Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Paoletti Estates Winery – An Italian Winery in Calistoga, California

Continuing with my search for Italian inspired California wineries, this past weekend I headed up to the Napa Valley to visit Paoletti Estates Winery. The winery is located off the Silverado Trail at the northern tip of Napa Valley in Calistoga. It borders Sterling Vineyards to the west and Cuvaison Winery on the east with Clos Pagase Winery to the north. They specialize in Italian varities as well as Bordeaxu and Super Tuscan blends from 100% estate grown fruit.

The vineyard where the winery is located was purchased by Gianni Paoletti in January 1989. After harvesting the Zinfandel and Petite Sirah the vineyard was replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese. The winery sells about 80% of their grapes and keeps the remaining grapes for his their own production. Paoletti Estates Winery’s first release was in 1994, with a production of about 1800 cases. Today the head winemaker is Gabriella Gazzano and the winery produces around 3500 cases annually. 

The proprietor, Gianni Paoletti, was born in Venice Italy, and began cooking when he was seventeen. He then studied at the Rivera cooking school in Rapallo and had a successful career took in London and Germany. 

In early 1964, Gianni moved to Hollywood California to cook at a number of successful restaurants including The Maples, which was home to many movie stars and producers. In 1972 Gianni and a partner opened his first restaurant which they named Valentino. Two years later, he sold his share of the business in order to open his own restaurant in Brentwood, which he named Peppone.

Gianni and his wife, Lilia, have invested heavily in the Napa winery to not only be a producer of fine wine but also the owners of a unique wine cave art gallery. Visitors are able to taste their exceptional wines whole touring the extensive cave system that showcases numerous Italian sculptures and works of art.

After doing a tour of their stunning wine cave I sampled the following wines:

The first pour was the 2010 Fiore Rosa, a rosé wine made from 66% Merlot, 12% Syrah and 10% Grenache. On the nose I picked up watermelon, canned cranberry sauce and pomegranates.  On the palate it is sweeter than most rosés with 3.23 % residual sugar which gives it a cloying mouth-feel and it is somewhat lacking in crispness. This wine reminds of the white zinfandels that were popular in the 1970’s. Unfortunately, when a wine is this sweet the sugar overrides the varietal characteristics of the grapes. This wine sells for $19 a bottle and there are probably many like it on the market for under $10.

The second wine was the 2011 Bella Rosa, a rosé wine made from a blend of 25% Merlot, 35% Sangiovese and 40% Malbec. This has aromas of strawberries, cranberries, cherries and dried roses. On the palate it is drier than the previous wine with significantly improved crispness and a prolonged clean finish. This wine sells for $22 a bottle and the extra $3 per bottle is definitely worth it! The only bummer is now that summer is past and we’re heading into cooler weather so I tend to not drink too many rosés this time fo year.

The third pour and first red wine was the 2010 Sangiovese, a blend of 88% Sangiovese and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine has very pronounced aromas of cherries, raspberry preserves and vanilla cream. On the palate it is delicious (!), very fruit forward with a mouth full of cherries and cassis. It has supple tannins, medium acidity, is full bodied and with a lingering finish. This wine is fruitier and more full bodied than most Sangiovese on the market which is probably due to the 12% Cabernet Sauvignon. So, it is more like a Super Tuscan than just a Sangiovese. This wine sells for $28 a bottle and I brought one home.

The fourth wine was the 2008 Nero D’Avola (100%). The name means “Black of Avola” in Italian and although it is the most important indigenous red wine grapes in Sicily very little of it is grown in California. This ruby red in color wine and has a vibrant nose of peppermint and black and red berries. On the palate it is soft and silky with additional notes of boysenberries. It is medium (+) bodied with good acidity and backbone. On the finish it has hints of black pepper and a hint of mint. I have only had a few old world versions of this wine so I don’t have a large base for comparison, but this wine sort of reminds me of a new world Syrah. I brought one home a bottle for $32. Sometime in the future I’ll buy an old world Nero and do a side by side comparison.

The fifth wine was the 20008 Bella Novello, a Bordeaux blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec, and 2% Cabernet Franc. On the nose I picked up black currants, black cherries and a hint of vanilla. On the palate this wine is very fruit forward and soft with medium tannins and acidity with seemingly a touch of sweetness on entry and a touch of pepper on the finish. This wine has a hedonistic delicious factor to it which is great if you want to enjoy by itself, but I’m not sold on it as a food-pairing wine. This wine is reasonably priced at $28 a bottle.

The sixth sample was the 2010 Piccolo Cru, a blend of the five well-known Bordeaux grapes (minus Carmenère) with 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 6% Malbec, and 4% Cabernet Franc. This wine exudes aromas of cassis, black licorice, blackberries, vanilla and just a hint of black pepper. On the palate this wine is very fruit forward, soft and supple, full bodied with a big delicious factor ike the previous wine makes it enjoyable to drink all by itself. This wine also sells for $28 a bottle but I prefer it over the Bella Novello.

The seventh wine was the 2010 Oak Knoll Cabernet Sauvignon, a blend of 90% Cabernet and 10% Cabernet Franc. This wine is dark purple with pronounced aromas of cassis, blackberries, mint and a hint of black pepper. On the palate it has supple tannins but with a little grip on the gums, it is full bodied with ample acidity. This really is an awesome Cab and much more of a food-friendly wine than the previous two Bordeaux blends but at $69 a bottle it is REALLY steep!

My final wine in the line-up was the 2010 Malbec, which is a blend of 95% Malbec with 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is an explosive wine which gushes blueberry pie on the nose and palate. In fact, this is probably the most intense Malbec I have ever had and it definitely is BIG on the delicious factor! On the palate it is full bodied with a mouth full of fruit, well balanced tannins and acidity and a very long finish. But at $59 a bottle it is a major hit to the bank account.

To see more pictures, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:


To visit or for more information:

Paoletti Estates Winery
4501 Silverado Trail
Calistoga, CA 94515
Phone: 1-707-942-0689