Madrigal Family Winery is located a ‘shoe strings’ length from Highway 29 and near Bale Lane north of the town of St. Helena. During the early 1990s the Madrigals managed a 40-acre property called the Alluvial Vineyard for vintner Dan Duckhorn. In 1994 Dan offered to sell them the site and the Madrigals purchased what would eventually be home to their winery.
Their first vintage was in 1995 of Petite Sirah purchased from a family friend; they crushed at Napa Wine Co for many years before putting the finishing touches on their own winery in mid 2007. The facility is also home to several small premium producers who custom crush on site. Their 40-acre property and winery is planted to nearly 31 acres of vines encompassing 10 different varieties including, Grenache and Tempranillo, somewhat rare varieties in Napa Valley.
The Madrigal family has a long history in Napa Valley starting with the patriarch, Jacinto Madrigal who came to Napa Valley from Mexico in 1938. The Madrigal’s were either the first or among the first Latino families to settle in Calistoga. At the time Jacinto settled about halfway between St. Helena to the south and Calistoga to the north. Farming in the valley back then was orchards of apples, pears, walnuts as well as grapes. Napa Valley of the 1930s and 1940s was a different agricultural Napa Valley then and was not a monoculture wine grape crop as today.
Jacinto’s son Jess began Madrigal Vineyard Management in 1984 with as he told us, “a pickup truck and several pairs of pruning shears.” Jess’s son Chris Madrigal joined the management company in 1985. Their first client was Duckhorn’s well-regarded Three Palms Vineyard just south of Calistoga. Currently their company farms over 800 acres of vines with a focus on Calistoga and Howell Mountain. Their own vineyard is both alluvial (close to Highway 29) and becomes more clay-like on the portions of their property that border the Napa River.
Chris founded the winery and often is in the cellar or tasting room. His wife Christine used to run a small wine brand called Two Wives with her friend Elizabeth. They founded their brand in 2004 and for several years, produced a Sauvignon Blanc and a rosé.
Tastings are sometimes hosted by one of the family members; this is very relaxed, unscripted, no hype and no pressure experience. With a winery such as this one that has low production, relationships with customers are key and they often know many of their clientele. They are very hospitable. The tasting is held at the small bar inside the winery or weather permitting outside on their deck among a number of tables and chairs. Visiting the Napa Valley in September? Madrigal hosts their annual harvest harvest party and grape stomp which is always enjoyable. Check their website for details.
In 2013 San Francisco based private investment firm Bacchus Capital Management took ownership of a large percentage of Madrigal Winery. This company maintains a small portfolio of wineries it has invested in; locally they formerly invested in Napa Valley’s Andretti Winery.
Madrigal is not making homogenized wines; these wines are all unique with their own characteristics both on the bouquet and palate focusing more on the variety rather than wine making styles. The several Madrigal bottlings we have tried over the years have all been textured to be approachable in their youth. And the wines tend to be higher in alcohol.
The 2022 Madrigal Family Winery Sauvignon Blanc Calistoga Estate is medium yellow in color; the highly appealing bouquet shows sweet floral aromas including of star jasmine, citrus blossom and honeysuckle along with notes of ripe pineapple and stone fruits including apricot and yellow peach. It also offers scents of ripe pear and mango. There is nothing green or grassy about its aromatics. This wine shows some mineralities on the palate along with flavors of pineapple, white peach, ripe pomelo, other citrusy notes (especially noticeable on the finish) and tarragon. Its texture shows some pronounced weight with a mouth feel that is creamy and velvety. This is a very rich bottling with persistent flavors on the long and bright finish.
The 2014 Madrigal Family Winery Sauvignon Blanc was sourced from mostly dry-farmed vines in Yountville, some of which are up to 50 years old (certainly among the oldest Sauvignon Blanc vines in Napa Valley). The wine is 100% varietal. This wine shows pretty aromatics of peach married with citrus blossom. As the wine opens it becomes slightly tropical offering notes of honeysuckle. On the palate the fruit is ripe but not over ripe; it is a balanced bottling showcasing bright acidity and lingers with a crispness of lime zest.
The 2018 Madrigal Family Winery Zinfandel Napa Valley is medium ruby/garnet in color; the bouquet offers aromatics of cherry pie, a candied sweet fruitiness, chocolate, sweet tobacco, red licorice, plum and a union of toasted oak and darker dessert spices. The palate offers flavors of cherry, raspberry and strawberry. Its texture feels slightly creamy with a rounded and a very soft tannin profile. This wine lingers with both flavor, a slight warmth of alcohol and some notes of white pepper. We would perhaps pair this with a tomato based Italian meatball recipe.
