Just 5 miles north of Yountville, in the renowned Rutherford appellation, it is hard to miss this Napa Valley treasure! The unique architecture, including a stone-faced 50-foot tower adorned with a copper roof and unicorn weathervane, along with a row of curved sycamore trees (affectionately known as the Dr. Seuss trees) beckon you down the driveway.
Once I arrived, I took a few minutes to explore the stunning Garden Art Walk. The gardens, sculptures, Koi Pond and willow creek feature footpaths meandering throughout. These lead you from one idyllic vignette to the next. When my companion arrived, we stepped through the hand-carved front doors and were greeted by some of the friendliest staff in the Napa Valley. Next, our host lead us to our tasting, inside a beautiful barrel room. We were seated at a private table, with comfy leather chairs. Then we were offered cozy blankets since the temperature of the barrel room might prove chilly to some visitors. However, we found the setting to be true Napa Valley harvest perfection, as the working winery was alive with activity.
Our charming host Jonathan gave us an overview of the history of Peju, which was founded by Tony & Herta Peju. They purchased the 30-acre property in 1983. The family worked hard to build a winery, plant estate vineyards, and raise their family. They remain family-owned, with their two daughters, Ariana and Lisa guiding the business today. You can even find Ariana & Lisa’s names etched in the cement, from when they were children, as you enter the property.
The first wine of the Reserve tasting was the 2021 Dry Creek Chardonnay. Jonathan chose to pour this Chardonnay, as it is a wine they don’t produce every year. The Burgundian style Chardonnay was light, crisp, and bright. As we finished sipping on the delightful chardonnay, we were presented with bites to enjoy with our tasting.; including blue cheese, olives, prosciutto, raw honeycomb, and crackers.
Next up, was the 2016 Fifty/Fifty. The name Fifty/Fifty comes from the fact that the wine is always a 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in a 50/50 split of French and American Oak, which is 50/50 new and used. The first taste delivered at 100%, as the smooth middle palette makes it a wine that could be enjoyed now or aged for the future. The 2017 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a single vineyard wine which spent 26 months in New French Oak came next, and was an elegant follow up, showing off the finesse the cooler growing season provided in 2017.
Our final two wines were the 2017, Reserve Cabernet Franc & the 2017 Meritage. As a fan of both Cabernet Francs and Meritage, I could not have been more excited to try these reserve wines. The Cabernet Franc was everything I love in Cabernet Franc. It had texture, depth, and layers, but was approachable after spending 26 months in new French Oak. The final wine was a blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc, 12% Malbec and 11% Petite Verdot, the perfect Bordeaux blend to end our tasting.
We discussed the wines we loved the most (we both were big fans of the 50/50)! And which surprised us (two non-Chardonnay drinkers fell in LOVE with the 2021 Chardonnay, a truly special wine). Then, Jonathan let us know he had one more surprise in store for us! Our final taste was the 2018 Barrel EXP. I had never had the pleasure of trying this unique experiment. We fell in love with the 100% Cabernet Sauvignon which had been aged for 18 months in a truly unique barrels which consisted of new French, American and Hungarian Oak. Peju winemaker Sara Fowler’s yearly barrel experiment is well known among her fellow winemakers in Napa Valley. Each year, she works with a variety of different barrel toasting styles and coppers, then shares this learning tool with her peers by offering comparative tasting to determine the flavors and textures from each unique oak treatment. It was such a treat to be able to taste this wine.
After purchasing our favorites and bidding farewell to Jonathan, we made a few last stop. First to the collection of retail products available for sale in the tower. It is truly a don’t miss for mementos from your visit or a gift for those you left at home. We then took a walk into the vineyards to enjoy the beautiful view of the hillsides, as well as see the winery crush pad in action!
The Reserve Tasting experience is available by reservation 707.963.3600 Thursday – Monday at Noon, 2:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. This semi-private tasting is $150 per person and can also be reserved at Reserve Tasting Experience.
8466 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford