Peju Province Winery is family owned and located on the east side of Highway 29 about 1/2 way between Oakville and Rutherford in the middle of the busy “wine strip”. The winery was founded in 1982 by Tony & Huerta Peju – they continue to run the operations but their two daughters Lisa and Ariana are also very actively involved. Peju Winery is one of the more recognizable wineries along this part of Highway 29 due to its unique architecture, copper roofs and row of curved Sycamore trees that line the driveway leading to their actual winery options.
Unlike the trend in the Napa Valley for open by walk-in wineries to now become appointment only – it is still easy to visit Peju because no appointments are necessary for tasting. In addition, refreshingly they are open until 6pm, usually after most of the other wineries have closed for the day.
Peju does an excellent job of local advertising, and along with word of mouth – helps draw visitors to the winery. Weekends during the summer are not typically the time to visit unless you are addicted to large groups of people and significant social interaction with other visitors.
The majority of their wines are actually sold at the winery compared to many wineries who distribute to restaurants and retail outlets.
As you approach the winery from Highway 29 look for some very unique shaped sycamore trees; they are pruned so that they essentially have very few branches and are very spindly looking. Nice grounds, use of water, sculptures and landscaping surround the winery. When you walk in the main door – you will see one of their tasting bars to your left, however note that Peju has a number of tasting bars scattered throughout the winery, both upstairs and downstairs.
Unlike tastings at nearby wineries when once you enter the tasting room you immediately head to the tasting bar, walk-in tastings here are “timed” which means when there is an opening at the tasting bar, the host will escort you and other people who are waiting back to one of their tasting bars. As a result, tastings are slightly more personal here then at some other wineries in which visitors can crowd the bar tastings until there isn’t much room. Until there is an opening at one of their tasting bars, most people typically hang out in the retail room.
The main tasting is called the “Classic” (no appointment needed) and usually features 4-6 wines. Their other tastings are all by appointment only and include the Prive, (a private tasting for groups of 8 or more), the Cepage (a private winery tour and barrel tasting) and the Fromage (a private seated wine tasting paired with hand crafted cheeses) and a Peju Ambassador.
The main tasting room in the back of the winery behind the large stained glass window is spacious with beautiful cut Brazilian Quartzite marble lining the counter as well as the floor. The marbled iron ore in this rock will actually glow in the dark at night. Also note the beautiful antique stained glass window which dates from 1906.
The tastings are rather structured if busy and usually take 15-20 minutes. During a recent visit we started the tasting with their 2006 Carnival which is actually the first wine ever made at Peju back in the early 1980’s.
This wine is made from French Colombard and now here is a varietal you rarely see from a Napa winery! In this case they source from vineyards located in more northern Mendocino County. This is a white wine varietal sometimes compared to German Rieslings. It is both creamy and crisp with notes of red apple and a lemony citrus quality. There is just a hint of Residual sugar.
The 2007 Peju Pink is a Rose wine most decidedly pink in color. That is only part of the reason for the name as 25% of the proceeds from the sales of this wine are donated directly to breast cancer research and during the first year this wine was released, they donated over $64,000. The image of one of the ladies in their stained glass window appears on the label. It is a very unique blend of Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Colombard. It is fruity with aromas of strawberry, kiwi and watermelon with stone fruit flavors including nectarine and peach. As one of their employees says about this wine, “Chill it, fill it, kill it”!
The 2005 Syrah is light on the oak with lots of fruit flavors and a characteristic spiciness that’s not really found on the bouquet, but more so on the palate especially towards the finish. Peju has made a name for themselves with Cabernet Franc. The 2005 vintage has notes of chocolate floral nuances on in the bouquet and is smooth and rounded on the palate. It shows nice flavors of plum and blackberry.
Other interesting wines include the non vintage Provence – a multi varietal blend of both red and white grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and French Colombard and the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Experiment. Winemaker Sarah Fowler sources a variety of barrels from different coopers and combines the best of the barrels after the wine has aged into this one wine. The tannins are leviathan in nature; this wine screams for some protein, layered in strips of fat if possible!
Part of the experience at this winery is visiting with the people pouring the wines – Alan Arnopole, “The Yodelmeister or rapper, will sometimes be singing or performing in the tasting room. He’s one of the few people in Napa to consider a tasting room his personal “stage” and he is a “Peju tradition”. He will sing about most anything, often on the spur of the moment with quickly composed lyrics which quickly attracts a crowd of people.
Peju owns and manages over 450 acres in the valley which gives them plenty of property to play with.
They offer wines for all tastes ranging from several not often produced white varietals, to the big deep reds such as their Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. They even produce a Zinfandel Port for those who have a sweet tooth.
Rotating art exhibits are on display in their upstairs art gallery; usually these works are from prominent San Francisco Bay area artists. You can take a “self guided” stroll around the property taking in their various gardens & art displays. This is a “fun” winery and and attracts people from all over who want to not only taste good wine but to have a “fun experience” as well. Visit: www.peju.com