Only 5 minutes from The Inn On First, a romantic Napa Bed and Breakfast Inn, is the Crane Family Vineyards Estate. Sitting on a small hillside, overlooking parts of the city of Napa and the surrounding hillsides, you appreciate that this is a great place to live. In the back of this small property is a barn that serves as the winery, where the Cranes have been producing wine for over 20 years. These are the gems we long to find and so appreciate when they come our way.
Tom Chiarella, son of the founders of the winery (Crane is his mother’s maiden name), is now running the operation and after a tour of the property invites you to sit on the front porch and to taste their wines. An affable fellow who makes you feel comfortable and welcome immediately, he recreates for you a bit of the history of the land, its owners (his parents), and his years in Napa Valley. Over the course of conversation he pours you a glass of their estate Merlot, their Cabernet Sauvignon, Alison’s Cuvee (the winemaker’s play yard of wine with her Cabernet blend that changes every year), and the family Port. These are unpretentious wines presented by an unpretentious host, and it makes for a unique Napa Valley winery experience. They make few cases and don’t have many appointments to offer, but for the wine enthusiast looking to purchase wine Tom is always willing to share a part of his day with you. Prices range from $35 for the Port, and $50 to $80 for their other wines.
By the time your visit is over you will forget that you are so close to the city of Napa. You will be enthralled with the views, the ambience, the friendliness, and the wines. You will understand why we love Napa and its residents. Definitely a gem not to be missed.
Only ten minutes from The Inn On First, a premier lodging Bed and Breakfast Inn in Napa, is the Coombsville AVA (American Viticultural Area), the newest appellation to be brought into the Napa Valley fold. We have had guests visit wineries there and one that stood out was Porter Family Vineyards. Set into the hillside, you walk along the vines, tour the property, and do the tasting in the cave. With such beautiful views of Napa Valley, it is hard to leave once you’ve been there, especially when you have a glass of their Atlas Peak Cabernet in hand!
From the hillside vineyards and underground winery, the Family makes small amounts of beautifully hand-crafted wines—each one carrying the unique signature of this place. They retain the fossilized footprints of the sandpiper found on the property as a reminder of the incredible history of the winegrowing site, as they turn their heads to the future and the latest in winemaking arts to craft our special wines.
We had an opportunity to try their Syrah with light cherry notes and light pepper. It brought to mind a juicy grilled pork chop that I would love to pair with this wine. The 1st Cabernet we tried had cinnamon-spice notes with a bit of smokiness. I liked it a lot. We moved onto their signature Sandpiper Red, a Cabernet-Merlot blend that had lovely black licorice flavors and notes of spice. It was their Atlas Peak Cabernet that we loved most of all. It was like having a cherry cough drop in your mouth- I loved it! Wines range from $40 to $70 dollars.
Just a 20-minute drive from The Inn On First, a romantic Bed and Breakfast inn in Napa, lies Tudal Vineyards. Now into their 5th decade operating the iconic Tudal Winery in St. Helena, Napa Valley, they proudly grow and produce a Signature (and world-class) wine “Tudal Estate Cabernet Sauvignon” on site from the estate vineyard that was planted in 1972. Visitors of any age can find something to explore, whether it is the array of Napa Valley wines; our bocce court, the enticing flower and produce gardens or the collection of historic farm tractors, tools and bygone novelties that make up a fascinating agricultural retrospective. And if they ask if you want to take any produce home during the Summer, just remember that your innkeeper-chef would love it if you wanted to drop something off in his kitchen!
Here we learned a bit more about maloactic fermentation. We always associated it with “buttery” Chardonnays, but came to find out that it also adds a fullness or roundness to their Chardonnay. It wasn’t buttery at all but felt fuller on our tongues, and had an aftertaste of warm buttered toast that I really enjoyed. Their Zinfandel was bright with cherry flavor and a hint of pepper. They also produce a Super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet that had hints of caramel and dark red berries. Of course we fell in love with their 100% estate Cabernet that is celebrating its 30 anniversary this year. This is a lovely spot to do a tasting and to have a picnic afterward surrounded by their vineyards.
Final note: I am not a Rose fan. They run either too dry or too sweet. Suddenly I felt like Goldilocks and found that theirs was “just right” for me. I bought 3 bottles for summer sipping. Can’t wait for that warm weather to hit! Prices range from $25 to $75.