Summers Estate Wines is well worth your time to visit for their low key atmosphere and very personable tasting room…but you really come here for the excellent wines. Summers is owned by Jim (Mr. Charbono) and Beth Summers. The winery entrance is almost across the street from Envy Winery on Tubbs Lane just west of the Old Faithful Geyser. Their wines are sourced from two vineyards they own, from the 25-acre estate property that surrounds the winery as well as from the first vineyard they purchased from nearby Knights Valley.
Knights Valley is located just to the north of Calistoga in neighboring Sonoma County. Jim purchased 29-acres here in 1987. At the time of purchase this vineyard predominately Merlot – planted by one of Napa’s well known vintners, Dan Duckhorn. Today they source Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah from this vineyard.
However, the wine they are probably most known for is their Charbono – this is not made by many Napa Valley wineries and is a real treat to taste. In fact, to the best of their knowledge Summers owns the largest Charbono vineyard in the world; a fairly small sized 14 acres! A handful of vines are in the 60-85 year old range. When they acquired the Calistoga property in 1996, the vines had been left unattended for a number of of years, so they spent significant time improving the vineyards. Part of that improvement was taking bud wood from some of the oldest Charbono vines which formed the basis for their much newer vineyard.
The sweet spot for growing Charbono in the Napa Valley is in the Calistoga area. This is a varietal that during the growing season likes warm days and cool nights which describes the Calistoga area perfectly. Summers even makes a rosé of Charbono, one of only several in the Napa Valley doing so. The well known UC Davis professor, Carole Meredith conducted DNA Testing on this varietal and found out that it is actually a French varietal called Corbeau.
We also tried a very light 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Rose which is a good patio and pool sipping wine with characteristic strawberry and watermelon notes. The 2005 Merlot from their Knights Valley Vineyard is a crowd pleaser. Priced affordable, full bodied but nicely balanced it displays plenty of delicious chocolate and cherry flavors.
Winemaker Ignacio Blancas is also their vineyard manager; he was instrumental in replanting much of their vineyards. It is quite common for winemakers to work at a number of wineries throughout there career; not so with Ignacio – he has been at Summers Estate for many years.
Enjoy sweet wines? Their Muscat Canelli is a delicious very sweet wine with stone fruit driven aromas, but it is not syrupy or too viscous. It is a light wine and the finish is quick. Some of their wines are made in such low quantities they may not be available for tasting or are only available for purchase at the winery.
The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Port is a perfect balance between fruit, alcohol and sweetness. Rich ripe aromas follow onto the palate including chocolate, mocha and cherry. This is one of our favorites! They often make a port of Petite Sirah. All their wines are priced quite reasonably for Napa standards generally from the $20 to $50 range.
One common thread throughout all of their wines is they are approachable now and are meant to be enjoyed without lengthy cellar aging.
From the back porch, there are great views of Mt. St. Helena (tallest mountain in the region). Both the hospitality building and the winery are surrounded by vineyards. Views of a pasture, horses and nearby vineyards can be seen from the glass doors behind the tasting room. A picnic area and bocce ball court is available.
During slow tasting days combined with nice weather you may sit and taste at the rod iron tables located just outside their indoor tasting room. Note that one strip of land next to the winery cannot be used for growing grapes as it is sitting on an aquifer and the land is very high in borax.
Once a year they have an open house type event (Valentines/Presidents Day weekend) featuring current releases of their wines, chocolate and other Hors d’oeuvres. The staff is very hospitable; both Jim and Ignacio are often around,sometimes Ignacio gives short tours – for a more in depth look into how their wines are made. For more information visit: www.summerswinery.com