Alpha Omega Winery is located along the sometimes called “wine strip”, a section of the Napa Valley between Yountville and St. Helena along Highway 29 featuring a number of prominent and iconic Napa Valley wineries. Despite opening for tastings back in July 2006, Alpha Omega is still the new kid on the block in a winery neighborhood of well-established producers. But they have quickly built their reputation on both producing excellent wines from exceptional vineyards and offering a wide range of tasting experiences in an inviting setting.
The winery was founded by Robin and Michelle Baggett; Robin has deep roots on California’s Central Coast – growing up in Salinas and later playing baseball while at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo. In fact the baseball field at Cal Poly is named Baggett Stadium in his honor. Later he enjoyed a successful career in law and while living in San Luis Obispo, began acquiring property in the region. In 1998, he and his business partners began Tolosa Winery (in Edna Valley).
In 2005 Robin began to look at expanding his winery operations to the Napa Valley. He soon purchased what was the site of Esquisse winery and prior to Esquisse, Quail Ridge Winery had operated a tasting room here for a number of years until closing their doors in 2002.
Alpha Omega has been very smart about their growth. By this we mean, their initial focus was on their wines and production facilities while later concentrating on the cosmetic appeal of the property including modernizing their tasting room and introducing a number of tasting experiences. Visitors to the winery in the first year or two would not recognize the winery today – the development of the property has been remarkable compared to when it was just a dated small hospitality center. A number of buildings were constructed for both winemaking, hospitality and offices including a separate barrel room – besides barrel storage, private tastings are sometimes held here. In what might be a growing trend among certain Napa wineries – Alpha Omega now provides mandatory valet parking on busy weekends. Without trees to provide shade for parking – the winery has smartly built covered parking spots for both their employees and visitors with the roofs of these structures lined with solar cells.
When it comes to hospitality in the valley it is important to create a relaxing ambiance for guests; the use of water in this regard can be an integral component but unfortunately not enough Napa wineries are able to do so for a variety of reasons. Arguably the center piece of an outdoor tasting at Alpha Omega is their beautiful reflecting pool with its five fountains. Weather permitting, a covered patio overlooking this reflecting pool is an ideal place to enjoy a tasting.
In addition to their walk-in tastings, private tastings are offered by reservation including their premier tasting, the Taste of To Kalon. This tasting features multiple library vintages and a current release from what is arguably the Napa’s Valley’s most famous vineyard, To Kalon, located in Oakville along Highway 29 slightly south of the winery.
Texture is an especially important part of wine making – Alpha Omega practices a number of wine-making techniques to achieve desired texture in their wines. Remarkably Alpha Omega ferments much of its red wine production in barrel (this is a very labor and hands-on intensive way of making wine on any sort of scale) – with the idea being to soften the wines and enhance the mouth feel to make them more approachable in their youth yet retain the hallmarks of being able to age. Post fermentation, the wines typically sit on the skins for a certain amount of time – no punch downs occur during this extended maceration. Again, this is partly done to enhance the mouth feel along with extracting more color.
The wines are fermented using non inoculated yeast (indigenous) and are bottled unfined and unfiltered.
In addition to a production that is mostly focused on red wines, Alpha Omega also produces several white wines including a Sauvignon Blanc from their estate, the 1155 Vineyard (named after the address of the winery) located in front of the winery next to Highway 29. This vineyard is planted entirely to this varietal despite the fact that Rutherford is known primarily for growing select Bordeaux red varietals. But with established vines and their deep roots in the heavy clay soils of this site, this varietal does very well during the warmer summer months in this part of the valley.
Alpha Omega produces two Chardonnays each year including a Chablis style un-oaked and an oaked wine from this varietal. During one of our earlier visits, we tasted the Alpha Omega 2005 Chardonnay. It offers a pretty bouquet with aromas of butterscotch, pear and banana (an aroma that isn’t always associated with Chardonnay). This wine was aged in oak – the palate shows flavors of lemon-lime with honeysuckle and a slightly roasted nut nuance. Good acidity.
The 2007 Alpha Omega Rosé is an unusual blend that includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. There are not too many rosé wines like this in the Napa Valley. It is noticeably dark pink with floral aromas of dried rose petals and red cherry. Perhaps somewhat surprising, the palate offers very concentrated flavors compared to the often lighter style rosé wines that we are used to drinking. Flavors of wild strawberry and raspberry are anchored by delicate tannins.
In addition to a remarkable number of vineyards sourced from up and down the valley, Alpha Omega sources grapes from several Andy Beckstoffer owned vineyards including from the Dr. Crane Vineyard in St. Helena. This is one of the Beckstoffer Vineyards six Heritage sites in the Napa Valley – a collection of some of their most historically significant and premium vineyards. This particular vineyard was originally planted in 1858 by Napa pioneer Dr. George Belden Crane. This site was a campsite for Chinese workers when the California Pacific Railroad was being built and later was home of St. Helena’s tiny Chinatown in the 1920s.
Alpha Omega is among a select number of wineries that has access to this coveted fruit. The 2016 Alpha Omega Dr. Crane Cabernet Sauvignon is noticeably dark in the glass; it offers an intriguing very aromatically diverse bouquet which keeps revealing more aromas as it continues to open. Shows dark fruit and dark spices including notes of tobacco, toasted cedar, black olive and black licorice. Powerful and generously layered across the length of the palate with flavors of blackberry and boysenberry – this is a juicy and ripe showing with big firm tannins which last for some time. A memorable wine.
Era is Alpha Omega’s flagship wine – a wine created from a barrel selection of the best lots of Cabernet Sauvignon, regardless of the vineyard sources. The 2016 Alpha Omega Era is dark in the glass showing plenty of fruit on the bouquet along with darker spices, dark chocolate, cedar box and a hint of sage. Somewhat savory in its aromatic appeal, shows aromas of bacon fat. On the palate, the fruit keeps coming. Persistent in its concentration with flavors of blackberry and blueberry. An opulent showing with a richness that continues across the palate. Anchored by long lasting tannins featuring plenty of weight and grip on the finish. This is a very age worthy wine and should be in the collection of any serious Napaphile.
In prior years Alpha Omega produced a late harvest Sauternes style Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon blend that appealed to dessert wine enthusiasts. There are only a select few wineries in the Napa Valley that produce a wine like this; Alpha Omega’s 2004 vintage is excellent. One has to be selective with Sauternes style wines – sometimes they have an annoying roughness on the finish which in our opinion is a defect (however in our experience, most people do not even notice this). This wine does not have this – its all about the fruit and the balance. As it is a young wine it is light golden/yellow in color – age this and it will eventually turn amber darker-golden in the bottle. This wine is extremely well balanced which keeps it from being cloyingly sweet (good acid). Offers appealing stone fruit aromas including apricot and peach with minor hints of coffee. Similar flavors follow on the palate along with pineapple, lemon and honeycomb.
Alpha Omega Collective, downtown Napa tasting room
In 2018, Robin and Michelle unveiled the Alpha Omega Collective – the parent company for both Alpha Omega Winery, Tolosa Winery and Perinet Winery. On March 11, 2019, Alpha Omega Collective tasting room opened in downtown Napa at 1245 1st Street almost directly across from the Archer Hotel. This replaced the former occupant, Capp Heritage Tasting Room. Wines from Alpha Omega, Tolosa Vineyard (in San Luis Obispo County) and Perinet (in the Priorat region in Spain) are available for tasting and purchase.
Guests can choose from several flights or create their own flight. Each flight contains at least one wine from one of the three Alpha Omega Collective owned wineries. And wines can also be enjoyed by the glass. Depending on the day, the tasting is open daily from 1-7pm or 2-9pm (these hours may change seasonally). An adjoining room in the future, can be used for hosting personalized tastings and weather permitting, tastings can be enjoyed at one of several small tables directly outside the tasting room on the Randolph Street side.
A commercial kitchen is also on site and small bites will be offered with the wines beginning in June 2019. For more information about this collective, visit: www.alphaomegacollectivenapa.com
Tolosa Winery, Edna Valley
Robin’s first winery is Tolosa Winery (established in 1998) in San Luis Obispo’s Edna Valley – only about a 10-12 minute drive from downtown San Luis Obispo. Unlike the focus at Alpha Omega on Bordeaux varietals, the focus at Tolosa is on Burgundian varietals including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Robin first purchased property in the Edna Valley in the late 1970’s with hopes of running a cattle ranch. Ultimately it turned out this land would be more productive growing grapes.
A number of experiences are offered for visitors including barrel tastings, a tour + tasting or a vineyard tour + tasting. Tastings are held either indoors at the primary tasting bar, the Barrel Loft (showcasing the single vineyard wines) or reserved exclusively for wine club members, in the Heritage Room. Weather permitting tastings are also outside in their large shaded patio overlooking the winery operations. Due to their very close proximity to the San Luis Obispo Airport, an outdoor tasting might feature a low flying commercial airline taking off or landing. Walk-ins are appreciated but reservations are recommended, specially for busier weekends. For more information, visit: www.tolosawinery.com
Perinet Winery, Priorat Spain
In 2017 Robin and Michelle acquired a sizable interest in Perinet Winery in Priorat, Spain. The winery is located about a 90 minute drive from the Barcelona–El Prat Airport (BCN) with the roads hugging the coastline before turning inland to the steep rocky landscape of the Priorat region.
Located as the crow flies within a fairly short distance from the Balearic Sea (part of the Mediterranean Sea) the region is influenced by the nearby water including a diurnal drop in temperature between day and night as well as receiving fog. Winters tend to be cold and summers hot and dry. The region also features plenty of micro climates. The most prominent red grapes grown in the region are Garnacha tinta (Grenache) and Cariñena (Carignan). The earliest records of vineyards in the region date back to the 12th century.
Perinet Winery owns four separate vineyard sites – their largest vineyard, Mas d’en Xes much of which is located in a natural amphitheater like setting above the Siurana River and home to the winery, the nearby Mas Vell vineyard which features the highest of their vineyard sites (up to 1350 feet), Pendents – located south of the winery and featuring at times dizzying vineyard plantings (up to 30 degree slope) and plenty of breezes coming from the ocean and Balcon located approximately in the center of the Priorat and the latest acquisition to their vineyard portfolio. Perinet Winery grows the following red varietals: Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.
The Perinet Pendents 2016 is 100% varietal Carignan with 80% of the wine fermented in barrel and 20% in stainless steel. This wine is very dark red with purple tinges on the rim in the glass – shows pretty baking spices on the bouquet along with toasted oak and hints of dark chocolate – all framed nicely with plenty of fruit including blackberry and plum notes. Layered in flavor, this is a robust wine with muscular chewy tannins persisting for some time.
The 1194 is a tiny production wine designed to showcase both Grenache and Carignan. Named in honor of the Charterhouse of Scala Dei founded in 1194 – Scala Dei was the first Carthusian monastery built on the Iberian Peninsula and records show these monks were the first to introduce vineyards and wine making to the Priorat. The 2016 Perinet 1194 is is a blend of 62% Grenache, 31% Carignan and 7% Syrah – aged for 18 months in all new French oak. Presents pretty aromatics including dried rose petal, black licorice, earth notes and hints of desert spices – somewhat savory. Plenty of fruit shows both on the bouquet and the palate – dense, opulent and layered featuring robust long lasting chewy and somewhat earthy tannins.
Poboleda, the closest village is located only about a 10 minute drive from Perinet Winery. Like other villages in Spain, the streets are narrow. Park your car in the open air dirt parking lot at the entrance to town and make the short walk down. The town features several cafes and restaurants including Hostal-restaurant i Apartaments Populetus, a small 3-star hotel (where we stayed) and restaurant with clean and comfortable rooms with breakfast included along with ear plugs (perhaps to block out the aggressive church bells that ring several times an hour). Oh and the nearby Happy’s Bar is a great place to catch up with some of the village elders for local gossip (conversations in Spanish or perhaps some broken English if you are lucky).
Perinet Winery has quickly become a leader in tourism in the region – focusing on winery visits and related experiences rather then selling wines through traditional distribution channels. The winery has also created the Ruta del Priorat Antic – a handy guide to both wineries, restaurants, lodging and select sites of historical interest in the region. All visits to the winery are by appointment – visits can be reserved online including a Classic Winery Tour & Tasting – for a more in depth visit, choose the Essence of Priorat experience. Visits include a tour of the winery as well as a stop in the barrel room – built against the hillside below the winery. Total production is around 6,000 cases. For more information or to make an appointment, visit: www.perinetwinery.com
Famed French based wine consultant, Michel Rolland consults for Alpha Omega and helps make the final blending decisions. We saw an interview with Michel once – he indicated he tastes between 30,000 and 35,000 different wines a year. Total production has grown significantly over the years and is currently around 15,000 cases per year. For more information on their tasting offerings, the winery or to join their wine club, visit www.aowinery.com
Alpha Omega, Exterior & Grounds
Alpha Omega, Winemaking
Alpha Omega, Interior, Hospitality
Alpha Omega Collective, downtown Napa
Alpha Omega, the early days
Tolosa Winery, San Luis Obispo
Baggett Stadium, Cal Poly
Photographs coming soon.
Perinet Winery & Cellar