The original V Sattui Winery was founded in 1885 by Vittorio Sattui in San Francisco. He emigrated to California 3 years prior from Carsi, a small remote mountain town north of Genova in northern Italy. The closest larger community to Carsi is Busalla, about a 30 minute drive and is where we stayed due to the number of restaurants and hotels. We have visited numerous ancestral homes of Napa Valley winery owners around the planet including plenty in both northern Italy and southern Switzerland. This is one of the more memorable villages we have visited due to its hillside location, panoramic vistas of mountain terrain dotted with other small villages and scenic access drive along a beautiful stream before climbing up to the village.
Less than 30 people live in Carsi and many of the approximately 50 homes appear to be in reasonable shape but not lived in full time or at all. Park next to the entrance of the village and the Carsi sign (there is a wide pullout next to the road) and then explore on foot. Highlights include a visit to Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie, the only church in the village. It was closed during our visits, but from the grounds there are beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
And within a short walk of this church is the village cemetery containing several Sattui family members. It is noteworthy to mention that one of the Sattui crypts is located directly above someone whose last name is Castello. We recommend visiting this cemetery after dark for the full effect – villagers light candles and leave other lights in the mausoleum. Several apple trees grow near the cemetery; in late October and early November their crisp and flavorful fruits are delicious.
The villagers of Carsi own a number of dogs who bark incessantly at visitors who walk through the narrow streets and walkways in the center of town. One can walk through the village soon reaching a rugged road which after about a 10 minute walk reaches a few more homes and additional views. Due to its off the beaten path location and location at almost the end of the road, the village presumably doesn’t see a lot of international visitors.
During our stay in this part of Italy we visited Carsi on three separate locations to capture different lighting and perspectives. And in an homage to Vittorio, a 27-acre site owned by V Sattui in Yountville is named the Carsi Vineyard.
After moving to the U.S, Vittorio and his wife operated a boarding house in North Beach as was common for a number of Italian immigrants to San Francisco in those years. North Beach was historically an Italian settled neighborhood within the city. Vittorio was a baker by trade but started making home wine and sharing it with friends and family. Demand for his wine became such that he was able to quit baking and running the boarding house and turn his efforts full time to wine making. This is not the first time we’ve heard this story in Napa as we’ve come across a number of contemporary vintners who also started making home wine which turned out better than perhaps they even considered and then turned it into a commercial venture.
Vittorio called his original winery St. Helena Vineyards – named after the town and region where he would personally travel from San Francisco, to select the grapes and then haul them by horse drawn wagons back to his winery. This is not the hour trip it is today – this could have taken all day in the late 1800s! Eventually he moved his operations from North Beach to the Mission District in San Francisco and named his new location V. Sattui Wine Company. Part of the original brick winery building still stands on Bryant Avenue.
V Sattui #1 site, 722 Columbus Street, San Francisco
V Sattui #2 site, 2501 Bryant Avenue, San Francisco
After Prohibition became law, V Sattui Winery was closed for 50+ years from 1920 until Vittorio’s grandson Dario Sattui decided to look for land in Napa Valley. Dario worked in the cellar for a short while at both Carneros Creek Winery (founded by Francis and Kathleen Mahoney, Mahoney Vineyards) and for the Christian Brothers. He was also a tour guide at Beaulieu Vineyard. In the mid 1970s when Dario was interested in purchasing property, there were only several properties available that were zoned both commercial and agricultural – the current site of V Sattui being one of them. This has been extremely valuable, as it is rare in Napa Valley for a winery to be zoned for multiple uses like this site is; they have hosted more than 2,000 weddings since 1987 – perhaps the most weddings of any venue in Napa Valley; operate a deli and can host a variety of large (by Napa standard) events on site.
