By Gary Thompson And Ian Devereux White By Gary Thompson And Ian Devereux White | March 30, 2022 | Food & Drink
Our wine pros explore Napa Valley’s hottest new AVA, Coombsville, and six experiences not to miss this spring.
Coombsville holds some of Napa Valley’s hottest wineries right now
Coombsville received its official AVA status in 2011, making it the youngest American Viticultural Region in Napa Valley—a designation that indicates its unique status in Napa Valley and the world. Home to some of the most heralded grape growers and, lately, some of the valley’s hottest under-the-radar wineries, Coombsville is where we’ve been directing lots of curious oenophiles these days.
Located in the southeastern pocket of the Napa Valley, Coombsville is lined with meandering hills, country roads, a patchwork of old-school Napa homes and, of course, hidden wineries. Cool winds blow through the valley from the San Pablo Bay, and temperatures are milder than those in the upper valley.
These moderate weather conditions, combined with Coombsville’s varied soils, yield wines that have balanced acids, earthen minerality, structured tannins and a smooth finish. This translates to wonderful characteristics for sauvignon blanc, merlot and a slew of other whites and reds—but especially cabernet sauvignon. Here are some of our favorite places in this hot new AVA.
The wine cave entrance at Porter Family Vineyards
With some grit, tenacity and a little bootlegging, John Caldwell established the vineyard more than 40 years ago. His passion for terroir, winemaking and a little tomfoolery set the stage for what we now know as Caldwell Vineyards. Guests will discover all five Bordeaux varietals, with a cab franc high on our list of favorites; the malbec also shines with bright blueberry, chocolate and warm spices. Enjoy relaxed tastings inside Caldwell’s warmly appointed cave. 270 Kreuzer Lane, Napa, 707.255.1294
This state-of-the-art winery was established in 2002 by Tom and Beverly Porter, whose passion for science drew them to the winemaking process; the couple’s technologically advanced, 17,000-square-foot cave is beyond impressive. Guests enjoy cheese, fruit and chocolate to pair with the winery’s well-structured and balanced red blends. The Sandpiper blend is a favorite and features plum, spice and cocoa on the front palate, along with a juicy strawberry and cranberry fruit finish. 1189 Green Valley Road, Napa, 707.225.2786
A cabernet sauvignon from Palmaz Vineyards.
This historic property, which dates back to the 1880s, is a modernized ghost winery that’s almost entirely underground. In the early 1990s, Julio and Amalia Palmaz purchased the property and began developing the largest winery in the United States. Palmaz boasts a 110,000-square-foot cave, with an impressive 18 stories built into the base of Mount George—the sheer magnitude of the space is worth the trip. The cabernet sauvignon is a favorite and shines with flavors of creme brulee, currant, vanilla, caramel and boysenberry. 4029 Hagen Road, Napa, 917.601.0051
A tenacious new kid on the block, Italics quickly completed a half-dug cave and renovation to launch this hidden gem in 2016. Mike and Anna Martin began hosting guests on the property, pouring a selection of complex and nuanced wines at private tables that overlook the southern portion of Mount George. Expect to taste through an impressive lineup of cabernet sauvignon and a proprietary red. But don’t miss the 100% petit verdot—it’s truly unique and features flavors of raspberry, red currant and blackberry. 40 Rapp Lane, Napa, 707.258.0106
This small-lot-production, family-owned winery was founded nearly 20 years ago and is based on Paul Maroon’s winery dreams. Primarily a grape grower for prestigious brands like Joseph Phelps (Insignia wine), Maroon knew he had a special vineyard, but it took him time and guts to start making his own wines from his prized vines. Make sure to try the reserve cabernet; it’s among the best in Napa Valley and features beautiful rich cherries, vanilla and honeycomb along with soft, velvety tannins. 3565 Hagen Road, Napa, 707.257.3040
This is another dream come true: Mary Rocca and her husband, Eric Grigsby, left previous careers behind and established Rocca in the early 2000s. Their tasting experience is fun and relaxed, and everyone who visits this truly hospitable winery seems to have a different favorite from a terrific lineup. A regular crowd-pleaser is the Colinetta Estate cabernet, which is deep, dark and intense with layers of fruit notes, winter spices and a long finish. 129 Devlin Road, Napa, 707.257.8467
Photography by: PHOTOS COURTESY OF BRANDS