Up a single lane gravel road, and up, and up and up, until we reached an old farmhouse near the crest. The view of the Napa Valley was spectacular.
Glasses in hand, we walked through the vineyards, all terraced on steep hillsides.
Up, up, up the road some more we walked, until we reached the crest of the hill, and then down the other side a little bit, overlooking Napa and San Pablo Bay. Barbara told us there are something like five different micro climates over the 45 acre property, and they grow a variety of red grapes: merlot, cabernet, syrah among them. She explained how the owners and winemaker are very much into the concept of terroir, the unique properties that any wine will have based on the soil, climate, and type of grape. All wines are "estate," which means they are all made only from the grapes grown on their own vineyards here.
The Rubissow family is very committed to organic and sustainable growing practices. We met Peter Rubissow who now runs the winery with his sister Ariel. Their father who originally bought the land and planted the vineyard is now mostly retired.
We spent three hours there walking, talking, and sitting on the porch of the old farmhouse that had stood on the property for over 100 years, tasting some amazing red wines. Yes, we bought some, and if you run across any Rubissow wines on a restaurant wine list or in a wine shop, I recommend you give them a try. I particularly liked the Trompettes, but everything we tasted was amazing.
Most vineyards/wineries have dogs around, to keep the gophers and other critters away from the crops. This was one of the two Rubissow dogs, and a real sweetheart.
The next day, one of the tours we arranged took us to Ancien Wines.
Like Rubissow, Ancien is a small boutique winery. While they do purchase their grapes from a variety of vineyards, they also are very much into the terroir of specific grapes and regions, and making their wines to express each unique terroir. We tasted Pinot Noirs from the three regions represented by the soil samples below, and were amazed at the difference in the attributes and taste of each.
Muscat grapes ready for fermenting. Wine grapes are much sweeter than table grapes.
Merlot grapes in process of fermenting.
During this process the grapes are stirred by hand several times a day. The temperature is checked regularly to be sure they are within the optimum range for the yeast. Grapes will ferment here for about one to two weeks,
then they are crushed,
Each one of these casks costs around $1000, and is used up to three times. The oak imparts flavor to the wine.