Milat Vineyards is a very small family owned winery (their family heritage is Croatian) located on the west side of St. Helena Highway (Highway 29). The Milat's moved here in 1949 and actually sold grapes for many years to nearby well-known wineries. It was only in 1986 that they started using their own grapes for making wine. They merely produce about 4000 cases which for a winery on this part the Highway is relatively small. Their intimate tasting room is just south of St. Helena along this busy part of the highway. This area is quickly growing with the new major Hall Winery nearby, the new Flora Springs tasting room, and other nearby construction.
The winery and crush pad surround the tasting room with a separate building for wine aging located nearby. It might be easy to simply bypass this winery (don't!), perhaps because of the traffic along this section, you haven't heard of them (that's right they don't make too much wine!), and their building is not new and fancy like some of the other "monuments" that have already and are currently popping up nearby.
Your tasting is always with one of the Milat family members as they rotate themselves in front of the public every week. They like to compete between each other to see who sells the most wine in the tasting room! It is refreshing to actually talk to the owners/winemakers themselves at a winery situated along Highway 29 - compared to many of the corporate or private large wineries in this area where you will never even meet the owner or winemaker. Milat has about 20 acres planted (behind and around the tasting room) and they are the vineyard managers as well as the winemakers. For $5 you can try 6-7 wines.
Their wines are well balanced and are structured to be consumed upon release. In addition, all their current release wines are priced extremely reasonably when compared to so many of the high priced wines in the Napa area. Their Chenin Blanc is among the best we've tasted in the valley - the 2005 Chardonnay is a very rich full bodied example of what you can do with this varietal. It sees both barrel and tank aging and undergoes no malolactic fermentation; there are lots of good fruit layers in this wine.
Their Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon are all 100% varietal (no blending). Their Merlot is noteworthy because its very representative of its terroir and with Eucalyptus trees planted nearby, the only way you would miss the big herbal, mint and menthol aromas in the nose is if your sense of smell had been destroyed. These aromas carry into the palate only slightly with more cherry and plum flavors to follow towards the finish. Both their Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon's are very rich in flavor. Their Zivio vintage Zinfandel Port is not a syrup bomb; yes it is sweet but it is a well balanced sweet between body, flavor and structure. It has a nice name to, Zivio means "cheers" in Croatian. Because this family has been in the valley for so long and they actually work the tasting counter - its well worth a stop here just to talk about winemaking in general or about any of the other wineries, owners or winemakers.
We've been here several times and once Mike Milat (one of the two brothers) was working the tasting counter. Mike knows many Napa winery owners and winemakers and is one of the better winemaker story tellers we've come across in the valley. One of their labels is a sketch of one of their homes. The property is very historical as well. Guest rooms are also available on site. This is a winery one would hate to ever see become corporate. Visit: www.milat.com