Newton Vineyard is prestigious hillside estate complete with small formal English gardens, caves and a slight Asian design to the landscaping on the property. The famed American wine writer Robert Parker once called this winery "one of the most gorgeous mountain estates in California". The winery was founded in 1977 by the late Peter Newton (native of England) who also founded Napa's only "tram" winery, Sterling Vineyards. Newton loved to design elegant formal gardens and his work shows wonderfully here. Dr. Su Hua Newton is originally from China.
The 120 acre estate is entirely hillside, some of which is quite steep. Block by block farming is practiced (112 blocks of vineyards) are located on the estate. Hillside farming has its benefits as far as the wine - but certainly its challenges. The costs can be higher on the hillsides - the blocks are truly hand farmed - during harvest all grapes are picked by hand. Each block is fermented separate from each other which then are used to create their final blends.
The estate lies just west of St. Helena. From where Madrona Ave ends against the hills in a "T", take the road to the right. This winery has the most aggressive speed bump program of any Napa winery we have visited and more than once on the long road to the top, we bottomed out in our excitement to reach the actual winery. You know you are getting close to the winery when you pass the large Red English looking telephone booth. This was placed here as a tribute to Peter Newton and his birthplace in the UK. Parking is somewhat limited and tours are by appointment - held merely once a day at 11am Thursday to Monday.
Tours involve walking around the property (it is hillside so there is not much flat space on site). You will see the Pino Solo or Lone Pine Tree in the distance. This is a 100+ foot tall tree at the top of the ridge all by itself; it appears on one of their labels and is one of the icons for this estate. At certain times of the year it is lit up with lights. Your tour will start next to the stately tall fir trees where you have great views overlooking the valley. You will walk through the formal gardens (which sit on top of the barrel room) and then enter the wine caves where the highlight here is the Library Wine Collection. You will proceed through their very cold cellars - large doors partition this cellar so each block of the cellar can be kept at a different temperature. Your tour ends in a window surrounded room for the actual sit down tasting.
Sit down tastings such as this one are a good chance to meet fellow wine enthusiasts as you are all seated at one table next to each other. All their wines are naturally fermented. The highlight here is tasting their unfiltered wines; they make a delicious unfiltered Chardonnay which is in extremely high demand and was sold out at press time.
Newton creates several different tiers of wine. Our favorite is their Merlot, which is found under their Unfiltered tier. The 2006 vintage has a very fruit forward but elegant nose as well as slight hints of old leather and tobacco on the finish. A visit here is highly recommended, both for the wine and for the tour experience. Visit: www.newtonvineyard.com