Vineyard 29 in our opinion is the technological pinnacle of Napa wineries. It is an amazing winery, one of Napa's true winery estates and is located just north of the town of St. Helena in the western foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains. This "bench land" is some of the most premium terroir for this particular part of the valley; Grace Family Vineyards are immediate neighbors and several other high end growers are located nearby. There is no winery sign, just an address and you definitely need to make an appointment as a visit here is for serious wine enthusiasts. Typical visits are not short - allow at least 90 minutes to 2 hours for the tour and sit down tasting. Their name comes from their highway address (2929). This is one of the most technologically advanced wineries in all of Napa Valley which makes sense when you take into account the owner's background. Chuck McMinn is the owner and is also Chairman for Covad, a large Internet company, and he has spared no expense in the innovations built into this winery. One of his mottos which originally comes from Intel is "if you can't measure it, you can't improve it". A small control room is the brain center for the conditions in the vineyards themselves, caves and the winery (temps, humidity, soil moisture content etc). They have moisture probes scattered around the vineyards which read up to 6 feet deep and provide information for when to water and how much water is needed. They even have special instruments installed on select vines to measure how much water runs through the vines between the day and night!
Everything at Vineyard 29 is micro managed and as the owner Chuck says jobs here can take up to 10x as long as at other area wineries. Their focus is on quality and limited productions. Rather than harvesting grapes in large containers, they harvest grapes into small 40 pound boxes. Gentle handling is priority throughout harvest; grapes start fermentation as soon as they become crushed. Vineyard 29's post picking efforts result in fermentation that starts when they want it to. They hand sort individual berries several times and only the highest fruit is allowed to go into tank, berry by berry! During harvest, if you stand at the end of where their sorting table drops off, all you will see are perfectly ripe berries - no jacks, stems or other distractions. Fermentations tend to be long as they are trying to extract as much flavor as possible.
The "guts" of this winery are a real treat to see. Everything is very modern as the main facility was completed in 2003. They have several huge new French oak barrels that are only used 5x and then replaced. How many Napa wineries can gravity feed wine from their main tanks located in a separate room into barrels in their caves? This is a state of the art process perfected by Vineyard 29 in which wine is transferred directly from their tanks through a conduit in the wall to the barrels in the caves. Pretty slick! They generate their own energy on site and are one of the most environmentally friendly wineries in the Napa Valley. Lights in the cave's automatically turn on as you walk in. The caves are plush, elegant and a fine blend of function and beauty - they culminate in their sensuous dramatic Library Tasting room where you will typically try three wines. This is definitely among the most elegant tasting rooms that we have visited in Napa. These are also among the few caves we've seen in Napa Valley that are sloped, which helps with managing the barrels, water flow and other winemaking efforts. Their wines are like drinking liquid velvet - all the ones we tasted are well balanced between flavor, acidity and tannin structure. If you will, a bottle of Vineyard 29 contains the best fruit their vineyards can offer - it is a true balance between terroir and technology.
Their well-respected winemaker is Philippe Melka who also has his hand in other high end Napa Wineries including Marston and Roy Estate. Vineyard 29's main wines are a delicious Zinfandel from their nearby Aida vineyard (Turley used to produce Zinfandel from this vineyard), the Aida Red Wine (blend) and their very high end Cabernet Sauvignon. Their wines often score very high among wine writers especially with Robert Parker. They have a mailing list but there is a multi-year wait to get on this. Vineyard 29 historically supports a variety of charities; one of their wines was hand crafted to support Hurricane relief efforts and raised more than $150,000, all of which was donated! You can find their wine locally at some of the high end Napa restaurants. We could go on an on about this winery but you can wet your appetite with a visit to their website: www.vineyard29.com
Introduction Video by the WineInsider:
Open to Public: No
Regular Tours: No
Address: 2929 St. Helena Highway North