Phifer Pavitt Winery is owned by the husband wife team of Suzanne Phifer Pavitt and Shane Pavitt. Suzanne is from Ringgold, Georgia where she grew up on a 15-acre farm. Both she and Shane have enjoyed wine for many years and before owning their current property, they spent significant time on the West Coast looking at various properties in “wine country” from Washington and Oregon to a number of regions in California. Finally in 1998 they found a pristine almost entirely hillside estate near Calistoga and over a bottle of Araujo Estate (now Eisele Vineyard) wine made the decision to purchase this property. This was ironic considering that the cult winery Araujo’s famed Eisele Vineyard is extremely close to part of Phifer Pavitt’s own property.
Their first vintage is from 2005; their flagship wine is produced each year – always a premium Cabernet Sauvignon called “Date Night”. In order to understand why this wine is named Date Night you must understand the story behind the name. What is Date Night? It is a night reserved for once a week where couples (married or not), take time to themselves away from other distractions whether at a restaurant, an evening in a library or just time together somewhere out of their normal day to day lives. This wine is a tribute to Suzanne and Shane’s “date nights” where some of their biggest decisions have been made including the decision to start this winery. Oh and with a name like this, this wine is very popular for Valentine Day gifts and other romantic occasions.
Since 2005 they have sourced grapes fruit from the Temple Family Vineyards in eastern Napa County in Pope Valley. Their wine is Bordeaux in style from vineyards that are entirely micro-managed and farmed organically. Each year they typically produce merely several hundred cases. The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon is all about the fruit without being to fruit forward. It has a delightful nose with seductive aromas including blackberry, dark chocolate and hints of sage. The entry is immediate and pronounced – with delicious flavors of blackberry and black currant along with pleasing notes of toasted oak mid palate with just a hint of spice on the finish. This wine is very approachable at a young age and is oh so smooth from start to finish. The finish lingers and is anchored by ripe tannins that are in balance with the rest of the wine’s profile. One sign of a great wine is its balance. This wine is perfectly integrated in aroma, flavor and structure.
They also produce a Sauvignon Blanc (from Pope Valley) and have made a sparkling wine in the past.
Ted Osborne is one of the most under-rated winemakers in the Napa Valley. He is not a celebrity winemaker, someone to go out and hit all the wine maker dinners, seek publicity, garner press and find himself in the spotlight. Rather he prefers to let his work show for himself and his wine’s certainly do that. He has a plethora of International experience with stints in Bordeaux, South Africa and Australia as well as working locally at Storybook Mountain, Pina Cellars and running his own label, Olabisi Wines (with a tasting room in downtown Calistoga).
Phifer Pavitt has done what a number of small boutique wineries have not been able to do; they have successfully utilized the power of viral marketing on the web and have ridden the wave created by wine bloggers and other online journalists. Their marketing philosophy is actually rather simple; if people enjoy their wine they will tell others. So far this is a philosophy that has been very successful as much of their wine is sold entirely through word of mouth via the Internet.
The winery itself is located directly next to the Silverado Trail just south of Calistoga. The first floor (originally the tasting room) now serves as their barrel storage with the crush pad just outside. The second floor serves as the tasting room – it is spacious, with a Western feel. Many of the materials used in the construction and decoration of the winery had previous uses and have been creatively re-purposed. This includes the decorations surrounding the lights – these were made from the wire that held their olive trees in place when they were transported to the property and the use of recycled blue jeans for the buildings’ insulation.
Up to six acres can be planted on site – and they have plans to eventually plant Cabernet Sauvignon.
In 2018 the winery announced a partnership with The Bardstown Bourbon Company to create Phifer Pavitt Bourbon.
Phifer Pavitt has already received great reviews and the 2005 vintage was voted as one of the Top 100 Wines of 2008 by the San Francisco Chronicle. They have a mailing list, distribution in Los Angeles and you can find their wine locally at ACME in St. Helena or Solage Resort in Calistoga. For more information or to join their Verona Society (bottle order options vary depending on membership), visit www.phiferpavittwine.com.