There is never a bad time to visit the Napa Valley, but visiting in the winter is one of our best kept secrets. During Cabernet Season, that’s what locals calls call winter in the Napa Valley; temperatures hover between 50-70 degrees and sun is usually shining in the clear blue sky. The vineyards burst to life with bright yellow mustard and tasting rooms can seem like they are all your own.

Cabernet Season is the perfect time to visit a winery you always wanted to try but never have. For me, that winery was Provenance Vineyards. Situated in Rutherford, on Highway 29 between Yountville and St. Helena, Provenance stands out against the green hills of the Mayacamas Mountains. Once you pull in, you are immediately impressed by the large comfortable patio complete with lawn games and the ability to have a picnic!

The first thing you notice when you walk in to the tasting room is the floor. The floor is made from barrels used to make the first vintage of Provenance in 1999. I take a seat on the comfy modern couches, that somehow don’t clash with the rustic feel of the tasting room, and my host, also named Jessica, starts me off with our first wine of the tasting.

Before starting on the Reserve Tasting Jessica brings me one of the best cheeses I have ever had. The soft cheese was a mixture of aged white gouda, white cheddar, garlic and white wine; it paired perfectly with all the wines I tried.

Provenance offers the ability to taste wines from appellations all over the valley. My favorite way to taste wines from across Napa Valley is to do a side by side tasting. This allows you to compare the wines to each other and discover the distinct characteristics of each.

The first side by side tasting I did was a 2014 Reserve Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2014 Reserve Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.

Diamond Mountain is located in the Western Mayacamas Mountain Range. The grapes grow at an elevation of 500-900 feet and enjoy cool breezes coming in from Sonoma. The Diamond Mountain Cabernet has an incredibly silky mouthfeel and you can almost smell the forest floor. The rich dark fruit and berry flavors encompass your senses leaving you feeling like you just experienced a truly remarkable wine.

In comparison Howell Mountain is located in the Eastern Vaca Mountain Range. Much warmer and sunnier Howell Mountain is known for producing big bold cabs and the Provenance Cab is no exception to that. This is a great wine to pair with food; it would go perfectly with  prime rib and hearty mushrooms.

The next side by side comparison was of valley floor fruit cabernets. Provenance is one of the few wineries who are able to produce wines from some of Napa Valley’s most famous vineyards, including Hewitt Vineyard, To Kalon, and Sleeping Lady. These three vineyards are all within a seven mile radius of each other and produce some of the best wines in the world.

Hewitt Vineyards is located in Rutherford and has been producing highly sought after grapes since 1880. Hewitt Vineyard has the advantage of being close to the mountains but not so close that it is shaded in the afternoon which allows the Cabernet grapes to ripen evenly throughout the summer. Provenance’s 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Hewitt Vineyards is everything you expect a Napa Valley Cabernet to be. Opulent and rich with strong hints of blackberry and cassis and a finish that reminds you of the silkiness of creme brulee it is a wine that you can drink now or lay down for 10 years.

Next up, was the To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. To Kalon might just be the most famous vineyard in Napa Valley. To Kalon was first planted in 1868 by Hamilton W. Crabb. To Kalon is located in Oakville. The vineyards sun exposure and micro climate produce grapes with complex flavors. Provenances 2013 To Kalon was my favorite cab of the day. You are immediately struck by the structure of the wine. Strong flavors of berry and bay leaf quickly transport you to the site of the vineyards.

The last cab in my side by side experience was the Sleeping Lady Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Yountville. The Sleeping Lady was softer and very fruit forward. This is the type of Cabernet Sauvignon that doesn’t need to be paired with a steak to enjoy.

To finish off a fantastic experience Jessica took me in the back to try the 2016 Cabernet from the barrel. Barrel tasting is rare and always an exciting way to try wines in their early state. Wine ages anywhere from 3 months to 24 months in oak barrels. Winemakers age their wine to create the best flavor profile possible. Provenance’s 2016 Cabernet is already tasting amazing and it’s only going to get better as it ages.

The best way to spend Cabernet Season in the Napa Valley is to discover new places and experiences. Whether you are looking to sit and enjoy a glass of wine or do a side by side tasting, like I did, Provenance is a must for your Napa Valley trip.