I’m constantly on the hunt for new wineries to visit in Napa Valley – not necessarily new to the valley, but new to me. I have my “off the beaten path” staples that I make repeat visits to (i.e. Saddleback Cellars, Casa Nuestra, Failla), but after visiting St. Helena this past weekend I can add a few more to my list of favorites.
Justin Stephens started making wine under the HUNNICUTT label in 2001, and purchased the land in 2008 in St. Helena where the winery now sits. The tasting room opened to the public in 2011 after several years of requiring permits, constructing the caves, and managing drainage issues – but it was worth the wait! The winery includes beautiful caves with a private tasting area, a large patio for picnics and outdoor tastings, oversized rocking chairs, and a mid-century modern indoor tasting room with floor to ceiling windows.
Sara and Mo host the tastings, which are appointment only – though we did see them accommodate a club member that walked in without notice. Mo greeted us when we arrived and poured us a taste of Chardonnay as we waited for Sara to prep the tasting room. Everyone in my group loved the 2012 Chardonnay, a 91-point Chablis style wine from Coombsville. The wine has aromas of stone fruit and lemon zest, with a palate of apple, lemon cream and a touch of custard. It’s a very elegant wine, and priced at $45 a bottle – a little steep but worthy of the price.
On to the reds… next was the 2011 Merlot, followed by the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, 2011 CUTT Fearless Red, 2010 Reserve Cabernet Franc St. Helena, and the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon 9-3-5. Nearly all of the wines we tasted are from their new release, and not yet available on their website. My favorite two reds were the CUTT Fearless Red and the Cabernet Franc, their Premier Napa Valley offering. The Fearless Red was smooth and fruit-forward, very easy-drinking with a medium body. The Cab Franc on the other hand was bold and smokey, with flavors of blackberry and cassis lingering on the palate.
As we sipped on the 9-3-5 Cabernet, Sara gave us a tour of the wine caves where most of their barrels are stored. There’s also a small room cut out in the center of the cave where they can host special tastings, and part of the back wall reveals the original rock. It’s a very cool place (literally and figuratively) to enjoy the tasting experience – as long as you’re not claustrophobic!
We thoroughly enjoyed our experience at HUNNICUTT, and I walked away with a bottle each of the Fearless Red and the Cabernet Franc. The tasting room is modern yet cozy, and the staff are fun to taste with and very accommodating. I would recommend making an appointment for the reserve tasting so you get to taste some of their higher end wines – it’s definitely worth the $10 difference (and waived with the purchase of three or more bottles). I look forward to my next visit to HUNNICUTT, and I’m excited to see what they come out with next!