Tank Garage Winery was originally formed as a partnership between Napa Valley wine industry veterans James Harder and Jim Regusci. This was not their first venture together in the valley; they both worked together at James Cole Winery and the former nearby T-Vine Cellars Tasting room and winery. Today Harder owns Tank Garage and Regusci owns T-Vine Cellars. The Tank Garage tasting room opened in Spring of 2014 in Calistoga.
James Harder was born outside of Edmonton Alberta and has enjoyed a long career centered around wine; as soon as he graduated from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, he took a job at Vincor International (now part of Constellation brands); by the time he left Vincor he was their Vice President of Marketing. James worked for Inniskillin Winery for some time – famous for their ice wines. He also worked for Napa based Wilson Daniels (a prominent wine marketing company) and then later, together with Jim Regusci began and eventually sold Nine North Wine Company (responsible for creating and marketing a number of negociant type brands). He and his wife own James Cole Winery, located on the south part of the Silverado Trail just north of the city of Napa. And James’s brother Jeff and his wife Decoa own Ex Nihilo Vineyards in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.
James (Jimmy) Regusci is fourth generation Napa Valley resident, and co-owner of Regusci Winery, located on the ranch that his grandfather purchased in 1932. Jim began a vineyard management company in 1985 overseeing merely 8 acres of vines. In some 30+ years his company remarkably now farms over 2,300 vineyard acres. Jim also began Regusci Winery in 1996. See our extensive notes on both James Cole and Regusci wineries on this website.
This is one of the more unique tasting rooms in the valley in that it is located in a former mechanic’s garage and gas station. Every time we go in here, it feels like our creative juices start flowing at a higher level. Historic gas tanks sit in front, a visual nod to this properties’ history; they are not functional. Yes, people have pulled in asking if they can pump gas from these. While this was an old mechanic’s garage, surprisingly they are not the first winery to have a tasting room here; a previous tenant, Wine Garage was located here for a number of years.
This locally historic garage originally dates from the 1930s. A functional garage door sits in front of the tasting room and is opened fully on nice weather days. An inviting side room / lounge is well decorated in era furnishing and is setup for more private tastings. An old “Indian” motorcycle is displayed, formerly owned by racer Eddie Bratton who at one point owned the old garage. And a spin the Calistoga restaurant wheel is available for guests, especially popular around lunchtime for those who have not yet made lunch plans. The names on the wheel are all names of nearby Calistoga restaurants.
What is truly unique in the valley are the “guitars” made from old gasoline cans hanging on the wall in their small store. Every once in a while, someone stops by to play some hard-core metal on these “old” gas can guitars. Tank Garage also sells harmonicas for some additional immediate sound.
I rode into Napa,
came in from the north
this was my vacation
I soon spied a gas station
The music came a callin’
I grabbed a gas can guitar
I ripped her off the wall
My sound called them in
they stayed for the zin
that night we made it rain
we played so effortlessly
we played so soulfully
at the old Tank towne Garage.
~ Written in tribute to winemaker Jon Jones.
The wines are a very good value for the quality. They produced their first vintage in 2011. Their wine making is about blends rather than 100% varietal wines and early on the focus was set: hand-crafting small production one-time produced bottlings. All of their wines as of the time of this review are in the 150-case production or less. Called The Vault, these one-off wines vary in variety and vineyard location every year. And all feature extremely unique and intriguing looking labels. And while the tasting room is in Napa Valley nearly all of their wines are sourced from vineyards outside of Napa Valley (but within California). As a result, grape varieties that are seldom or not growing in Napa Valley comprise many of their bottlings.
The names of the wines are some of the most creative we have come across in Napa Valley – sometimes borrowing from song lyrics – regardless of source, all are catchy. Names like And She Was, Dive Motel, Girls Girls Girls or even a name in tribute of a local bootlegger, St. Jimmy. And the labels are equally as eye-catching, often bright and featuring works of art by various artists. One of the common channels they use for discovering artists and their related works is through social media. And any wines with an image of a peace symbol on the back label are produced as part of Tank Cares. A portion of the proceeds from their sales are donated to various charities; since 2019 they have raised tens of thousands of dollars from Tank Cares.
Tank Garage has always nurtured a spirit of innovation, but over the years they have become even bolder in what they do. They continue to embrace significant creativity both with winemaking but also with their visual presentation. Their name is Tank Garage, but it could easily be Creative Garage. This is something so different from contemporary Napa Valley. And its causing people to take notice.
The 2021 Love Saves The Day, Skin-Fermented White Wine, San Benito County is a blend of 71% Chardonnay, 27% Grenache Blanc, 1% Orange Muscat and 1% Barbera. This wine is golden in the glass; the bouquet offers aromas of orange marmalade, dried pine tree sap, ripe apricot, peaches in syrup and a variety of stone fruits on the edge of rotting, which have been sitting in a bowl in your kitchen for slightly too long of a time – or maybe its kimchi instead. A thread of acidity is immediately noticeable on the entry and runs the length of the palate but is balanced by its rounded texture. This wine shows flavors of mango, a honey flavor but without any sweetness and some kind of herbal tea. Weird and wonderful. 11.1% alcohol. Have we ever written an alcohol percentage so low from a Napa Valley based producer? Maybe. A Frog’s Leap Valdiguié. The commercial wine made at Napa Valley College is one of the only producers that comes to mind. This wine was foot-stomped, went through full malolactic fermentation and was aged for 8 months in neutral French oak barrels, the duration of which was with the skins.
The 2021 Flowershop, White Wine, El Dorado County is a blend of 44% Roussane, 24% Marsanne, 14% Viognier, 11% Chardonnay and 7% Grenache Blanc. This wine is a deep golden color; the bouquet smells bright, fresh and like springtime flowers including citrus blossom. There are also notes of lemon and lime and green apple. If this had some bubbles in it, it’s aromatics would be a dead ringer for some of the sparkling wines we have enjoyed lately. Rounded, and balanced, the palate features flavors of Golden Delicious apple, tangerine, honeycomb and kiwi – not the New Zealand golden kiwis, but the traditional green kiwis, the same variety growing in front of the entrance to Round Pond Winery. The zippy acidity keeps this wine fresh and one returning for additional sips. Speaking of sips, this energetic wine would be a great candidate to enjoy at one of the intimate performances at the annual SIP, Songwriters In Paradise held every April in Napa Valley. This wine is 11.5% alcohol.
The 2021 Dynamic Karate Theory, Mixed Blacks, Clements Hills Stampede Vineyard is somewhat amaranthine in color (just a fancy word for dark reddish purple); the bouquet offers aromas of plum, some brambly notes, sage, a subtle Graham Cracker note, cardamom, white pepper and old cedar. The scents are slightly savory. Our palate was mouthwatering before we even tried this wine. It delivers high-toned red fruit flavors including most prominently of cranberry along with plum and blackberry. We strongly recommend pairing this wine with Linger, by the Cranberries, as loud as your speakers will allow. The acid keeps this wine lively and bright from start to finish. It lingers with a tartness, very reminiscent of Icelandic crowberries (a high acid, somewhat tart tiny bush berry), pat yourself on the back if you’ve ever heard of this obscure fruit. This wine persists juicy, bright and mouthwatering with crushed black pepper, dried herbs and dark and savory tannins of a light to moderate grip. This wine is primarily a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Alicante Bouschet. Following harvest, the grapes were foot stomped, fermented in an open-top stainless steel tank and then transferred to neutral oak for 8 months of aging before bottling.
The Heavy Metal Life, Red Wine, California (non vintage) is a blend of 71% Valdiguié (Napa Gamay), 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Zinfandel and 5% Sagrantino. For reference, we tasted this wine in early 2023. This wine is medium ruby in color; the aromas show blackberry and plum, recently tilled soil, dried herbs including a subtle sprig of rosemary and a hint of chocolate and cardamom deeper in the bouquet. Our first impression on the palate was of a sweetness of fruit and perhaps some residual sugar. Offers flavors of raspberry, cran-apple and red licorice. It lingers slightly tart with lighter textured but still tightly woven tannins and a note of white pepper. This is a fun wine to enjoy poolside or on the patio. It goes down very easily. A catchy image of a Shawn Barber oil painting graces the front label. Reference Shawn’s shop, Memoir Tattoo in Los Angeles for more information.
The 2011 As the Crow Flies is an ideal everyday wine which just might make the perfect pairing with a tri-tip sandwich from Calistoga based Busters BBQ. You may realize this as you are in the middle of tasting this particular wine (or other current release red bottlings) while at the tasting bar and delicious BBQ aromas from that nearby establishment tantalizingly waft into the tasting room. As the Crow Flies is a unique blend of Nero d’Avola (sourced from Los Olivos in Santa Barbara County) and a much smaller percentage of Petite Sirah. The bouquet on this 2011 vintage beautiful; the palate features an intensity of flavor accompanied by excellent structure. Broad dusty tannins linger for some time.
The 2011 Never Dream Alone is a proprietary blend of Tempranillo with a smaller amount of Zinfandel. Already this has become one of their more popular wines; it opens with a bouquet that is big, with plenty of with fruit including black cherry. This wine is a bit perfumy along with notes of chocolate, baking spices and hints of white pepper. The pleasing palate is well balanced.
Over the years, we have seen many non Napaesque varieties including Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Picpoul, Nero D’Avola, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Négrette and Sagratino represented in some of their blends. Their wines are truly a showcase of California’s varietal diversity. Some years they crush up to nearly 50 different wine grape varieties! Perhaps after we bring by a commercial bottling sometime in the next few years from our personal project, a vineyard block of Marselan growing just north of Calistoga, they will seek out this extremely rare for California variety. The folks at Tank Garage and winemaker Chris Carpenter will be among the first to try this special bottling.
Sometimes they bottle 100% varietal wines including years ago a tasty Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley in neighboring Sonoma County. So, one never knows what wines will be available for tastings (appropriately titled Lubrication) during visits because of their always varied and continuing exploration of varieties and wine styles. During various visits, we usually see at least one orange wine on the menu; one year it was a skin-fermented white wine of Vermentino and Verdelho. And in 2021 Tank Garage produced a crystal-fermented Cabernet Sauvignon.
And Tank Garage has embraced those who work in the industry (winery owners, employees of owners etc.) – with a business card, they offer complimentary tastings Monday through Friday. A visit is casual, relaxed and focused on having a fun time. Do not be alarmed if you see or hear a few swear words during your visit. Its all part of the vibe and the tribe. And they might even give John fu****g Caldwell a run for his money.
The wines are not distributed and therefore not available in any retail outlets; they are only available through the tasting room and their website. For more information, to join the mailing list, to purchase wines or to join their MADE wine club (with 3, 6 or 12 bottle membership levels), visit: www.tankgaragewinery.com