I spent this past weekend touring Napa with some gal pals from my hometown in NY, including a pair of Italian sisters and a recent San Francisco convert. Back when they started planning this in early May, I offered to plan out their entire Winetinerary. They graciously excepted the offer, as long as I could join them for Saturday and Sunday. To sweeten the deal, they hired a driver for the weekend from My Napa Valley Driver (which I highly recommend). How could I say no?
The weather was beautiful both days, and although we had a bit of a rough start on Sunday – due to a wee too much wine at dinner the night before – the girls perked up when we arrived at Signorello Estate. If you haven’t been to Signorello yet, you’re seriously missing out. The iconic view from their infinity pool patio is not to be missed, but it’s the wine that keeps drawing me in.
I first visited Signorello back in 2009 when I started making regular trips to Napa Valley. I was in awe of their friendly and knowledgeable staff, matched with their beautiful views of Oak Knoll District and their distinctive French-style wines. I’ve always had a great time at Signorello and never wanted to leave, once staying until the reflection of the sky was a mirror image on the surface of the pool. Until this past weekend, I hadn’t been to Signorello in more than two years. So you can imagine how excited I was to revisit this special spot on the hills of Silverado Trail.
Signorello offers a variety of tasting experiences to please your palate. Since we were short on time, we opted to sit on the patio (sans umbrella) and take our tasting outside. Our server, Chris, poured six current releases, including the Seta, Hope’s Cuvee, the Carneros Pinot Noir, Estate Syrah, and a side by side comparison of 2008 and 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon. Each wine was better than the last, but they all possessed a unique Bordeaux-meets-Napa style of winemaking (thanks to their French winemaker, Pierre Birebent), and were ideal representations of the vineyard in which they were grown. We all loved the Hope’s Cuvee, a tribute to owner Ray Signorello’s mother who passed away in the mid-1990’s. The wine was the perfect combination of elegant French oak and delicate hints of citrus – my kind of Chardonnay!
I thoroughly enjoyed the side by side comparison of the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Chris reminded us that 2011 was a rough year for Napa, with two very bad rain storms. But the winery worked hard to monitor the growth of the vines and achieve balance in the finished wine – and it shows! The resulting wine is slightly tannic at first taste, but improved as it opened up in the glass; the initial aroma of bell pepper transformed into dark cherry. Alternatively, 2008 was a great year for Napa Valley and their Estate Cabernet was lush and full-bodied with promising aging potential. If you ever have an opportunity to taste side by side vintages of the same wine (also known as a vertical tasting), I highly recommend it! It is the ultimate viticulture assessment for the effects of a factor that is out of our control: climate
Served with our wines was a basket of crostini and a selection of local cheeses and dried fruit. Pairing any type of food with a wine tasting goes a long way in my book. This style of tasting is the traditional practice in Italy and other parts of Europe. Not only does it enhance the flavor of the wine, but it also reminds your palate that wine is and has always been meant to be paired with food. With a deep understanding of this notion, Signorello offers several different food and wine pairing activities at their estate. In addition to cooking classes and private dining events, they have created Enoteca Signorello, a private fine dining experience offered by appointment only and curated by in-house chef Britny Sundin. It’s been described as “one of Napa’s best dining experiences” by Mary Orlin of the Huffington Post. I’ve only been able to experience it vicariously through her review of the meal, but I’m eagerly waiting for the right occasion to partake in this special opportunity.
Be sure to make an appointment at Signorello for your next visit to Napa Valley, and if you splurge for Enoteca Signorello, let me know how it goes! Don’t forget to take a photo of the glorious infinity pool – but dare not dip your toes in because that’s the fastest way to get kicked out! And you certainly wouldn’t want that.