This winery is owned by winemaker Paul Smith – MarySue Frediani-Smith, Jim Frediani, Jeanne Frediani, Dick Vermeil and Carol Vermeil. Paul has a long history in the Napa Valley working at prestigious wineries such as Opus One, Robert Mondavi and Joseph Phelps. Wondering about the unique winery name of where their wines are produced “On the Edge Winery”? We were until we found out its based on the fact that their original winery property was located right on “the edge” of the Napa / Sonoma County line on top of the spine of the Mayacamas mountain range which separates both counties.
The winery itself was located off of Langtry Road not far from Cain Winery in the midst of the Spring Mountain District. Due to its isolated winery location, narrow windy roads and limited use permit – their “public face” is their tasting room in the town of Calistoga right next to the creek that runs through town and a tasting room in downtown Napa that opened in mid 2013. They have outdoor seating available at both locations; this certainly helps create a more enjoyable tasting experience during the warmer months.
Vermeil does not own a physical winery, as of our last update they were producing their wines at both Tamber Bey and Fairwinds Etate (both wineries located within the Calistoga sub appellation).
Much of their fruit source comes from the dry-farmed very historic Frediani Vineyard located on the valley floor just off of the Silverado Trail – a bit south of Calistoga. As you turn off of highway 29/128 at the stop sign onto Lincoln Ave (the main street through Calistoga), the tasting room is in a corner location 2 blocks down on your left side (look for the blue roof). Their tasting bar used to be located within the Hurd Beeswax Candle store which moved to the town of St. Helena and ultimately closed down. Guests who visited the tasting room prior to 2009 would be pleasantly surprised by the interior now – the inside space looks fantastic with plenty of open space with focus now being on the wine (rather then on other collectibles).
Famed football coach Dick Vermeil was born and raised in Calistoga and at one point coached at Napa College in the south part of the valley (Dick has made two trips to the Super Bowl). With a heritage that straddles both French and Italian, and given his place of birth, it is no surprise then that after a successful football career, Dick turned to wine. He is friends with the Frediani’s and teamed up with OnThEdge Winery to produce his own label (Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Proprietary red and a Cabernet Sauvignon). The first wine bottled under Dick Vermeil’s name was in 1999 – the Jean Louise Vermeil Cabernet Sauvignon by OnThEdge Winery.
A reasonable sized collection of memorabilia relating to his storied career is found within both tasting rooms including several footballs from his playing career and numerous photos. An autographed movie poster of “Invincible” hangs on the wall in their Calistoga tasting room. This movie is based on a true story of an out of work 30 year old who makes the Philadelphia Eagles in 1976 during an open tryout held by then coach Dick Vermeil.
The Calistoga Tasting Room opened in 2002 initially as OnThEdge Winery before much later converting to Vermeil Wines – making this one of the older tasting rooms in Calistoga – a town that has more recently embraced new tasting rooms. Vermeil Tasting Room is open to the public and walk-ins are welcome. A nice perk of a visit to their Calistoga tasting room is Vermeil often has older vintages available for tasting; this is fairly uncommon in Napa where most tasting rooms only pour current releases during their general tastings.
Be sure to open the “bee doors” in their Calistoga tasting room (one of the more interesting attractions found inside a Napa Valley tasting room). Built inside of the building’s wall is is a live colony of buzzing honeybees very much at work in their hive.
Tasting Room Calistoga
Several wines have stood out from our select tastings over the years. They make an excellent softer styled Charbono, an uncommon varietal in the Napa Valley which requires a very specific growing climate. There are just a few handful of wineries making this varietal in the Napa Valley and because of the northern valley’s unique growing climate Charbono production is centered here. In the summer, this varietal thrives on very hot days with much cooler nights – we’ve seen 50 degree temperature swings between night and day in the Calistoga area. Charbono is a unique grape, one that can have a very distinctive taste that is almost wild or gamey at times. The 2005 Vermeil Wines Charbono has some of this but also delicious fruit, soft tannins and a wonderful lingering finish. Their Syrahs are juicy in style with ripe concentrated fruit that makes for a very plush big mouth feel while still retaining a very nice softness. The 2004 Vermeil Wines Syrah shows excellent fruit with a core of black fruit including blackberry and black currant.
The tasting rooms also offer a vertical tasting of Zinfandels; you will pick up subtle nuances in aroma and flavor depending on the actual vintage. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is named Jean Louis Vermeil after two of Dick Vermeils’ great grandfathers. Dick and his wife literally helped hand craft this particular wine. In an interesting twist of fate, Dick’s ancestors used to own the Frediani Vineyard which supplied OnThEdge Winery most of their fruit. This Cabernet Sauvignon has already received some very good press and high ratings by respected wine critics.
Several of their wines are named for the year when their vineyards were first planted including the 1908 Late Harvest Zinfandel harvested from 100+ year old Zinfandel vines. Yes, this is definitely considered “old vine zin”! Their 2003 vintage is certainly not the overly ripe, viscous, prune-like late harvests you can sometimes find, rather the sugar level is controlled with just the right amount of tartness to actually make this wine ok to pair with food including a variety of steaks and or spicy food. The well structured finish shows good tannins and is part of the reason why this “dessert” wine can be paired with a meal (to help cut through the tannins).
Napa Tasting Room. In summer of 2013 Vermeil opened a prominent tasting room in downtown Napa on First Street. This spacious facility has a bar for walk in tastings, sit down for a more relaxed tasting and a room that can be reserved by groups for private tastings. As expected, a plethora of Dick’s football memorabilia is on display here, lining one of the walls with historic photos and articles about his storied career. No surprise are the TV playing football games that greet you when you enter. They are open till 10pm or 11pm depending on the day of the week – the tasting rooms takes on more of a lounge atmosphere at that point. There are plenty of restaurants easily within walking distance of their tasting room as are other tasting rooms.
Tasting Room, Napa
For information about the Vermeil wines and both of their tasting rooms, or to join their wine club, visit the website: www.vermeilwines.com