The modern-day roots of V Sattui began with a delicatessen, cheese shop and picnic tables and a small winery in 1976. The much larger stone winery was not built until 1984; V Sattui’s first vintage was in 1973. In the early years V Sattui purchased bulk wine from Robert Mondavi Winery and labeled it as V Sattui which is common to do in the wine industry although one is usually contractually not allowed to reveal the original source. One vineyard that V Sattui has worked with since the late 1970s is Preston Vineyards in Rutherford; they produce a vineyard designate of this wine each year.
It always says something about a larger winery (by Napa standards) when the tenure of many of the employees at the same winery is measured in years, rather than months. Some have worked here well over a decade or longer. They even have some employees who have been in the “front of the house” for a number of years (an industry term, IE tasting room staff) where turnover is really rather remarkable and is often measured in months. The winery offices are on site, management are located here rather than some off-site location. Owner Dario Sattui has stepped back a bit from the daily operations but sometimes you can see him in the tasting room or helping out in his other winery, Castello di Amorosa. His niece also used to work at V Sattui.
Take their President and part owner, Tom Davies. In 1980 the number of wineries in the state of California was minimal compared to what it is today. Tom sent his resume to 60 of the most well-known and nearly all the major wineries in the state. There were no responses from 57 of them, 2 responses indicating no interest, and a response from Dario Sattui, saying “come on by after work”. Tom then dropped by their production facility, which is now the site of their primary main tasting room. Dario was hand bottling a number of V Sattui wines and told Tom to return shortly. After Dario was finished bottling, they enjoyed bottle of Amador Zinfandel over a game of ping pong – essentially this served as his interview. He was hired and it has been over 30 years since his first harvest at V Sattui.
V Sattui has certainly hit upon what the general public is looking for based on their popularity all season long. They have an incredibly large variety of wines ranging from very light rosés to whites, reds, sparkling, Italian and a good selection of dessert wines. The Napa Gamay Rouge is by far their most popular wine. This winery always earns top winery accolades in California from various wine competitions including from the California State Fair. They generally always place high in select tastings and wine judging competitions.
The winery is located just south of the town of St. Helena in the heart of the much visited loosely called “wine strip” between Yountville and St. Helena along Highway 29. This is the most visited part of Napa Valley by numbers with many of the well-known Napa wineries located here. Parking is next to the winery; if that adjoining lot is full there is a parking lot towards the back of the winery and alongside a dirt road through the vineyards.
V Sattui Winery doesn’t have the corporate feel that some of the larger area wineries have. In contrast to most of Napa Valley’s wineries and producers, V Sattui only sells their wines at their winery – that’s it, no direct sales to stores or restaurants although like most wineries, they sell wine online.
Many picnic tables are on the grounds but are only to be used for wine and other winery purchases; often these tables are occupied by visitors picnicking and enjoyed a bottle of wine. There is plenty going on here; on the weekends, seasonally and weather permitting, a BBQ wafts aromatically pleasing smoke over the grounds of the winery. More recently, a pizza oven was also installed on site and is in operation from April through October on the weekends.
V Sattui treats their club members extremely well. They hold a number of events throughout the year; some are in the range of 500+ attendees. One of their most popular club events is the Barrel Tasting party, always held in mid to late January. Some members plan their holidays around this event. The timing actually makes sense as there are less people in the valley, it is easier to find accommodation and hotel rooms are generally quite a bit cheaper than during the height of the harvest season.
The Barrel Tasting party allows members to try wines directly from barrel. Education including providing customers a reference point for how wine ages, the overall experience, oh and the food, are all part of this event. V Sattui partners with Italian chefs – many of which are Michelin starred from various regions in Italy to produce the cuisine.
Selling wine futures has been a part of their offerings since the early 1980s. Essentially you can buy/reserve a certain number of bottles or cases before a specific wine is actually bottled – while it is still in the barrel.
Special mention must be made about the V Sattui Hall of Fame. This is reserved for their best clients and members who are inducted in this are spotlighted with a large photo and description of their interest and history with V Sattui in the Club Members room and on the winery website. Some inductees are serious V Sattui collectors – with hundreds of bottles and first visits that go back several decades!
