is owned and operated by George and Elsa Vare. George is a long time veteran in the Napa and Sonoma wine scene. Many people who are George’s age have pursued retirement when they are coming from other industries but in our experience, long time veterans in the winemaking industry rarely “retire”. Rather they start new winemaking projects and manage additional vineyards. George is one of the founders of Napa’s Luna Vineyards on the Silverado trail and his own vineyards planted in 1996 supplied Luna with grapes for a number of years. No Stony Hill is not the only exclusively white wine producer in Napa – enter Vare Vineyards! This is such a rarity in the red wine dominated industry of Napa winemaking that in our wine odyssey of visiting and tasting with well over 500 commercial Napa wine producers, this is only one of 2 wineries focusing entirely on white wines. Most wineries have the obligatory Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc or maybe even Viognier, not so with Vare Vineyards.
They focus on North & North Eastern Italian and Slovenian white grape varietals which are fairly obscure in the USA and are really obscure in the Napa vineyard scene. Try varietals such as Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Grigio, and Tocai Friulano for starters! In fact the Ribolla Gialla is the only known planted commercial vineyard in the USA. Their vineyards are in the cooler Oak Knoll district towards the south end of the Napa Valley, backed right up against the Mayacamas mountain hillsides. As a result part of their vineyard is slightly elevated above the valley floor. We walked some of the vineyards; George uses a number of vineyard management techniques that are practiced in northern Italy and Slovenia as far as canopy and cordon management as well as tight spacing. Genetically speaking, Pinot Grigio (grey Pinot) is an unstable varietal. A normal Pinot Grigio grape will be reddish with some grey coloration but Vare has found all levels of this genetic instability in their vineyards. A select number of their vines produce only white/green grapes, a few vines produce white and reddish/grey clusters, some clusters have been found to contain white and reddish/grey fruit and get this, one year they found a berry that was so well delineated, that 1/2 of the grape was red and the other half was white! A few interesting pictures of these variations can be found here.
Vare released their first commercial vintage in 2004. One of the benefits of being small and having an open mind with regards to different winemaking techniques and methods means that Vare often makes small lots. Case in point is their 2004 Biano Sulle Bucce. Sulle Bucce means “on the skins” in Italian and that is exactly how this wine was fermented. It is a blend of Ribolla Gialla, Tocai Friulano, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. Each varietal brings some neat characteristics to this wine. The Tocai we tried had very fruit forward aromas with an interesting spicy palate; the Ribolla Gialla brings body to the wine and doesn’t actually take away from the other varietal characteristics. This wine is really a food wine and needs to be paired with a meal. It is extremely dark amber in color (don’t see this color in Napa current release white wines very often!) with a fantastically strong nose with notes of caramel and toasted nuts. The wine is full bodied and the palate contains some interesting spices with lots of fruit and a hint of ginger snaps on the very long finish. We tried both the 2004 and 2005 Pinot Grigio. The 2004 wasn’t commercially released and contains 17.4% alcohol. And we thought we had seen high alcohol with Charbay’s 16.5% alcohol Rose!
All of the Vare wines we tried have very nice aromatics, rich concentrated flavors with long finishes and the 2005 Pinot Grigio is no different. A nose of honey, caramel, melon and peach jump out of the glass with the fruit flavors continuing on to the palate. Time the finish on this wine! Also note Vare’s Bianco and Bianco Reserve, a unique proprietary blend you won’t find anywhere else. All their bottles use Nomex corks – no TCA in this wine. With a certain percentage of all wine being corked, this was a wise move especially when you consider the uniqueness of the varietals and the fact most people probably have never tried these types of wines. You don’t want to take the chance of making a bad first time impression. In addition Vare uses 500mL bottles rather than the standard 750mL. This is the perfect size for restaurant wines and is a size rather under utilized by the wine industry due to these bottles being the same cost for the winery but the consumer receiving a third less wine. Vare also has 1.5 liter bottles for larger uses. Note the simple colored brushstroke on each bottle. Different colors stand for the type of wine. Due to very limited releases of each wine and a few partnerships with local area restaurants, the best way to acquire some of the wine is to join their mailing list. Visit: www.facebook.com/pages/Vare-Vineyards/12420816620
NOTE: This review has been archived.
REASON: Died and the property was sold to new owners
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