This article appeared on page M - 6 of the San Francisco Chronicle - 11/15/2009 - By Janny Hu, Chronicle Staff Writer
From the parking lot at Cuvaison Estate Wines' new tasting room in Napa, there are few hints as to what awaits inside - which is a good thing. It heightens the shock factor of walking in and discovering floor-to-ceiling windows that offer stunning, panoramic views of the estate's vineyards in the heart of Carneros.
The tasting room opened in May and is 85 percent solar powered in keeping with Cuvaison's commitment to sustainability (both its winery and land were certified Napa Green in 2008). Despite its size, the service remains remarkably personal thanks to a slower-paced, sit-down format.
The vibe: Open, airy and full of natural light, the space is gorgeous. The north- and east-facing windows are retractable, so you can enjoy fresh air during warmer days and protection during inclement weather - all while gazing at the estate's vineyards and central lake.
Tabletops and chairs are made from recycled aluminum, and the building is finished with teak and cherry wood, lending a warm vibe to an otherwise modern-looking structure.
The team: Winemaker Steve Rogstad joined Cuvaison in 2002 and crafts Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Merlot from 400 acres across the Carneros estate. The winery's separate 140-acre Mount Veeder estate specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon.
The wines: Two tasting flights of four wines are offered for $15 each, though we were able to mix and match wines from both lists. Among the choices are two Chardonnays, two Pinots and the 2006 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon.
The experience: If you're short on time, think about coming back on a more leisurely day. All tastings are seated, so you sit either indoors or outdoors and the wines are brought one at a time. It makes the process longer but nets you individual attention.
Our host gave a brief history of each wine and pointed out where the grapes were grown - in one case, the Pinot vines were a few feet away. The map he referenced was even detailed enough to show our exact table.
Throughout the visit, we never felt rushed or pressured, and on our way out, we snagged a bonus taste of their 2006 Espiritu dessert wine.
The extras: Cuvaison has a second tasting room in Calistoga on Silverado Trail, with shaded picnic grounds.
Nearby: Domaine Carneros, 1240 Duhig Road, Napa, (707) 257-0101. Madonna Estate, 5400 Old Sonoma Road, Napa, (707) 255-8864. Artesa, 1345 Henry Road, Napa, (707) 224-1668.
If you go: Cuvaison, 1221 Duhig Road, Napa, (707) 942-2455. Open daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.Go To Article: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/11/15/TR3D1AGHMT.DTL Photo: Brant Ward / The Chronicle