Envy Wines is located on the site of the old Calistoga Cellars winery north of the town of Calistoga. When you get to this part of the valley physical wineries begin to thin out, as does the traffic and as a result the wine tasting is usually more personal. Try winter weekdays for the least amount of crowds! Fortunately when they purchased the vineyards in 2006 the existing winery and beautiful tasting room came with the property. The estate is planted with 12 acres and they also source fruit from various vineyards in the the Napa area. Production is generally limited to only several hundred cases for most of their wines.
From the driveway in front of the tasting room or from the patio you can see the location of Old Faithful Geyser and if you are lucky it will be spouting off its white spray high into the air. There are also great views of the nearby mountains including the tall Mt. St. Helena in the distance. During our first visit many years ago, we had the privilege of barrel tasting what was Envy’s first vintage of several wines including a nice Syrah. During a later visit we sampled the final version (big nose, great flavor, full bodied) but by this time it had already sold out! Future releases will be available in a larger production.
You can either taste indoors at the long tasting counter or relax on their patio. The well-known winemaker & co-owner of Envy, Nils Venge, used to work at Groth Winery and his Cabernet Sauvignon many years ago was awarded the first 100 point American Cabernet by the famed American wine critic Robert E. Parker. Note Nil’s initials, NV and you have an appropriate name for this winery! This is one of the more creative winery names in Napa – NV, is Napa Valley, wines to be envious of and as of yet, an untapped play on words as they have yet to produce a non vintage.
Besides Envy’s wines, a number of other labels are made on site. Much of the production facility is setup for custom crush. One label made here is Vine Haven which is Nil’s “pet project” off and on again for the better part of the last 20 years. These wines are priced extremely reasonably.
In addition, Carter Cellars makes their wines here. These wines are vineyard designates and he even uses some of the same rows every year. These wines are typically only tasted for prior appointments or specific requests. Carter Cellars focuses on premium Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a Merlot. Their first vintage was in 1998 and their wines have received exemplary ratings. We recommend their Coliseum block Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is named after the way the rows of grapes are oriented in the shape of an ancient coliseum.
A tasting includes a number of wines from Envy’s portfolio. A couple of wines that stand out are their 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. This is a perfect wine to complement seafood or even drink before dinner on a warm night. A plethora of fruit flavors comes through on the palate including pineapple, pear and apple. Their 2004 Vine Haven Merlot has an exotic nose that has characteristics of a Port. However all resemblances to a port stop with the aromas as this is a dry very dark wine that is fruit driven with notes of chocolate rounding out the finish.
For many years Envy focused on their estate wines – however starting in the 2012 vintage they have a new series of wines – single vineyard wines. The first release of this is a 2012 Petite Sirah from the Fortuna Vineyard in Oakville. The vineyard management team and winemaker have done a good job on managing the structure of this wine. Petite sirah is a varietal that can be big, rich and weighty and in structure. This wine is rich in flavor but the tannins are surprisingly well integrated for such a young wine.
Envy also makes a late harvest dessert style wine. The most recent vintage featured Semillon from neighboring Lake County and Sauvignon blanc from their own estate vineyard. They are the only winery we know of that cane cuts the fruit before fermenting. The utilized this technique (several Australia wineries we know of also do this) on the Lake County Semillon – let the fruit hang on the cut canes for three weeks before fermenting. The result is pleasing – rich, not overly sweet – an ideal after dinner drink.
Also of note is Envy’s popular Bee Bee blend which is made every year. This is named in honor of Nil’s now deceased dog and is the only blend he makes. Pretty aromas of blueberry are followed by dark fruit notes on the palate. It is well rounded with a delightful smooth finish. Having fun tasting? Request to check out their barrel room for a barrel sample or two. One other note of interest is the historical looking house far to the west of the tasting room was used in the movie, Nine Months with Hugh Grant.
For more information and or to join their wine club, visit: www.envywines.com