Prager Winery & Port Works is located at 1281 Lewelling Lane just south of the town of St. Helena right off of Highway 128 (West side of the road), across from Louis Martini Winery. You have to look carefully, as although they are located along the busy wine strip known for its larger wineries and bold signage along the highway, Prager has neither a big winery or a bold sign! You drive down a dirt driveway just a few hundred feet north of Sutter Home Winery. Park in the dirt parking lot in the back. Prager Port Works is a unique winery in Napa Valley as their specialty is port and other late harvest “sweet wines”. They are the only open by walk in tasting room in all of Napa to specialize in dessert wines. Ask any winery in the Napa Valley for a recommendation for “sweet wines” and invariably the name Prager Port Works will be at the tip of their Cabernet coated tongues. Warm up in the winter or anytime for that matter with a visit to their winery! If you are looking for excellent port, this is the place for you. Wine tasting includes 4-5 samples of their best ports.
The Prager’s have a long history in the Napa Valley. Jim Prager is from Orange County, California and grew up among the agriculture of this part of the southland, back when it was really Orange County with its orange groves and other agricultural products. He visited the Napa Valley for the first time through one of the wine and food societies he belonged to, and had a great personal tour with Jack and Jamie Davies the owners of the esteemed Schramsberg Winery. During a mid life crisis, foolishly thinking he could make wine cheaper than he could purchase it, he moved to the Napa Valley and produced their first crush in 1979. Initially most of their production was dry table wine. Lucky for us this soon changed and they started focusing more on what all “sweet” tasters love – alcohol that is rich in flavor and sugar. All responsibilities for the winery operations are handled by the family with Jim’s sons and daughters having taken over the day to day operations. The total annual production is between 3500 and 4000 cases.
Tasting is in an intimate room surrounded by literally hundreds of US dollar bills and other paper currencies from around the world. You walk through their barrel room to reach the tasting room. This room is always crowded when we stop by and is always a hub of conversation and laughter. The typical question that usually is first asked is “why did you start putting money on your walls?” – the typical answer is someone a long time ago first stapled a $1 bill to the wall and it caught on from there. Write your name on a bill and come back and collect it when you re-visit this winery. Consider Prager a bank that pays no interest! Their small tasting room often gets crowded but no advance reservations are required. Several picnic tables are available outside of the winery.
Unlike many Napa Valley wineries, typically the wine makers themselves, are here serving you the wine or at least family members. Custom Etching and their wine labels are all done by family. Our favorite, is their Royal Escort Vintage Port which will age well for many years. In fact, we have one in our cellar, hopefully getting even better and will open it for a very special occasion. Also try their delicious chocolate port candies as these go really well with their wines! Looking for still wines? Yes, Prager does make a Petite Sirah and a very sweet late harvest Riesling. Prager has been our only Napa Valley Winery to make our 9+ year old Tips of the Month list (Jan 2007) – on our sister travel site. Visit: www.pragerport.com
Wine with Tony