has a rich history; the buildings on site date from the 1880′s. The winery is located all by itself in the Mayacamas mountain range off of the Petrified Forest Road about a 1.5 mile drive from the valley floor and 10 minutes from Calistoga. This is one of the most easily accessible wineries in any of the hills above Napa Valley and they are open 7 days/week. The actual winery sits near the edge of the Diamond Mountain District. They are in a stunning location, set among the trees on the side of vineyard planted hillsides. A gravel tree covered road leads off from a steep grade on the often crowded Petrified Forest Road (people use this as a commute road between Sonoma and Napa county) and then winds up the hill for about 1/2 mile where parking is next to the historic house and tasting room.
The property has been with the same family since 1958 but their first harvest was in 1985. The original owner bought the land in the 1880′s with profits made after he followed a great tip to invest in the Comstock Lode Silver Mine. Picnic tables for customers are located at the base of the vineyard hill near the long chicken coop – this is a very quiet relaxing location for enjoying wine with your lunch. It has not been uncommon for marriage proposals to occur on the winery grounds! If the weather permits and you have time you can walk on the edge of the main vineyard to the top of the hill for spectacular views. If that is too far, you can walk a few minutes past the old barn to the edge of their other hillside vineyard which is located on very steep slopes directly above the main Petrified Forest Road. Again, on a clear day you will find tremendous views of the rolling hills in the northern part of the Napa Valley as well as of the tallest mountain, Mt. St. Helena to the north.
We have visited Graeser several times, the latest was after four solid weeks of smoke and hazy days from those infamous California summer fires. Our visit coincided with the first really bright blue sunny day and was perfect for photography with an explosion of the normal expected summertime blue and green colors. Graeser has a partnership with the Spirits in Stone Gallery and you will often see African Shona carvings (from Zimbabwe) lining the walkway to the tasting room as well as located in and around the garden area. These statues are for sale and do rotate depending on how often they sell. As long time collectors and supporters of the Shona artwork, we were pleasantly surprised to find these statues at the winery. The tasting experience is low key and relaxed – nothing about the property screams “new Napa” as you often find along the busy wine strip south of St. Helena to about Oakville. A wooden framed gallery room is located next to the tasting counter and this is for winery events and features rotating works of art.
A wide variety of wines are made here, all are available in limited production and often the winemaker owner Richard Graeser is in the tasting room – as he lives on site. He “fell” into the wine business as a second career after coming to the property to assist his mother in settling her affairs in the early 1980′s. However his mother passed on within the month and as a result, Richard inherited the property and then decided to plant vineyards. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot are grown on site – they do source fruit from several area vineyards. It is hard to find Semillion in the Napa area, especially as a 100% varietal wine. Graeser’s 2005 is a an excellent vintage. It has a big mouth feel, with some tropical aromas including honeysuckle. There are some mineral notes on the bouquet which are also found on the palate. There is great fruit in this wine and the long finish lingers with notes of melon and apricot.
Richard is a big fan of dogs and a number of his wines have dogs on the labels. You will probably see some of his dogs lying around the tasting room – they even have their own wines named after themselves! Case in point are the Two Dog Merlot and Jack’s Cabernet Sauvignon. A wine we really enjoyed was the 2003 Coeur De Leon Estate and is a perfect example of why you blend. With 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc the end result is a wine with a great depth of flavor. The nose is big in fruit with some nuances of vanilla and mocha and is a good giveaway to the richness of the actual palate. Blackberry, leather tobacco and cassis lead to a finish that is delicately peppery. Graeser also makes a Zinfandel and an estate Cabernet Franc blend.
Finished your main tasting? Enjoy port? If Richard is around he can take you downstairs to the barrel room. He calls this room “funky” and it is, yet at the same time is functional and that is all that really matters. It is rare to find a Port of Merlot from Napa and Graeser makes a fantastic version called Succulence. We tried the 2007 from barrel – while very young at the time of our sample this wine already showed excellent complexity and great fruit flavors including cherry and raspberry. Pair this with dark chocolate or for you tobacco smokers, it will go well with a nice cigar. The wine prices are very reasonable for such low production and distribution and often there are older vintages available for sale. Their wines are meant to be paired with food and this is where they really shine. Also note that they conduct sit down private tastings inside the main house which dates from 1875. Click on our photos link above to view some of the interior rooms of this house. Visit: www.graeserwinery.com
NOTE: this winery is currently closed to the public – and the property is for sale. We will update new information here as it becomes available.
NOTE: This review has been archived.
REASON: Stopped producing wine commercially, went bankrupt. Property sold to new owners and new vineyards have been since planted
Marget lane says
Please provide information or contact for sale of Graeser Vineyard/winery
We love this place and the history
We are lookinng for a vineyard property