The 2019 Madrigal Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley is deep ruby in color; the aromatics are initially earthy along with notes of mocha, chocolate and a sweet tobacco spice. It takes some time for the fruit to open but when it does it offers scents of blackberry, blueberry and black plum along with dried darker berries. Some of the aromatics are echoed as flavors including of blackberry and dark plum along with some dark pepper spices. The tannins are fine-grained and linger with a light dryness, a darker woodsy spice and mouth-watering acidity. The finish is slightly savory. This wine is very approachable in its youth.
The 2011 Madrigal Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon is from vines farmed at an elevation of about 1300 feet on the slopes of Atlas Peak. The bouquet shows a white pepper component along with dusty/earthy aromas. As the bouquet continues to open more fruit is revealed while the other aromas are relegated to the background. This wine has an appealing flavor profile with good acidity. A tartness lingers on the finish for some time framed by delicate tannins which show more on the front of the palate than the back and are slightly chalky in nature.
Chris enjoys making a Tempranillo (a lighter red wine); this is a tribute to a variety that was commonly planted in earlier field blends in Napa Valley. The 2013 Madrigal Family Winery Tempranillo shows generous fruit aromas on the bouquet complemented by an earthiness and a subtle smoky characteristic. The palate reveals flavors of chocolate, red cherry and strawberry.
The 2005 Madrigal Family Winery Pinot Noir was sourced from the cooler growing climate of Anderson Valley in Mendocino County to the north. They have managed vineyards in this valley for a number of years and know all the “sweet spots” for the premium grapes. This is a rich full-bodied wine and was one of the few Anderson Valley Pinot Noir bottlings produced from a winery located in the northern part of Napa Valley. The aromas reminded us of of leather and cedar followed by pleasant fruit flavors including strawberry and cherry. Madrigal no longer produces Pinot Noir; their last vintage from this variety was in 2006.
Madrigal is perhaps most well-known for their concentrated and richly flavored Petite Sirah. The 2012 Madrigal Family Winery Petite Sirah is a remarkable wine and an example of a wine from this variety that is in balance (not always the case with a young Petite Sirah). It is noticeably dark in the glass as this variety tends to be. The bouquet is well-layered and continues to show additional complexities of aromas as it opens. It is meaty and savory with plenty of black fruit including blackberry. On the palate it is juicy and layered with an almost sediment like tannin framework that lingers for some time. Some tannins from youthful Petite Sirahs are massive; this is not one of those. And regardless of the vintage the Madrigal Petite Sirah would pair very well with grilled or BBQ meat.
Enjoy a good port-style wine? Their dessert styled Petite Syrah is delicious. This is a variety that is not often made into a fortified wine in Napa Valley. This one doesn’t grab you like some ports that use cheap brandy, rather it is light without syrupy characteristics so that the fruit remains the star of the show rather than the sugar and heavy viscosity. Their wines are structured so that they can be consumed now or also aged.
Madrigal produces a number of other wines including a red blend called Tres Tesoros (the three treasures in Spanish) named in homage to Chris’s three children. Madrigal also has a strong following for their Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings.
Sausalito Tasting Room (permanently closed)
In August 2014, the Madrigal’s opened a tasting room in Sausalito located at 819 Bridgeway which was located a few minutes from the Sausalito Ferry Terminal. From a hospitality point of view this was a smart move as the Napa Valley is full of tasting rooms (perhaps to the point of over saturation), with numerous options to choose from ranging from Calistoga to the city of Napa. Sausalito has not yet been a destination for winery tasting rooms, so this location made perfect sense. Numerous visitors arrive from San Francisco on weekends. A popular transportation option is either biking across the Golden Gate Bridge and then returning on the ferry or making it a round trip bike tour; Sausalito is certainly also on the radar for many tourists who visit San Francisco.
Note: we keep these notes here for historical reference only, as this tasting closed permanently in 2020.
The Sausalito Ferry Terminal is only about a 25-minute ride from the Ferry Building in San Francisco. And from where it departs in Sausalito, it was only about a 5-minute walk to the Madrigal Family tasting room. And one was able to make a short trip to Larkspur (about 15 minutes with no traffic) to catch the (Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) train to various north bay destinations. Once in Sausalito, one is treated to stellar views overlooking the Bay and San Francisco in the distance. Sausalito is known for boutique shops and restaurants.
The tasting room held a number of private events and often worked with tech companies who wanted to treat employees to wine tasting and special events including blind tastings. In addition, Sausalito holds several prominent events each year including the Jazz & Blues by the Bay and the Art Festival. Madrigal Vineyards participated in both of these events.
If Madrigal ever opens another satellite tasting room in this part of the San Francisco Bay, we will visit and update our notes and photography here.
Madrigal Tasting Room, Sausalito (permanently closed)
Total annual production is around 6,000 cases. Sometimes select library wines are available for purchase. For more information, to schedule an appointment or to join one of their wine club membership levels (La Familia, Heritage, Rio Vuelta), visit: www.madrigalfamilywinery.com