The winery itself is beautiful; several stately oaks grace the property and the Italian style rock moss covered winery buildings provide good photo ops. Unfortunately, their most prominent and iconic 275-year-old oak tree tragically met its end when a storm in early 2023 toppled it to the ground during non-business hours. In its absence, by mid Spring 2023, the space was planted to ancient olive trees – transplanted from a grove in the Central Valley. And its oak was milled to create tables which will eventually replace the existing wooden tables among the olive trees in the grove. Oak needs several years to dry and ‘season’ before it is ready to be made into tables.
This was not a winery when Dario purchased the property in the mid 1970s. He started building the original small winery in 1975 and it was finished in 1976. Walk down the stairs of the building with the tower and take the free self-guided tour of their cellar room and small wine museum.
A Club Members only wine room (the Reserve Tower Room) and tasting bar is located near the cellar and is usually much less crowded than the often-frenzied main tasting room. During the winter a fireplace provides natural heat and during warmer days, visitors can taste out on the Vittorio Terrace overlooking the Vittorio Gardens and beyond that, no surprise is a vineyard also named after Vittorio.
Both their general and reserve tastings are reasonably priced (based on Napa standards). Choose from a number of wines from the tasting menu. The wine tasting bar lines the walls of 3/4 of the main room; it is divided into sections so when it becomes crowded another section will open up. This is one of the largest Napa Valley winery tasting rooms and despite its size, it can become extremely crowded, especially on weekend afternoons.
The tasting room is a refreshing and nostalgic throwback to earlier years in Napa Valley where it is belly up to the bar, no appointment needed, alongside numerous other visitors – especially on weekends. It is good feeling to see this many people having fun in one place. This is a complete contrast to many of the wineries in Napa Valley that are now appointment only and focus on sit down intimately curated tastings. We hope the V Sattui form of hospitality continues indefinitely although they do take reservations (and we recommend making them for weekend visits).
A special room for Library wines is available to club members. The adjoining Gold Room can be reserved for use by prior appointment and is for their top wine club members.
Once Dario’s second Napa winery opened, Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, the pressure of producing the number of wines here was lessened. A wine cave at the “castle” and more space in general at that winery allows them to now age all their red wines there – while the production facility at V Sattui is better suited to producing white wines.
In 2012 after a bountiful harvest (good conditions all year produced a larger than average crop), V Sattui decided to introduce a “Bottle your own Barrel” program focusing on each of the individual Cabernet Sauvignon’s they make. This is great for serious collectors who have a lot of friends to entertain, corporate groups wanting to impress clients, corporate gifts – or anyone looking to buy 25 cases of a single wine – available at a far better price point then purchasing retail and direct for smaller quantities.
Remarkably V Sattui produces well over 60 wines annually – diversified over approximately 50,000 cases. With such a wide variety of wines, they have nearly a wine for every palate and every taste! In many cases, they take a single variety and then introduce various styled wines based on that one grape. Take their Riesling for example, they produce several off dry wines from this variety, a dry Riesling and a dessert styled wine. With nearly 900 acres of planted vineyards in their portfolio, 70% of which comes from their estate owned vineyards they have plenty of terroir to choose from. Their vineyards are focused on Napa Valley, but they also have property in neighboring Sonoma County and further to the north, Mendocino County.
Their largest vineyard property is the 528-acre Hibbard Ranch (formerly known as Henry Ranch) located in both the Carneros District of southern Napa and partly in the Mt. Veeder Appellation. We refer to this part of the appellation as the the Deep end of Carneros, a section far removed from traffic, where the pavement ends, and the only roads are dirt providing access through vineyards. This narrow strip of the Carneros District is located at the end of Henry Road north of Artesa. Their property is planted to a variety of grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Albariño, Riesling and Sémillon. Along with Trefethen, perhaps V Sattui has the most Riesling planted in Napa Valley. According to the 2022 California State Grape Acreage Report in 2021 there were 75 bearing acres of Riesling growing in Napa Valley.
