Francisco in the 1800s. Years later, the new homeowner found the bottles and sold them back to Dario. The process takes 20 percent original wine out, and adds 20 percent new wine in. “The new stuff keeps the old stuff alive,” says Golick. “It’s a marriage, and they get more complex each year.” This caramel-colored, sweet and decadent wine is unlike a port. “ I don’t enjoy port, but I do love our Madeira,” Golick says. It can be poured over ice cream, and Golick advises replacing vanilla with it when cooking and baking.
If you’re looking to visit a winery with rich history and rich flavors, stop by V. Sattui and let one of their tasting experts guide you through a tasting, a junk-food pairing or perhaps just a relaxing picnic sourced from their own artisan deli and marketplace.
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