Tamber Bey Vineyards released their first commercial vintage in 2001 and now produce over 5,000 cases (and growing). Tamber Bey was the first “new” public tasting room to open in St. Helena; however in late 2013, they closed their tasting room and moved to and opened a new winery location off of Tubbs Lane in Calistoga.
The tasting room is first rate; is spacious and well appointed. It is so nice when you are able to talk to someone knowledgeable about the wine at a public tasting room (as is the case here) rather than someone who just “pours” wine. Their offices adjoin the tasting room and the owner Barry Waitte is often here.
The tasting menu includes several flight options and you can buy wine by the glass or by the bottle. Check out the cool “water” bottles featuring fine filtered St. Helena tap water with owner Barry’s humor showing through on the back label! You can also enjoy their wine outside in their courtyard(small tables). And if you are going to do a tasting here, you can bring food and eat your lunch here.
Tamber Bey owns two vineyards, each very different from the other in terms of soils and microclimates – despite being only about 1500 feet apart. One is located in the Oakville AVA and one in the Yountville AVA. The Oakville Vineyard is 11 acres and is planted in clone 337 Cabernet Sauvignon (a Bordeaux varietal known for small berries & intense flavors). Their 60 acre “Deux Chevaux Vineyard” in Yountville is planted with several varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Unlike most area wineries who make their wine at one winery, Tamber Bey makes their wine at several wineries within Napa. Barry used to vacation in the Napa Valley as a child and fell in love with the wine country. He enjoys endurance horse racing and the name Tamber Bey comes from shortening and combining the names of two of his former race horses.
We’ve seen a number of wineries named after dogs, but this is the first one in our Napa odyssey that is named after horses. Their “mythical” horse appears on all their labels. As of press time they focus on five wines. Their wines are fermented with native yeasts.
The 2005 Chardonnay is a gorgeous wine that shows a nice golden color in the glass. It is usually their first wine to sell out due to its limited production and popularity. The grapes sourced for this wine (Dijon clone) are also used for another local wineries’ high end Chardonnay. This wine is barrel fermented for a lengthy 17 months and for a long portion of that time is not stirred during the aging. The thinking behind this is that if you stop agitating the wine you will better preserve the inherent flavors of the fruit (including citrus) as well as the wine’s structure. Due to the popularity of this wine, Tamber Bey added another 4 acres of this specific Chardonnay clone.
As of the time of this review, they make an extremely small quantity of Merlot (under 200 cases). They produce two Cabernet’s each from the two aforementioned vineyards. The 2008 Deux Chevaux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is a great value. Its a wine with nice complexities in the nose as well as layers of aroma. The entry on the palate is rather soft but then the layers of flavor show mid palate – blackberry, dark chocolate and just a trace of oak on the finish. Their newest wine is called Rabicano, named after a horse coat color. Their first vintage was merely 350 cases but quickly sold out – the next vintage jumped to 1200 cases. This is a food friendly wine with a pleasing mid palate and a smooth super long finish.
The Oakville Cabernet is their flagship wine; the 2004 is already a well balanced wine with flavors of licorice and even hints of black fig. Let this wine age for a few years and you will see what the Oakville terroir is really capable of! The tannins do not disrupt and only add depth to the long finish. You can find their wines locally at ACME Wine Shop and Dean & Deluca, both located in the town of St. Helena.
Serious wine enthusiasts can make an appointment to visit and taste at their Yountville Estate (also home for their Arabian endurance horses which Barry regularly rides). Visit: www.tamberbey.com or follow on Twitter: @tamberbey
In late summer 2013, Tamber Bey unveiled their new location (Sundance Ranch) on Tubbs Lane just north of the town of Calistoga. The use of the property is unique – an existing building was converted to a winery, and a prior house now serves as the tasting room. However what is rare in Napa is this property combines Barry’s love of the equestrian world with his love of the wine world. There is space for more than 40 horses on the 22 acres and at any given time a number of horses are always kept here including a number of horses owned by area vintners. A full time horse trainer lives on site – some of their more exotic horses include Arabian endurance race horses.
They offer a number of tastings here but none as unique as the wine paired with cookie tasting! They have partnered with a local cookie chef in the city of Napa – and each cookie was specially created to pair with one of their wines. Names such as Wasabi Ginger, Black Bacon, and Cardamom Crunch gives you an idea of the diversity of flavors offered.