A visit to Antica Napa Valley

Antica Cabernet Blend

Bass Lake, Antica, Napa Valley

Antica entrance, Napa Valley

Antipasto platter, Antica, Napa Valley

Driving up to Antica, Napa Valley

Map of wine cave at Antica, Napa Valley

Mindy Joyce, WineryCritic, at Antica, Napa Valley

Vats at Antica, Napa Valley

After 600 years of making wine in Italy, the Antinori family expanded their Tuscan empire to Napa Valley in order to produce an Antinori wine in California. In their search for a location “like Italy” they found a spot in Napa’s Atlas Peak District, and named the winery Antica, a blend of the words Antinori (Anti) and California (ca).

I love Antinori wines, and ever since I met Piero Antinori’s daughter Alessia a few years ago at a wine event, I knew I wanted to visit Antica. What would the Antinori estate look like in Napa Valley?

I expected a replica of a Tuscan estate, smack in the middle of the Napa Valley, and mobbed with visitors. Instead, the estate is far off the beaten path, tucked away in the remote Atlas Peak District. The estate is strictly appointment only (although they do get many people just “driving by” who they have to turn away).

The house itself is a moderately sized villa where the family stays when they visit. Other than that it is a venue for hosting trade and visitors. The estate is huge (1,200 acres) and along with a vineyard as far as the eye can see, it is also complete with a 70-ft deep man made lake stocked with Bass. (Piero was there during my visit teaching his grandson how to fish.)

Being appointment only there are really no more than 8 people there at one time on premises (two other on my visit) and it feels like you are being greeted as one of the family. Our host, Kim shared her knowledge of the family, knowing their whereabouts and all details of the properties, both here and in Italy.

Kim walked us into the massive 35,000 square foot wine cave built into a mountain. The cool air was refreshing compared to the heat outside. Kim explains it naturally like this and always stays the same temperature.

“The cave fits about 8,000 barrels and is one of largest in the valley,” she said. “It was built about 25 years ago.” The Antinoris only produce about 10,000 cases per year, leaving plenty of room for other wineries to lease space inside it. Kim recited many well-known wineries that lease space inside the cave, including Stags Leap and Quintessa.

Currently, the Antinoris use 20 percent of the grapes grown on the estate, selling 80 percent to local vintners. They have the potential to grow their production ten times over to 100,000.

Our cave tour was followed by a simple tasting in the kitchen of the estate. (Note, there is no tasting room.) We sat around the kitchen table, where I imagined family members had sat, and tasted several wines accompanied by a nice Italian platter of nuts, bruschetta and cheese. The wines were excellent, and I was so excited by the Sangiovese. Who better to produce a Napa Valley Sangiovese than the Antinoris?

Kim tells me that Piero Antinori is very much involved in the day-to-day decisions. Ever since his first visit to California in the 1960s, it has been his dream to produce an Antinori Napa Valley wine. He imagined it would be in the mountains, with terrain like in Italy. It seems he has found the perfect place.

This is an excellent winery to visit for fans of Antinori wines. I loved getting an insight into the lives of the family, their estates and the plans for this winery in Napa. The tasting experience is personalized, simple and geared to those with knowledge of the history of the wine family.

Expert tip:

Don’t even try to stop by without an appointment. I did see people being turned away during my visit. You will definitely need an appointment to visit Antica. They are not open on weekends so plan on a visit during the week.

WineryCritic Ratings

8/10 Overall visitor experience

9/10 Knowledge of guide

8/10 Location

8/10 Architecture and design, landscaping

8/10 Other experiences: Only the tour and tasting

N/A Knowledge of tasting room staff (There is no tasting room)

9/10 Friendliness of staff

8/10 Signage & ease of access

9/10 Quality of the wines poured

Appointment required: Yes

Address: 3700 Soda Canyon Road, Napa, CA 94558 – Google Maps

www.anticanapavalley.com

Tasting room hours: N/A Appointment Only

Tasting fees and Experiences:

$30 per person – Private tour and tasting. Up to 8 people or less on weekdays at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Learn about the Antinori family, the estate, winemaking philosophy, and sit down for a tasting of Antica Napa Valley’s current release wines. (90 minutes)

Good for: Italian wine lovers, Sangiovese fans

Wines produced: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Rosé, Syrah, Sangiovese, Malbec, Pinot Noir.

What’s nearby: Krupp Brothers Stagecoach Vineyard, Darioush, William Hill, Reynolds Family

District/Appellation: Atlas Peak District, Napa Valley

Contact for appointments: Book your appointment online at the Antica website or phone 707-257-8700.

Date of visit: July 18, 2013

E-mail: mindy@winerycritic.com