Years ago my husband and I stumbled upon Porthos while searching for a particular hard to find favorite wine on the Internet. Hal Oates, the president of Porthos, suggested sending us a mixed case of similar wines. Well, Hal knows his wine and each one became a new favorite. Over the years we have visited Napa twice, spending the day with Hal touring small, under the radar spots. These are no ordinary tastings—we have sampled wine straight from the barrel with a team of father and son winemakers, toured a vineyard with an owner in his open topped vintage jeep before conducting a tasting in his glass house, sipped wine amongst an extensive antique weaponry collection at an eccentric estate and savored a picnic lunch in the vineyards with stunning views of the valley below. Hal customized and curated the tours to our tastes (we prefer small, family run wineries) and years later they still stand out in my memory. Here Hal shares some of his favorite cult wine spots making for an ideal day on the wine trail.
Hal: As the president of Porthos Wine Concierge service I have the occasion to host many of the most devoted wine connoisseurs in America when they visit Napa Valley. I’ve learned these oenophiles covet the access to behind-the-scenes experiences touring and tasting at the most renowned private venues (thus avoiding crowded public tasting rooms). My team and I strive to customize each day of tours according to the individual collectors’ personal tastes. Based upon feedback from discerning clients, I know a day featuring the following three ultra-private wineries is guaranteed to deliver a perfect day in Napa! Each winery is unique yet offers the impeccable combination of world-class wine, hospitality, and memorable scenery.
There is no shortage of excellent restaurants in Napa ranging from world famous The French Laundry to casual Gott’s Roadside for the best burgers. Here’s a list of essential Napa Hot spots from Eater and Infatuation.
CHATEAU BOSWELL on the Silverado Trail: Enjoy this exclusive opportunity to visit the stunning caves of Chateau Boswell and sample their majestic, micro-production wines crafted by world famous winemaker Philippe Melka. This sub terrain winery experience will take place deep under their prestigious Estate Vineyards. The experience begins in the Dome Room with a guided sampling of the winery's remarkable Chardonnays, Cabernets and Pinot Noir sourced from many of the most sought after vineyards in Sonoma. This private winery experience culminates with a full Cave tour as well as several barrel samples and the opportunity to secure'futures' of Chateau Boswell's upcoming releases. FYI, the Chateau Boswell caves are also home to several renowned artisan producers such as Arietta, crafted by Screaming Eagle winemaker Andy Erickson. Note: An optional Picnic lunch overlooking the Estate vineyards is available catered by Meadowood Resort’s restaurant (a Michelin 3 Star).
CONTINUUM WINERY on Pritchard Hill, Napa: Visiting Continuum is an historic opportunity to experience both the past and future of Napa’s “first family”: the late Robert Mondavi and his son Tim, now continuing the family tradition (i.e. Continuum). This monumental new venture is frequently referred to as the “Next Opus One” as the Mondavi’s assembled most of the same team that launched that iconic brand four decades ago. In addition to the breathtaking views overlooking the entire Napa Valley, visitors enjoy first-mover status as one of the few to experience this private facility, just opened last year. Continuum Cabernet is well on the way to ‘Cult’ Cabernet status following Mondavi’s recent feature on the cover of the Wine Spectator magazine and acclaim from Robert Parker. Tours also include an adventurous vineyard “safari” in the Mondavi’s jeep offering panoramic vistas and picture-perfect photo opportunities. Tours crescendo with a multi-vintage sampling of Continuum and an opportunity to secure an allotment of current release bottles as well as a place on the list for upcoming vintages.
ARAUJO EISELE ESTATE near Calistoga: Not typically open to visitors, this is an extremely rare opportunity to tour and taste the wines of one of the original ‘Cult’ Cabernet estates in Napa. With a historic vineyard planted in the 1970’s, Araujo Cabernet has become one of the top 10 most coveted wines in the world. Robert Parker has described Araujo Cabernet as a “tour de force” and awarded the current 2013 vintage release a “Perfect 100” rating. Araujo’s iconic status was further solidified by the recent purchase (at a rumored sale price close to eight figures) by the owners of France’s Chateau Latour. The tours commence with a visit to the pristine vineyards and culminate with a cave tour and tasting. Tastings include a delectable assortment of Araujo’s new releases, featuring the world-famous Araujo Eisele Estate Cabernet, which frequently trades at auction for over $500 per bottle.
**Porthos Wine Concierge service is the exclusive Napa Wine Concierge for American Express Centurion members. You may contact Hal for tour information at firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll free 1/866/PORTHOS (767-8467)