The Hibbard Ranch property is also certified Fish Friendly Farming, part of a certification developed and overseen by the California Land Stewardship Institute, a non-profit organization based in the city of Napa. V Sattui was one of the early adopters of this program. The winery itself is also certified as a Napa Green winery.
The 2022 V Sattui Mt. Veeder Riesling is medium gold color; the aromatics are diverse, ripe, fruit driven and forward including of yellow peach, apricot, nectarine, mango, pineapple, passion fruit, tangerine and sweet pears in a light syrup. As the wine continues to breathe it reveals some floral notes as well including of honeysuckle and citrus blossom. The texture is creamy and rounded accompanied by flavors of apricot, peaches in syrup, ripe cantaloupe, mango and pineapple. A noticeable tangerine/tangelo/orange zesty like flavor/acidity runs the length of the palate. This off dry bottling has plenty of fruit and a lingering brightness.
The 2021 V Sattui Gamay Rouge is deep pink in color; the wine sits on the skins for 3 days before fermentation to give it this darker color. The bouquet offers aromas of strawberry, raspberry, cranberry and ripe Santa Rosa plums, a type of plum developed by horticulturist Luther Burbank and named after the city of Santa Rosa in neighboring Sonoma County. This is a sweet wine (about 3% residual sugar), the most noticeable flavor on the palate is immediately of cranberry and a cran-apple like character. But some of the aromatics are also echoed as flavors including strawberry along with watermelon and or watermelon jolly rancher hard candy. This wine shows a very light creamy texture and finishes bright with both fruit, residual sugar and a very subtle hint of dried tobacco leaf found deep in the finish. Very balanced; this is an ideal wine for those who enjoy light but flavorful, fruity and sweet bottlings.
The 2020 V Sattui Grenache Napa Valley is from the Carsi Vineyard in Yountville. This wine is medium ruby in color. As a fresh and fruity expression of this variety, its aromatics are immediately open knitted. The bouquet offers scents of cherry cola, dark raspberry, strawberry, dark cherry, mocha, chocolate, toffee, and assorted baking spices including cardamom. Balanced from the entry through to the finish and easy drinking, the palate echoes the bouquet to some extent with flavors of cherry, raspberry, strawberry and ripe plum. The finish lingers with a light note of red licorice, a hint of anise and white pepper. The tannins are nicely integrated lingering with a grainy but light influence. This wine was blended slightly with Syrah; it was aged 16 months in 100% French oak of which 35% were new barrels. Nicely done 🙂
V Sattui makes several premium Cabernet Sauvignons sourced from several of their vineyards, all in Napa Valley. These aren’t unknown vineyards either; the historic Morisoli Vineyard is adjacent to the vineyard that the semi-cult producer Scarecrow sources from, they produce a Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon from the Hibbard Ranch property in the southern part of this appellation, Vittorio’s Vineyard next to the winery and the Preston Vineyard (in the heart of Rutherford).
In a break from what has been traditionally a form of the same label used on all their wines (the classic V Sattui label that one instantly recognizes across their wine portfolio), the Paradiso features a bright and lively artistic label. An Italian artist and friend of Dario’s created the painting that was used for this label. This is one of their premium wines and is a Bordeaux style blend. The 2009 V Sattui Paradiso offers high toned red fruit aromas on the bouquet including red cherry, cranberry and red currant with some holiday spices and a hint of white pepper. It has a soft entry but quickly builds in structure leaving both fruit and lingering tannins for some time on the finish.
One of their most popular wines is a Frizzante style Moscato (sweet wine). Their former Vice President of Marketing, Claudette Shatto was in Tuscany and Umbria on a personal vacation. She discovered and enjoyed a number of fizzy wines with bubbles made from the Muscat grape. Upon her return to work, she presented the idea to make this wine at V Sattui. Their first vintage, the 2007 sold out in merely months. Today it has a loyal following among many of their customers.
