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The 6 Best Wineries You’ve Never Heard of in Stags Leap and Atlas Peak
Ian White | Photo: Courtesy of Taylor Family Vineyards | October 14, 2015
Skip the big names for some great mom-and-pops.
Stags Leap and Atlas Peak are neighboring Napa Valley AVAs (American Viticultural Areas for the uninitiated), and home to many of the Valley’s historic and best-known wineries. But just like in St. Helena, the fame and history of some of the wineries in these regions often overshadow great hidden finds and small family owned wineries. Here’s our guide to the best low-profile wineries in the area.
The prolific winemaking family at Robinson Family Vineyards makes 10 limited production wines under the supervision of patriarch Tom Jinks, who follows the philosophy “work hard, play hard, laugh hard, and then work a little harder.” Appointment only, but without the exclusive vibe, this experience includes vineyard tours and rich and sultry wines that exemplify the AVA nicely.
Another family owned and operated find, Taylor Family Vineyards, produces only 1000 cases each year and see guests by appointment only. Every member of their family—all six generations—has helped with the winery in one way or another. The winery makes five varietals, all of which are complex, well aged in expensive oak, and sold only through the winery.
Ilsley Vineyards has received a lot of very positive attention from worldly wine magazines like Decanter, but despite the press, it’s still a low-key vineyard committed to family farming. Ilsley takes great pride in the food friendliness of its wines, and provides recipes and pairings for its three handcrafted reds. The winery also throws open house parties with Taylor, Robinson, and Malk vineyards, if you’re looking to taste all three and get to know the families behind the wines.
White Rock Vineyards is all about history, family, and wine caves. The couple behind the winery moved to Napa in 1977, revived the 1870s winery, and raised their family on the estate. A bowl of volcanic soils and bedrock, this land produces deep, intense wines. Book a cave tour in advance, or hunt down their wines at other events, like this sip and sail wine cruise on the San Francisco Bay.
All of the wines from Lobo are single vineyard designates—meaning they are made from grapes that come from only one vineyard—and all of the land is sustainably farmed. The winery shares a joint tasting room at The Caves at Soda Canyon, which has expansive views of Napa Valley and deep, cool caves for hot days. While you’re there, you can also sample wines from Waugh Family, Patland, and Buoncristiani.
Dos Lagos Vineyards is known for its vineyard tours and exceptionally warm hospitality. The winery makes cabernet sauvignon on its 22-acre property, which has the rocky terrain, highly variable climate, coastal fog, and long growing season necessary for cabernet to reach its full potential. Silky and smooth yet bold and spicy, Dos Lagos cabernet is well worth the trip to the top of the mountain.