As I drove up the windy road to the Chappellet Vineyard and Winery I could just tell that I was about to escape the hum-drum of corporate winery’s that just want to get me in, sample a tablespoon of wine, scoff at me for not purchasing two cases, and then scoot me along without so much as an explanation as to why I would want to buy their wine to begin with. I think that capitalism and tourism often depletes the passion once fermented from many wineries. This is so not the case with the Chappellet Vineyard and Winery. From the moment I arrived I could feel the pride and passion from the family and extended family members. Continuing what Donn and Molly Chappellet started, their six children share their parents’ passion with wine making and continue to make extraordinary wines today. In addition to their wine making I was so impressed with their environmentally conscious philosophy. Some examples of that are that 90% of the grapes are grown using organic methods and they use solar energy (approximately 280,000 kilowatt hours per year). What impresses me most is that they started reducing their carbon footprint long before it was trendy.
Steve, the general manager, escorted me on a tour of the production facility and vineyards. During the tour I learned that Chappellet was founded in the late sixties making them the second winery after Prohibition to be established in the Napa Valley. However, being atop Pritchard Hill, they were the first to plant vineyards exclusively on high elevation hillsides. Steve then drove us through the vineyard to the top of the mountain. Once there we walked through the trees to a picnic table where the most amazing view of Lake Hennessy and the vineyards came to light. We sat their discussing wine and the world, but mostly wine, while just taking in the ambiance of the gods.
Although the views are breath taking and arousing, let’s not forget the real reason for my visit. The wine. Chappellet has earned acclaim championing the robust power and complexity of wines crafted from mountain grapes. Chappellet focuses on creating extraordinary, age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignons that embody the intensity and finesse of fruit from Pritchard Hill. So outgoing with the wine’s profiles and firm structure that they are full in the mouth. For more than 40 years, Chappellet has focused on crafting limited quantities of benchmark Cabernet Sauvignon, but one must not forget that their portfolio also includes exceptional Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and the highly regarded Mountain Cuvee Bordeaux blend. Their intensity and depth were a perfect pairing for my inner-self.
Off the beaten path, Chappellet Vineyard and Winery is well worth the fifteen minute drive up to St. Helena. The tour groups are limited to ten to ensure that the intimacy and connection with your guide are maintained. But be warned, you won’t look at other wineries the same again after being spoiled at Chappellet Vineyard and Winery!
1581 Sage Canyon Road, St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: 1.707.963.7136 or 1.800.4.WINERY