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The Best Wineries You’ve Never Heard of in Coombsville

This little corner of Napa has voluptuous reds, limited-edition cabernets, and, yes, sheep.

 

Long famed for grape growing in Napa Valley, yet infrequently visited by tourists, Coombsville finally caught a break when it became an official American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 2011. After years of battling for the respect and attention brought by the AVA designation, Coombsville’s farmers and winery owners at last landed in the spotlight. Media features piled up (like ours) and tour companies (like this one) began showcasing the area on their routes. Some of the wineries embraced this change with open arms, while others have preferred to remain sexy little secrets. Here are five of the best wineries in Napa Valley’s youngest AVA.

Winery:  Inherit the Sheep
What to try: cabernet sauvignon
Why it’s great: Tastings at Inherit the Sheep are conducted at a picnic table under an old walnut tree, which is at the founder’s home in the middle of a 1.8-acre vineyard. They make only cabernet sauvignon, and their tours do not include caves or impressive winemaking machines, but they do feature two basset hounds (Annabelle and Eleanor) and two sheep (Daisy and Duke) as well as beautiful vineyard views. The wines are rare and handcrafted, and the family offers warm hospitality and an unpretentious attitude. 

Winery: Aonair 
What to try: grenache   
Why it’s great: In addition to the slew of voluptuous, spicy, readily drinkable red wines, Aonair has grand valley views and a shaded deck with a picnic table for tastings. You’ll likely be sipping with Grant Long Jr., the sole proprietor of Aonair, who made his first wine in his parents’ garage. Having intentionally kept the winery a quasi-secret, Grant may not be happy to see this article, but will absolutely be happy to greet you at his winery.

Winery: Covert Estate & Winery
What to try: cabernet franc   
Why it’s great: Napa Valley celebrity artist Richard Von Saal designed the interior of this cave-winery, and renowned winemaker Julien Fayard makes the wines. Fayard uses French winemaking traditions so as not to interfere with the flavor that the terroir provides, but is known to spice and embolden flavors naturally with what his team calls “California creativity.” Covert also has sweeping views to enjoy when you’re not in the cave, and it’s a mere five minutes from downtown Napa. 

Winery: Ackerman Family Vineyards
What to try: cabernet sauvignon Clone 337
Why it’s great: Ackerman was the first California Certified Organic Farm in Coombsville, and the winery makes less than 500 cases of cabernet sauvignon annually. Their wines are also low alcohol, which means you can taste the subtleties that are often lost in big, extracted Napa cabernet—and you get to drink more and actually remember it! I highly recommend booking a visit to the vineyards, but if you’re short on time or fancy a walkabout in downtown Napa, you can also schedule a tasting at their newly renovated Victorian house.

Winery: Black Cat Vineyard
What to try: syrah 
Why it’s great: Surrounded by cabernet vineyards, Tracey Reinchow decided that the rocky volcanic and granite soils, light morning fog, and afternoon breezes were also perfect for syrah. She also makes a family cuvee and a cabernet sauvignon, and zeroes in on every aspect of winemaking, from the earth to the bottle. She has become known for her educational offerings, flavorful red wines, and the black cat that adopted her, and stays by her side even when everyone else calls it a day.

If you have trouble getting into the above wineries or are looking to really get to know the area, also consider Palmaz, Tournesol, and Celani, or any of the spots we picked in our original article about Coombsville.

 

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