In early December – just before the holiday madness began – we flew up to Napa for a long, relaxing, wine-filled weekend.
One of the first places we visited on this particular trip was Casa Nuestra Winery & Vineyards in St. Helena. I had read reviews on Casa Nuestra and it sounded exactly like something I would enjoy – small production, family owned, solar-powered, organic, and causal with an assortment of tasty, unique and inventive handcrafted wines.
We pulled into the driveway to Casa Nuestra and saw the little yellow and green painted farmhouse, which immediately made me excited. At that point, I felt we were miles away from the often behemoth, corporate wineries that dot the Napa Valley and in for a very memorable experience.
On a particularly chilly, wet day, it was so nice to get out of the car and smell a wonderful wood burning fire, which we soon found out was keeping the tasting room toasty. We were immediately greeted by Casa Nuestra’s resident Nubian goats – Nava & A.P. These goats were once part of the winery’s Nubian Weed-Eating Program that started in 1999 with Nava’s mom, Nubi. Today, they no longer work in the vineyards, but do a great job greeting guests.
We stepped inside the Casa Nuestra tasting room and saw the little fireplace that smelled so fantastic outside. Casa Nuestra means “our house” which was very fitting as we felt like we were being welcomed into someone’s cozy living room.
Inside, the Casa Nuestra tasting room was a feast for the eyes. The walls were covered with posters from local music fests, photos of Elvis who happened to visit the property while he was filming a movie, awards and medals from various wine competitions, a “Wall of Thought” featuring photos of iconic peacemakers such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Theresa, and various other art and memorabilia. I noticed that each bottle had “embrace peace” on the label, which was a message the winemaker wanted to convey after 9/11. I spent some serious time taking it all in before I even tasted the wine.
After looking around the tasting room and chatting with Steve who was pouring wine and telling us all about the colorful history of the Casa Nuestra winery, we finally tasted the wines.
Casa Nuestra has produced about 2,000 cases of hand-made wine annually since its establishment by Gene and Cody Gillette Kirkham in 1979. Even though production is small at Casa Nuestra, the Kirkhams hand craft an incredible variety of wines, including Meritage, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, dry Chenin Blanc, White Riesling, Petite Sirah, Charbono, French Colombard, Rosado, a dry rose, a sweet white blend called Symphony and two proprietary red wines called Tinto Classico and Tinto St. Helena. All of their wines are award-winning and very limited in quantity.
For a small $10 tasting fee (which was kindly waived because we bought wine), we got to taste an incredible variety of wines. I can’t really say there was a wine in the lineup that we didn’t like, but we found two favorites: the ’08 Two Goats Red ($22) and the ’07 Tinto St. Helena ($32). The ’08 Two Goats Red is an every day, easy to drink red wine blend that features Nava and A.P. on the label. I bought a bottle immediately and wished I had room in my suitcase for more.
The ’07 Tinto St. Helena – as well as the ’07 Tinto Classico – are unique wines made from rare, one-of-a-kind ” field blend” vineyards. Both wines are not crafted from a single varietal, but rather from a collection of grape varietals, some of which mystify identification experts. The recipes for these wines are written in the ground by nature and reflect the traditional Old World practices that were common several generations ago. We walked away with a bottle of the ’07 Tinto St. Helena as well.
Overall, we loved our visit to Casa Nuestra Winery and feel we discovered a true gem among the often oversized and overpriced wineries of Napa Valley. It was a friendly, laid-back place with a portfolio of high quality wines that were clearly crafted with love. Can’t wait to go back…
CASA NUESTRA WINERY & VINEYARDS
3451 Silverado Trail North
St. Helena, CA 94574
Phone: (707) 963-5783
Fax: (707) 963-3174
Tasting room hours: 10AM – 4:30PM Monday through Saturday by appointment only