Peju Province Winery is a family owned winery 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 and copper roofs. It is easy to visit because no appointments are necessary for tasting plus they are open until 6pm, usually after most of the other wineries have closed for the day. Peju does a serious job of local advertising which draws the crowds to their winery. Weekends during the summer are not typically the time to visit unless you are addicted to large groups of people and major social interaction. The majority of their wines are actually sold at the winery versus some other wineries who distribute to many restaurants and retail outlets. As you approach the winery from Highway 29 look for some very odd 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.
We’ve stopped in several times and found that the walk-in tastings 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. Until there is an opening, most people typically hang out in the retail room. The main tasting room in the back of the winery behind the large stained glass window is quite nice as it 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.
A variety of wines are typically available for the tasting. 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.
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 a personal “stage” and is a “Peju tradition”. He will sing about most anything, often on the spur of the moment with quickly composed lyrics! Peju owns and manages over 450 acres in the valley which gives them some serious 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, and they even produce a Zinfandel Port for those who have a sweet tooth. Rotating art exhibits on display are usually 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