A 100-Year-Old Calistoga Legacy
For something completely different, that used to be not so different at all … the real, authentic, family winery experience is still here if you look for it. And, if you do, the rewards will be high.
Tedeschi Family Winery is a step back in time, in a very good way. Head toward Calistoga, away from the growing glitz of Napa Valley, to a true harvest-time experience this fall.
Your journey to a simpler time might begin when you notice a large collection of rusty old tractors and farm equipment, just before a weathered Calistoga liquor store that truly must have many stories to tell. Turn east and head a half mile, past the Old Faithful Geyser (no really, there is one here, worth a stop on your way back) toward Grant Street to a driveway marked with a barrel, but not much of a sign, and a few decades back in time.
Wineries like Tedeschi just don’t exist much anymore. It’s a true family calling with a proud Calistoga history of grape growing that dates back to 1919, when Emil Tedeschi’s grandparents settled there after emigrating from Pisa, Italy. Eugene, Emil’s father, planted grapevines among the fruit trees at the current family estate in 1951, where the Tedeschi family still lives today. That’s a century’s worth of Calistoga insights, not tied to conventions or trends. And, it shows in the wines that are only available at the winery.
Wines here are not like something you’ll find at many Napa wineries: Valdiguié or Tempranillo, Viognier, or a wonderful dry rosé from 75-year-old Gamay vines, or perhaps the Brother’s Blend, an occasional wine from siblings Mario and Emilio, one a farmer, one focused on business. They consider their best ideas and create a Bordeaux-style red blend based on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that’s always a favorite.
This is Napa, after all, so the Tedeschi family also produces award-winning wines that you’ll recognize. Merlot from the Stargazer vineyard, a Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon from the estate. But who can resist the urge to try Aunt Fran’s Pick, an abundantly floral off-dry Muscat or a Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc that consistently impresses judges at wine competitions?
These limited-production wines, fewer than 2,000 cases most years, could easily be called artisan. They are the real deal, authentic expressions of a family’s connection to the soil and soul of their century-old homeplace. That’s terroir in the truest sense.
Most of the wines are made from vineyards no more than 2 miles from the winery, but pull into the graveled, weathered driveway and you’ll see the estate vineyards that surround the home. Beautiful old walnut trees help create perfectly shaded tasting areas where you can enjoy a glass and some old-fashioned hospitality.
During harvest, you’ll be in the thick of it, a unique opportunity to watch a winery in action. The tasting experience begins through an old vintage freezer door, into a small tasting space dominated by a tasting table propped up on barrels. Step through to the yard and whoa, let’s get to work.
When I visited, the family was hard at working cutting back a bit of bamboo. “Welcome,” they shouted, “…can we give you a machete to help?”