Tofanelli Winery farms their vineyards primarily on a 40 acre estate set right behind (north of) Sterling Winery and near Clos Pegase. This is a very unique tasting experience as the tasting is entirely conducted within the vineyard (no structures on site) – the owner/winemaker Vince will meet you right next to the road which is adjacent to one side of his vineyards. There aren’t as many literally down to earth tasting experiences as this one available in the Napa Valley. No structures to taste in, just you, the winemaker and the wine out in the vineyards (note: Vince has since moved his tastings into his shared tasting room in downtown Calistoga).
This is one of only two tastings we’ve experienced in Napa where part of the tasting was out of the back of a truck. Sweet! Much of the vineyard was planted in the 1929/1930 growing season by his grandparents and a majority of these original vines remain. This property has been within the family for many years and originally started out with grapes, prunes and walnuts.
This is one of the best very few remaining examples of pre WWII vines and grape growing in Napa Valley – no trellising is used here at all, rather the vines are “head trained” so the vines drape over the center of the plant. You won’t see the “wires” that almost all the other area vineyards use in their trellising systems.
Additionally, the vines are dry farmed- the soil is tilled to 5 or 6 inches in depth which acts as an insulating layer and keeps the deeper soil somewhat moist even throughout the hot summer months. If its dry, pick up some of the soil in your hands as we did. Its rich and very fertile. Tofanelli was never one to to use herbicides and pesticides – they’ve stayed true to their roots so to speak and are among the longest organically farmed vineyards in the valley. You don’t need to be certified if you know you have been farming organically since day one on a vineyard that is fairly sizable.
Tofanelli specializes in two wines – Zinfandel and Charbono. Not a lot of wineries in the Napa area make Charbono and theirs is an excellent example of what you can do with this fruit. The 2005 vintage is balanced and the tannins are well managed and despite it being high in alcohol content the alcohol itself doesn’t actually overpower the wine.
The 2005 Zinfandel is a rich wine and if you let it sit for a while it will really open up both in aromas and on the palate. It explodes with fruit flavors yet also retains an elegant side. Nice blackberry, black cherry and a characteristic Zin spiciness. Just look at the varietals they grow – Charbono, Semillon, Carignane, Grenache, Mondeuse Noir and Cinsault. Yes, this vineyard is in Napa! We guarantee you won’t find this type of varietal selection at any other Napa vineyards.
The 2008 Zinfandel shows a lot of fruit on the nose – blackberry, boysenberry – almost a candied fruit characteristic. The fruit is focused and rich on the mid palate with lingering notes of both fruit and alcohol on the finish. The tannins are more refrained and somewhat delicate. The wine is 15.5% alcohol.
The 2012 Tofanelli Petite Sirah is shows red with purple tinges in the glass with a pronounced floral quality to the bouquet (violets and dried rose petal). This wine delivers a richness of flavor yet is also well balanced with acidity and tannin structure. The tannins are not course but certainly noticeable – somewhat dry with lingering notes of red cherry and just a hint of mocha/toffee on the finish.
Local high end wineries recognize Tofanelli’s commitment to quality and purchase fruit. Wineries such as Turley, Spottswood, Schrader, Orin Swift, Neyers and Duckhorn have all purchased fruit from Vince. He has a bonded winery in the back of his home but makes his wine at a nearby winery. You can also arrange to do your tasting at the actual winery but if the weather permits we highly recommend the vineyard tasting experience as there is no other experience in Napa quite like it. Give Vince a call to make an appointment!
Tofanelli was a part of a shared tasting room called Up Valley Vintners – open to the public, located at 1371 Lincoln Ave in downtown Calistoga. NOTE: this tasting room closed in late 2016 and Tofanelli wines, as far as we know has not opted for another public tasting room space. www.tofanelliwine.com
A few videos about how Vince manages his old vineyard: