After visiting Peju Province Winery in Rutherford on Saturday I then drove up to St. Helena to visit the new Del Dotto Estate Winery and Caves.
Several years ago I visited their sister winery, the Del Dotto Caves Historic Winery on Atlas Peak Road in Napa. These are 350 foot rustic caves that were hand dug in 1885 by Chinese laborers with picks and shovels. In 1997, the Del Dottos restored the original winery and began aging their red wines in the caves. When I visited the historic caves I did a personal one on one tasting with one of the tour guides and it was a great experience as I was able to discuss the wines as we went through the dark tunnel, tasting wines from the various barrels.
Visually there is a huge contrast between the historic wine caves and the new Caves which are lined with Italian marble and ancient tiles. As you walk into the show room above you as you are Venetian chandeliers and beneath your feet are mosaic marble floors.
However, while I was impressed with the scenery and the wines, the experience wasn’t quite as pleasant. The 6+ foot tour guide who boasted of having worked for the Del Dotto’s for five years told crude jokes, frequently used the “F _ _ _” word and seemed to be more concerned with getting intoxicated as drank (not tasted) along with the tour group. In the hundreds of wineries I have visited throughout California over the past 10+ years, I have never seen such unprofessional behavior at a winery in my entire life. There is a huge difference between “wine tasting” and “wine DRINKING” at a winery. The former is designed to sample wines in order to evaluate them, the latter is for the sole purpose of getting drunk.
If you visit the winery be sure to eat before you go and don’t drink any wine before you arrive and don’t plan on visiting another winery after you leave because they will pour you an insane amount of wine and it is difficult to find a place to pour out what you don’t want to consume. It is customary for a wine tasting room to give you a 2 ounce sample. This tour guide was pouring easily more than 5 ounces and while I appreciate the generosity it clearly encourages intoxication. And frankly the wines are SO huge that after the fourth sample my palate was already suffering from fatigue so I wish some drinking water would have been made available as well.
My overall impression of this winey is…. this is where people come to party and practice bacchanalia.
Although I kept track of the wines we tasted, it was too dark and things were too rushed to take any detailed notes. So, without comment here are the wines we were served:
The 2008 Cinghiale Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
The 2008 Vineyard 887 St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (Missouri U-Stave American Oak Connoisseurs Series)
The 2008 Vineyard 887 St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (Centre Saury French Oak Connoisseurs Series)
The 2008 Vineyard 887 St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon (Sasse French Oak Connoisseurs Series)
The 2008 Rutherford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (MO/FO Blend Connoisseurs Series)
The 2008 Rutherford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (Centre Saury French Oak Connoisseurs Series)
The 2008 Lot R F15 Colbert French Oak Cabernet Sauvignon (Summer/Fall Release)
One of the problems was (and a few other people on the tour said the same thing) that it was too dark to view the wines and because most of them were all such HUGE Cabernets after the first few it became difficult to distinguish one from another. While touring the caves may be fun and very different from just standing around a wine bar, as one usually does in a tasting room, the environment of the in cave made it extremely difficult to do any sort of sensory analysis of the wines.
If you decide to try these wines, I suggest tasting them at the bar outside of the caves where you can see what you are tasting and bring your own bottle of water.
To see more pictures, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at: