Backroom Wines (founded 2002) is located in downtown Napa almost directly across from the Bounty Hunter wine bar. Don’t make the mistake and try to enter the 1000 Main Street building from Main Street – their entrance is actually on First Street. Any shop that has Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison album playing (as it was one morning) when we walked in already has been raised up a notch in our eyes! Backroom Wines is a boutique wine shop with a very good selection of wines from mainly small producers. Everything is laid out very nicely – the shop is clean and well organized.
Owner Dan Dawson first caught a whiff of the wine industry when he started working at a restaurant in Eureka California. That was followed by additional restaurant experience in Las Vegas Nevada. He moved to Napa in the early 1990′s and caught the “Napa Allure”. He always enjoyed writing and communicating wine to people and decided to open a wine shop. He is now one of the oldest wine shops in downtown Napa.
Most of their small producers are Napa wineries although they do have some other California representation. However, there is a nice European selection as well with main focus on French wines – French Whites and French Reds. Often tiny Napa area producers have initially sold their wines here before they were “well known”. For example Napa area wineries such as Paloma, Switchback Ridge and T-Vine Cellars initially sold their first releases at Backroom Wines. These wineries are now well established and have won a number of high end awards and ratings. Dan continues to have a good selection of “new” producers. Like dessert wines? They have a number of European wine “sweets”.
Backroom Wines moved to their current location in mid 2008. It is much larger than their old shop and even more central. They are open 7 days a week; the wine bar is also open daily with extended hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The “special” tastings are what separates this wine shop from some of the other local wine shops. Their “off the grid” tastings focus on small producers you typically won’t see outside of the Napa Valley. Looking for an International perspective? Often Backroom choose to highlight a specific International winemaking region and focus on those wines.
In addition, they may have specific tastings in which small local area winemakers are on hand to taste their own wines; this is a great chance to actually meet someone in the Napa wine-making industry. Also popular is the “bring and interesting and good wine” night where you bring one or more of your favorite wines; this is a great chance to try an eclectic variety of wine. Aromatic and “guess the varietal” tastings also sometimes offered. An varied collection of cheeses are also sold on site – ask which wine pairs with what cheese.
Sometimes their “house wine” is offered for tasting at the bar. Often times winemakers will have additional barrels of premium wine that for whatever reason doesn’t fit into their winemaking program. Backroom Wines’ Corsair is such a wine. It is a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that Dan sourced from one of his friends who makes a semi cult wine up valley. Corsair is produced in extremely small quantities (the 2008 was 150 cases) and is only available at the store. As Dan says, “as it turns out, college mascots make good names for wine labels”! Corsair refers to a French Pirate, a WWII fighter plane, a computer memory company…and now a Napa Cabernet!
All events are scheduled well ahead of time so check their website for details. Speaking of their website, it is often updated and is a treasure trove of information including their newsletter, featured wine section and the wine diary. Be sure to signup for their mailing list as almost weekly you will find an email with a plethora of wine information; it is a great resource for the latest Napa wines to hit the market. This is the email list we subscribe to in order to discover latest releases and the newest commercial wine producers in the valley and beyond.
Dan also offers a unique wine club that is customized to the tastes of each member. He asks about your wine preferences, budget, varietals and wine interests and then creates a personalized club centered around you. Visit: www.backroomwines.com