The Wine Thief is a multi-vintner tasting room located on the corner of First and McKinstry Streets across from the Oxbow Public Market just east of downtown Napa. This is a partnership between three individuals; Andrew Renda (former Director of Sales at the nearby Vintner’s Collective), Garrett Ahnfeldt, proprietor of G Wine Cellars and Todd Richter (a contractor who is responsible for creating much of the interior design inside the tasting room including the cabinets).
Andrew was introduced to wine while working in restaurants in the Boston area. He eventually worked at wine shops before he and his girlfriend at the time – sold mostly everything they owned, quit their respective jobs and drove across country to the Napa Valley (without any jobs lined up). Within several weeks Andrew had secured a job at Vintner’s Collective. While working there he was introduced to the owners of numerous mostly small Napa producers including Garrett. Both had talked about collaborating on a project – and when this space was mentioned to Garrett as being on the market, the timing was right to create a partnership and establish this wine collective.
The vintners represented here are small – usually in the 500 case to 3,000 case range. These producers focus on high quality limited production wines and unless you work in the Napa wine industry are names you generally will not have heard of. The focus of the wines offered are Cabernet Sauvignon and red wines – but there are several whites available, Pinot Noir and a rosé. The wines are available at a wide range of price points.
To succeed in Napa as a collective strong relationships between the vintner partners is a necessary criteria. The vintners represented all know each other and in some cases have been friends for years. Another important factor is the location of the tasting room; this is a prime corner spot in a busy part of Napa – they are also surrounded by several other tasting rooms.
How come the name “wine thief”? Andy and Garrett were having lunch across the street on the patio at Kitchen Door Restaurant and realized their tasting room had been under construction for some time but they still were without a name. Brainstorming for a while they touched on a number of common names that collectives often take – but then Garrett suggested Wine Thief. It is a catchy name to someone outside of the industry who perhaps isn’t aware of the winery tool by the same name – and is also appealing to those who work within the industry.
Inline with the name of the tasting room, they are collecting wine thiefs from around the Napa Valley and beyond – including some unique as well as historical thiefs. They already have a large bulbous wine thief that dates from the 1880’s. Part of their collection will include wine thiefs signed by Napa winemakers. Eventually many of these will be displayed behind the tasting bar.
Also note the lighting fixtures – these were hand blown by a Hawaiian artist who is also a professor at the University of Hawaii.
The Wine Thief offers a variety of tasting options for the visitor. Wines are available simply by walking in and choosing from two flights at the tasting counter or from one of two automatic dispenser Wine Stations (by the taste, by the half glass or by the glass). The flights offer either four or six wines but these are not set wines – rather based on the variety of wines offered by the multiple producers, customers can often pick out certain wines to try – or let one of the hosts choose the wines based on personal preferences in taste and wine styles. Private tastings can be arranged by making an appointment in advance.
The social aspects of a visit here are important – they have several stand around tables as well as a community table where you can share wines and experiences with your neighbors. An ideal question to ask at this table (a common question among visitors who do not know each other but share a common interest in wine) is, “what are some of your Napa favorites?”
Appointments can also be made to try the current release of any of the wines from the represented vintners in one of the two private rooms on site.
Along with other tasting rooms that have opened in the valley in the past few years, a culinary aspect can be a part of the experience here. A small commercial kitchen is on site and plans call for sourcing from local producers to pair charcuterie and other small plates with their wines for the private tastings.
For more information visit: www.thewinethiefnapa.com