It is rare when you can visit a Napa Valley based winery and try more than one sweet wine; by numbers most Napa wineries do not produce dessert wines. V Sattui makes a number of dessert wines and wines that are off-dry (slightly sweet). They also have made vintage ports as well as a Solera style port (non-vintage) in which some wine is blended from barrels containing previous vintages dating all the way back to when the first vintage of this wine was made.
The 1998 V Sattui Vintage Port (tasted 25 years post vintage) is a blend of Tinca Cão, Souzão, Touriga Nacional & Zinfandel. This wine is deep brown in color; the bouquet is filled with a diversity of dessert aromatics and baking spices including nutmeg, caramel, toffee, layers of nuts including walnuts, brown sugar, vanilla extract, dried fig and ginger snaps. The mouth feel is creamy and soft and to some extent mirrors some of the aromatics on the palate. It sports flavors of toffee, crème Brule, Bailey’s Irish Cream, chocolate syrup, ripe apricot, caramel, vanilla and hazelnut. Its sweetness overpowers its acidity and continues to persist along with a lingering flavor and character of cherry syrup. Best in small doses.
V Sattui runs one of the finer delis in all of Napa Valley – focusing on Italian foods, wines, olive oils, cheeses and pastries among other products. A little more unusual is their tasty, “formaggio con carciofo” or in English, Artichoke Cream Cheese. We always love their marinated artichoke hearts.
V Sattui also runs a commercial kitchen located just north of the winery. Here they produce a variety of hand-crafted products including their delicious Bresaola – an Italian styled cured/dried meat. This is a top round of meat, and its style of aging originates from northern Italy. V Sattui produces several types of Bresaolo – a 30 day aged, and a 90-day aged. Another 60 days provides some remarkable differences between the two products. The longer aged Bresaolo is noticeably darker and has a noticeable richer depth of flavor.
The winery also produces and cures their own salami and sausages. Sandwiches are made on site and there are a variety of salads ready to go. Fresh pastries and deserts are available in the deli – all hand made from their own pastry chef.
A newer product is their Crema di Lardo, a product essentially made from rich pork fat. This may not sound appealing but when it is aged with a variety of herbs, a touch of vinegar and rosemary – the final product is more than savory. Spread it on one of the long baguettes they sell here, add a slice of the Bresaolo and you have an irresistible tasty snack!
For more information about V Sattui wines, events, tasting and more, please visit: www.vsattui.com
Patrick Creek Historic Lodge, Gasquet California
While exploring the far reaches of Northern California in 2020, Dario and his wife Irina spotted this historic lodge which was closed and for sale at the time. But later Dario returned and after a realtor showed him the interior, he soon purchased the property.
The lodge is located in “the middle of nowhere” next to Highway 199 at the edge of Patrick Creek and also a short distance from the Smith River. The closest small community is Gasquet about a 10-minute drive away or about a 35-minute drive to Crescent City on the coast. From Castello di Amorosa the drive is about 6 hours.
The lodge is reasonably priced with rustic but comfortable rooms. For a more private experience, a two-bedroom cabin is also available. Guests can also enjoy food and drink in the on-site bar and restaurant. This is redwood country; the largest redwood in the world is located within only a few miles from the lodge.
We plan to visit and stay at the lodge before the end of 2023. Updated notes and photographs will be added here at that time. ”
For more information and to book a room, visit: www.patrickcreekhistoriclodge.com
Monastero di Coriano, Tuscany
For lovers of travel to Europe and its rich classical history, Dario owns the Monastero di Coriano, located about a 25-minute drive east of Siena in Tuscany Italy. It was built more then 1000 years ago and functioned as a monastery in the Augustian Order of the Catholic Church until 1650. Dario purchased the property from two French Painters in 1991. Wine club members take note: a single apartment within the monastery complex can be rented on a very limited basis a week at a time by active wine club members of V. Sattui and Castello di Amorosa. A stay here is a very memorable one for lots of reasons!
Sattui also owns a Medici palace in southern Tuscany, a castle in France and is a partner in a castle/hotel.