Robert Sinskey Vineyards is located against the hills on the eastern side of Silverado Trail. Their motto is “fine wines from organic vines”. Sinskey was founded by Dr. Robert (Bob) Sinskey in 1988 and his son Robert runs the winery.
The stone-walled tasting room is elegantly designed and the long semi-rounded tasting counter can accommodate many people. It can get very crowded here especially on the weekends in summer. Choose from tasting flights interestingly titled “Excessive” and “Gluttonous”. However their wines fulfill neither of these two words – as elegant and delicious are two words that come to mind. Food is always a component of a visit here; each flight is served with delicious small appetizers. Their philosophy is wine pairs much better with food and we are definitely not one to argue this!
Many visitors may not know Robert Sinskey has a cave on site – the cave actually opens up into the back of the hospitality center – past the kitchen (during many visits here the doors to the cave are usually closed).
They own and manage 200 acres (all certified organic); as of 2008 all their vineyards are farmed biodynamically. Biodynamic farming involves three things; building the health of the soil naturally using special natural compost, philosophically farm (prune and harvest based on phases of the moon and planets, and control pests and diseases without chemicals (cover crops, use plants that attract beneficial insects). The winery also uses solar cells to power the majority of the winery operations and even brews their own bio-diesel (from used restaurant oil) for use in their trucks and tractors.
Maria Sinskey, their well-known culinary director is in charge of all their food operations. She manages a beautiful kitchen near the tasting counter and is also in charge of their organic gardens. As a result, some of the ingredients for these food pairings come from their on site gardens (it is refreshing to visit a winery that uses a wide variety of edible landscaping). Maria is a published author and has appeared on TV food shows many times. During one of our visits we found the food pairings included Zucchini & Goat cheese with Thyme, Gouda with Fig & Quince jam, and some very nice Tuscan style olives.
Worth visiting, is the outdoor terrace (planted to many small fig trees) – offering excellent views of the Napa Valley looking to the west (especially in the morning hours).
One of the several fires in October 2017 crept to within several feet of the hospitality center – burning a number of vines adjacent to the winery on a hillside and burning some of the property’s landscaping. Remarkably and fortunately the hospitality center did not actually burn but ultimately the hillside vineyard next to the winery had to be replanted.
Try the Abraxas; it is an interesting Alsatian-style blend you won’t find anywhere else in Napa containing Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Blanc. This wine sees no oak during fermentation and aging and is clean and crisp on the palate. The 2013 Abraxis Vin de Terroir is very pale in color in the glass. This wine shows floral aromas as well as citrus blossom, pineapple that is not super ripe, hints of honey and some mineralities. It is light on the palate with a clean, lively finish.
The premium Pinot noir is appropriately called ‘Four Vineyards’ sourced from four different vineyards in the Carneros region. The 2012 shows a pretty bouquet with cherry cola notes, vanilla and some spicy oak notes. The wine is soft and delicate on the palate with a perceptible blood orange acidity component that lingers with a light tartness on the finish. Compared to their more widely distributed Pinot Noir, this wine has a very limited production.
POV is a term found in photography; Dr. Sinskey was a photographer and several of his images grace the labels of the wine. The POV is a Bordeaux blend in which the varietal percentages change every year. The 2011 shows some initial dustiness on the bouquet with red chili pepper component and even a hint of Jalapeno pepper. Their is an initial sweetness of fruit on the palate – the tannins linger for some time and are slightly astringent. This wine has plenty of aging life ahead.
The Robert Sinskey wines tend to age well – and the 2006 Stags Leap Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a good example of this. This wine drinks much younger than it’s actual vintage. Nine years later this wine is still anchored by robust somewhat tight tannins. Definitely recommended to decant first.
The 2005 Vandal Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is from the Carneros region. There are very few Napa wineries who make Cabernet Sauvignon from Carneros due to its cooler climate but Sinskey does an excellent job with this one. It doesn’t have the high alcohol that you find in some of the up valley Cabernets and on the other hand its doesn’t have any vegetal characteristics as you might find from a cooler growing region. They call this the Cabernet for Pinot Noir drinkers. Bright acidity with lively fruit including plum, berry and currant combined with silky smooth tannins make this a refined elegant wine.
The Vandal Vineyard is located just outside of the Napa city limits and is named appropriately – in reference to several children who burned a mattress at the top of the vineyard and then decided to take a tractor for a ride. After enjoying their time on the tractor they jumped off leaving the tractor to continue its downhill run, ripping out Cabernet Franc vines on its way down ultimately rolling over and becoming destroyed before stopping at the bottom.
Lastly of note, their late harvest Zinfandel is one of the best of its kind that we have tasted in Napa Valley and that is saying a lot. Only a 1/3 of an acre is planted; during one of our visits the writing on the blackboard screamed “an erotic experience when paired with chocolate”. Nice! Delicious ripe fruit is complemented with a variety of subtle spices including cedar and vanilla with just a touch of minerality towards the finish.
Instead of just walking in and tasting, consider a Culinary Tour which starts at 11am M-Thursday or a Cave & Cellar tour or their Bento Box tasting which includes five seasonal wine & food pairings – food in a box. The above tours are by appointment only and are limited to 6 or less.
Tours can be arranged by appointment only. Sinskey has a sense of humor – all employees have interesting titles such as “drifter”, “zen master”, “motivational goddess” etc!
Lastly, check out their extensive and very informative website. Visit: www.robertsinskey.com
NOTE: if we get around to ever chatting with and or interviewing Robert Sinskey, this review would then have the potential to be one of the longer reviews on the Napa Wine Project…just a feeling.
Vandal Vineyard, Carneros