Lessons from Napa Valley Wineries

On July 22nd – July 25th the Jenny Dawn Cellars team had the opportunity to travel to Napa Valley and visit four wineries: V. Sattui, Darioush, Artesa and Krupp Brothers. The purpose of visiting these wineries was to learn more about their history, wine program, tasting room service, winery design/architecture/layout and to learn best practices. Each of the wineries were extremely unique and we learned so much from each of them. I have jotted down some notes about the wines that we tasted and the type of experience that we received. I have also provided a recommendation on whether or not I would go back or recommend others to check out the winery.

1. V. Sattui Winery

V. Sattui is a family-owned winery with award-winning wines, a wedding venue, vineyard experience, artisan deli and picnic ground. It is known for being the #1 visited winery in Napa Valley. That little fact was one of the main reason that I wanted to visit. The winery is also known for its family winemaking tradition spanning over 3 centuries which I thought was impressive as well.

We had a reservation for a wine tasting on the terrace with a complimentary snacks and a 2 charcuterie trays. It was a beautiful day to sit outside on the terrace and we were excited to learn about the winery and taste the award-winning wine. The wines were hands down fantastic.

We tasted 5 different wines:

  • Sauvignon Blanc – It was crisp and light. It had green apple notes. Great for sipping outside during summer.

  • Rosato di Sangiovese – It was elegant with flavors of watermelon, cherry and strawberry. Another great spring/summer wine.

  • Pinot Noir – It was typical in style of a California Pinot. It had flavors of black tea, cherry and raspberry.

  • Dry Zinfandel – The wine had deeper, jammy fruit flavors with a cinnamon and spice finish.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon – There’s 31 acres of Cab planted onsite. The wine is rich, round and supple. It has a lush fruit, spice and dried herb character.

Our experience however, did not meet our expectations. Our server spent little to no time explaining the history of the company and providing details about the wine unless I asked very detailed questions. We did not receive our complimentary snack and they could not serve us our charcuterie tray because of wasps in the area. The winery is scenic and beautiful and the wines were delicious but our experience did not meet the same quality standards. We determined that sometimes when a business is successful they may no longer look for ways to continue to improve and it’s easy to become complacent. When we open our winery at Union Station, we want our wine, food and experience to be equally superb and outstanding.

2. Darioush

Darioush Winery is a visually intriguing winery with Persian architecture and décor. They specialize in premium wines. It was founded in 1997 by Iranian born, Darioush Khaledi and his wife. The winery recommends making an appointment to taste through its portfolio. Our team made an appointment and had a fantastic experience. Our table host, Gregory, was extremely knowledgeable about the wineries history, mission, vision and winemaking process. I would definitely recommend visiting this gorgeous estate. When we arrived, we received a welcome pour of 2017 Rose’. Then our greeter got us seated and we tasted the following wines:

  • 2017 Signature Viognier – The wine had a great nose with flavors of citrus, stone fruit and spice.

  • 2016 Signature Chardonnay – This wine had notes of honey crisp apple, pear, citrus, stone and lots of minerality.

  • 2014 Signature Merlot – The Merlot spent 11 months in oak. 70% of the wine was in new oak and 30% was in neutral oak and then the wine was blended together. The Merlot is a blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdo.

  • 2014 Signature Shiraz – This wine was very fruity on the nose with blackberry and raspberry aromas. The wine was aged in new oak.

  • 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon – The Cabernet Sauvignon is also a blend. It has 80% Cab, 10% Merlot, 5% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Franc. This wine as absolutely delicious and was my favorite.

The use of Persian art at Darioush was exquisite and it was my favorite aspect of the winery. The art on the label of the 2014 Darius II, a Cabernet Sauvignon, depicts the tradition of the Saghi. The Saghi was also the Wine Bearer, an influential and heralded position in the ancient Persian royal court. The Saghi were experts in the art and custom of hospitality, hosting and wine service. The experience that we had at Darioush was phenomenal and they truly go above and beyond to make guest feel welcome.

3. Artesa

Artesa Winery has great wines and a panoramic views of Napa, San Francisco Bay as well as their own Carneros Estate Vineyards. We had a free afternoon so we thought we would stop in without a reservation. After we parked our car, we walked up a long set of stairs that looked like you were being led to a temple. Once we reached the top of the stairs we could see the gorgeous views. Standing outside the winery and viewing the sights was so breathtaking. The winery was an extremely peaceful place. When we walked through the winery doors we were greeted by a host who told us we can go into the foyer bar to select from the tasting menu. I choose the Classic Tasting Menu. It included the following wines:

  • 2015 Estate Vineyard Chardonnay – This wine shows fantastic aromatic intricacy and subtle notes of nectarine, vanilla and green apple.

  • 2015 Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir – A blend of 8 distinct vineyard blocks, this Pinot had aromas of rose petals and violets.

  • 2012 Limited Release Merlot – This wine had concentrated fruit aromas of cherry, raspberry and cassis. The tannins add depth and there is a silky smooth finish.

  • 2014 Limited Release Meritage – This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot. The wine was full of bold aromas of blueberry, dark cherry with hints of chocolate.

  • 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine had aromas and flavors of black cherry and blueberry with hints of espresso bean and a touch of vanilla toast.

Overall, our team had a nice experience at Artesa. It took a while for us to settle in with a bar host, we were greet by several individuals but no one served us. Once we were assigned to a specific server she did a wonderful job presenting the wines to us. If you have plans to visit Napa Valley anytime soon, I would recommend visiting Artesa.

4. Krupp Brothers

Krupp Brothers has a small tasting room in downtown Napa. They also have 700 acres of vines at their Stagecoach Vineyard which was planted in 1993. Our team visited the downtown tasting room where we are hosted by, “Dangerous Dan” who was knowledgeable, delightful and friendly. He made the experience fantastic. This was our last wine tasting for the day so Desi, Brandy and I each ordered a glass to share:

  • Black Bart’s Bride – This wine was a Rhone White Blend ordered by Desi. The wine was extremely elegant with floral, tree fruit, peach, pear and mango flavors and notes. She enjoyed the wine and we all loved the label.

  • The Damsel – This wine was a dry Rose’. It was strawberry in color with a strawberry nose. Brandy ordered this wine. It had a really neat crystal stopper instead of a cork.

  • Chardonnay – This wine was an oaked Chardonnay. It was really light and had a silky smooth, round palate. I ordered this wine and it was delicious.

The Krupp Brothers winery is a first-generation, family-owned winery. The founder, Jan, is the winemaker and vineyard manager. They make about 3,000 cases of wine each year but sell 95% of the grapes that they grow. I could have sat at Krupp Brothers all night listening to the stories that Dan shared. It was a simple tasting room but it had a fun photo booth, delicious wines and a fantastic host. I would recommend visiting this winery if you are ever in Napa.

I hope you enjoyed reading about our wine tasting experiences in Napa. If you’ve visited these wineries or tasted any of the wines that I mentioned, we would love to hear from you. Or, if you have other favorite Napa wineries that you like visiting, let us know that as well. You can leave a comment or email me at info@jennydawncellars.com.


Jennifer McDonald, CEO, Founder and Winemaker

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