Luna Vineyards is located just off the southern part of the Silverado Trail minutes from the northern part of the town of Napa. They are the first winery on the left hand side of Silverado as you drive north from Napa. Look for the building with the tower (by the way good views of the nearby vineyards from the top of this tower) and tiled roof; the winery is set back inside a walled courtyard which is where you park under either the nearby oak or olive trees.
Luna was founded by Napa wine veterans George Vare (since deceased) Michael Moone (at one point president of Beringer Winery) and lawyer Dick Lemon. John Kongsgaard was their founding winemaker, hired in 1996. In a refreshing twist from the Napa Valley’s strong Bordeaux and Burgundian-centric production, Luna focuses on producing hand-crafted Italian varietals. Their wines tend to be very food friendly. Their first vintage was in 1996 and they are best known for two varietals which are relatively uncommon in the Napa Valley, Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese. In fact, they are one of the largest producers of Pinot Grigio in the Napa Valley and much of their estate property is planted to this varietal. As of our latest update to this review, of the 50,000 total cases produced annually, 40,000 cases are Pinot Grigio. Besides their estate vineyard, Luna sources fruit from several other vineyards in select parts of Napa as well as California.
In 2008 they completely remodeled their main tasting room and created a special Reserve room behind the main room. One of the most common comments people say when they see the Reserve room is “this is how I want my house decorated”! Both rooms are very elegant; note the shadow boxes in the main room – at the time of our latest visit, these contain various items for sale including Limoges porcelain dinnerware designed by famed chef, Thomas Keller of the French Laundry. The walk-in tasting is held at the square counter in this cozy room which is well heated by a roaring fire on winter days. For warm summer days relax on their porch just outside the tasting room.
They offer two tastings, a General and a Reserve tasting. Luna makes a number of fairly high alcohol wines that do not taste “hot” including the amazing 2005 Reserve Sangiovese. It is a dark ruby color and is rich in fruit both in the bouquet and on the palate. The aromas open with pleasant mineralities and red berry fruit with a rich concentrated palate integrated with black cherry and spices. The mouth feel is luscious and soft with firm rounded tannins and a finish of unbelievable length.
Fortunately the majority of fruit for this wine come from the same vineyard for every vintage since 1999 – helping build consistency into this wine. Another wine worth noting is their 2004 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve which is slightly blended with Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The nose is fruit driven (blackberry) with just a touch of chocolate to accompany followed by a palate that is rich yet smooth on the entry. The wine gains in complexity and intensity and ends with a finish that has very good structure with firm strong tannins.
There are other wines you should not miss (may or may not be available for tasting depending on availability); one is their very reasonably priced estate Pinot Grigio. A touch of Chardonnay is usually blended in and typically native yeasts are used during fermentation. This wine is barrel aged and the vintage we tried showed nice apricot and pear flavors characteristic of a fruit forward Pinot Grigio. For those who want try a unique blend Luna makes Freakout, a mix of 4 white varietals including the Ribolla Gialla, a little used varietal in the Napa area which is originally from northeastern Italy.
A beautiful wine that we have to mention despite its only one time production is their Vin Santo. This means “holy wine” in Italian and is truly that if you are lucky enough to get a taste of this. This wine was only made in 2001 and was aged in sealed off barrels for 5 years. One of the barrels actually exploded due to the pressure that built up over time. In any case this wine is brownish, almost amber in color and has a nose almost like a fine sherry with a rich complex palate including nuances of apricot, cinnamon, and toasted almond.
Their Pinot Grigio Luna Mille Baci Late Harvest Dessert Wine is produced only in years where natural botrytis occurs. It is extremely rare to find a late harvest wine of this varietal in Napa and Luna does an good job. The 2005 has great natural acidity and phenolic grip or weight in the mouth. Dry straw, honey and toasted almond are characteristics of the bouquet with more honey and toasted nuttiness following through to the palate.
The well-known professional golfer Arnold Palmer (died in 2016) was an investor in Luna and his private label wines are made here. The majority of his wines are sold to country clubs, restaurants and various wine-club members.
Recently Luna announced a Reserve Wine Pairing (by advance reservation only) in which they pair their limited production red wines with cheese, truffles and other delicacies. For more information or to join their wine club, visit: www.lunavineyards.com