RustRidge Winery is one of the furthest wineries located from Napa Valley which can still be considered a Napa winery. Note they even have a St. Helena address although they are located about 40 minutes from the actual town but only about 20-25 minutes from the valley floor. This is the only winery we know of in the Chiles Valley open by walk-in. Because they are located in rural Napa County, people don’t just usually “stumble” on this winery – rather it is a destination. A visit here is like going to a different world compared to the typical Napa valley floor tasting experience.
The winery sits in Chiles Valley accessed via Chiles & Pope Valley Road and then Lower Chiles Valley, both of these roads typically have very few cars on them. They are winding roads that head through the eastern Napa hills. This originally was a working ranch dating from the 1950′s for thoroughbred racehorses. There are still horses on the property but today the property contains the winery, and a lovely South Western style clean rustic B&B with a pool and a tennis court. If you stay here there are lots of things to keep you busy. Its rural Napa and as a result there is plenty of bird watching (35 different species have been identified on the property), hiking or if the weather is decent, just sit around the pool relaxing and reading a good book. Or if you happen to be there for harvest, the owners Jim and Susan might even put you to work!
Driving into the ranch is like driving back in time to how the Napa Valley floor must have been many years ago with dirt roads, pastures, horses, and a totally rural setting. Susan is the winemaker and Jim runs the day to day operations; he was a former horse racer who grew up in Hollywood and was in the film industry for many years. In addition he worked with a trainer that was part of famed racing horse Seabiscuit’s team and when this trainer died, Jim inherited a number of Seabiscuit’s riding items (saddle, helmet, twitch and whip), which are now on display at their Bed & Breakfast. The winery sits against the hills at the back of the property and the relaxed style tasting is held in a room adjacent to many of their wine barrels. Their pricing is very reasonable by Napa standards and unlike many Napa wineries, they often have older vintages available for sale.
Some of our favorites are their 2005 Estate Chardonnay, the Sauvignon Blanc, & the Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnay is aged surlee which helps give a rounded whole mouth feel to the wine. In addition different yeasts are used in each barrel bringing further complexity to this wine. All grapes for this wine were dry farmed. The 2006 Sauvignon Blanc is a veritable treasure of tropical aromas which also carry onto the palate as flavor. Also check out their Racehorse Red & White labels as well as the Zinfandel. The well-known Rosenblum Cellars has part ownership in this winery and Kent Rosenblum is the consulting winemaker. Zinfandel is Rosenblum’s by far most produced varietal and it only makes sense that RustRidge also produces a Zin! Also of note is their wine has appeared in several Hollywood movies.
Rustridge in conjunction with Napa Valley Adventure Tours mow offers mountain bike tours for 6-10 people per outing. The ride takes place on the ranch, typically in the morning and then returns to the winery for lunch combined with wine tasting. For more information and to make reservations visit: www.napavalleyadventuretours.com
Wine with Tony