Handwritten Wines was founded by three couples (all with medical backgrounds) two of whom live in South Dakata and one locally in Napa. The couples also own Jessup Cellars – located just north of the Handwritten tasting room in Yountville. See our review of Jessup Cellars for more information about these couples and their South Dakota connections.
Handwritten Wines are small production wines sourced from premium, primarily hillside vineyards; all their wines are from the Napa Valley with the exception of their Pinot Noir from the Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County on California’s “central coast”.
The overall focus of their wines are on hillside grown and produced Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Total production is around 2000 cases with the majority of the wine sold direct to consumer. Each of their wines is produced in very limited quantities, sourced from small vineyard sites.
SOYO House Tasting Room, Yountville
Tastings were held for several years in a completely renovated 1947 bungalow located in the south part of St. Helena but this tasting room closed years ago due to a change in use request by their former landlord. Following this location, tastings were held in a small 100 year old cottage next to their sister winery, Jessup Cellars in the NoYo part of Yountville. This was a temporary space and merely a part of the evolution over the years towards towards having their own dedicated space. The cottage closed for tastings in late 2019 and is now used for hosting VIP clients for Jessup Cellars.
Handwritten owns a piece of property in the southern part of Yountville (SoYo) and in early 2020 finished building a modern space (around 3,000 square feet), exclusively for the Handwritten wines. The building surrounds a courtyard. One side of the building houses Montecristi Panama Hats (with a separate entrance) which opened prior to the Handwritten Wines tasting room. This hat shop moved from the second floor at the V Marketplace Shopping Center just up the street to this much more visible location. Another side of the building houses a sizable prep kitchen used by Handwritten for some of their pairings.
Drivers take note, a small room has been set aside for you – with some snacks, drinks, TV and place to plug in a laptop. This is always appreciated, as not many wineries in the Napa Valley have a dedicated space for drivers.
Walk-in tastings are welcome and are hosted at several tables in the foyer, next to the main entrance or weather permitting in their courtyard. More in-depth tastings must be made by appointment and are hosted in a much larger adjoining room. Multiple groups will be hosted in the main room but are physically spaced apart so that it never feels to crowded. And a tiny private room (for small groups) can be reserved for the most intimate tastings.
Most of the furniture and interior decor items are for sale in the main room through a partnership they have with San Francisco based Battersea gallery. As a result, once these one of a kind items are sold, new items are replaced. In the theme of being, ‘handwritten’ two small nooks with desks are built into this room – one with a number of oversize postcards that guests can fill out and then send from from on site.
Handwritten offers one of the more unique tastings in the valley, the Bread & Butter Tasting with their wines paired with a variety of tasty artisan made breads and butters along with Jamón (kept in cold storage in their kitchen). Select compound butters are also offered (butter infused with additional ingredients for flavor) – often varying in selection. Examples of secondary ingredients might be truffle oil or various herbs.
The 2011 Carneros Handwritten Chardonnay was made from an extremely limited vintage due to the early onset of bad weather during harvest. As a result, only 80 cases of this wine was made (although with good Botrytis that year – they produced a rich dessert wine from these grapes). This wine is very aromatic on the nose – floral, stone fruit blossoms, white pineapple as the wine breathes and over time the bouquet becomes more tropical in nature. This is a style of Chardonnay enjoyed by itself – it is soft and very rounded on the palate.
Winemaker Rob Lloyd does not filter or fine the red wines. Some of the wines are made with the “cap” (the seeds and skins) submerged during the fermentation, with the idea to produce a more intensely focused wine.
The 2010 Handwritten Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir is a leaner to medium bodied wine. The nose is a little earthy, almost with an mushroom element to the aroma – which as it evolves into more red fruit including cranberry, raspberry and red currant. There is good depth of flavor and reasonable tannins (for a Pinot Noir) on the finish.
The 2009 Handwritten Three Words is 2/3 Cabernet Sauvignon with the remainder split between Malbec and Cabernet Franc (somewhat unique is all three varieties were co-fermented together). Three words: “best selling wine” and “oh my god” are both common phrases are associated with this wine! The story behind the name involves a party held by one of the owners – before this wine was named they enjoyed a few unlabeled bottles at the party (shiners).
One of the bottles was passed around with the instruction to write three words on the outside. Presumably, “I Love You” was one of the phrases. In any case, the name Three Words stuck and is now produced each year. The 2009 Three Words offers sweet aromas with deeper hints of spice and vanilla as it opens. Blackberry, black cherry show on the palate – with good acidity and higher toned red fruits (red cherry) showing towards the finish.
The 2009 Handwritten Leap Cabernet Sauvignon is dark in the glass – this is a wine that is all about the dark fruit from the deep bouquet – somewhat brambly, meaty, dark berry – to the palate with its show of big fruit and muscle from mid palate through to the long finish. It has plenty of layers on the palate now despite being a very young wine. It should age wonderfully and continue to develop complexity as it integrates over time.
Napa Valley is certainly known for its big bold Cabernet Sauvignon wines – the 2009 Handwritten Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect example of this type of wine. However, sometimes we discover other Napa Valley wines that really stand out for whatever reason. Take the 2011 late harvest botrisized Chardonnay – harvested from Carneros. There is no middle ground on this wine – you either love it or hate it. It was harvested at nearly 42 brix still containing a residual sugar of nearly 25 percent – the alcohol is moderate at only 11%. This wine is super aromatic on the nose with intense fruit.
We’ve been trying to find an appropriate analogy for the mouth feel – it is like trying to move through water quickly – it just does not happen easily. The mouth feel is oily with a generous degree of viscosity. The palate delivers a rich concentrated (very satisfying) meld of both flavor and sugar. If you enjoy rich dessert wines where the focus is on intense flavor, sugar, and viscosity, take note – this is one of the more intense wines of this kind that we have come across in the Napa Valley.
Farmhouse Tour Existing Allocation Circle Members can request (by appointment) a private culinary focused farm and farmhouse tour with Chef. Chef’s house is about an 8 hour walk from the tasting room in Yountville. Drive instead – driving time is only about 20 minutes away. This experience begins in a 1909 built Craftsman Farmhouse which Chef told us is “the new kid on the block” as compared to some of the neighboring homes which were built in the 1800s.
Tucked away in a side valley in the northern part of the Napa Valley, minutes from the Silverado Trail – guests are treated to a personalized farm tour with Chef which includes education about the sustainable practices implemented on the property. And there are a number of animals that live on site including chickens and several pretty goats (their milk is used for home-made goat cheese). Also on the property are bee hives and an orchard.
SOMM Series – these special events are held very selectively throughout the year, where the Handwritten Sommelier will lead tastings focusing on wines from specific parts of the world.
For more information, to request a tasting or to join their mailing list, visit: www.handwrittenwines.com
Handwritten Cottage(No longer used for tastings)