Black Stallion Winery shines with hospitality
We didn’t set out to go wine tasting one sunny Saturday afternoon, but we did set off down Highway 128. My daughter and I needed a “Mommy and Me” outing, and with no particular itinerary in mind, I decided that what we really needed was roast beef and brie sandwiches.
We took the left turn at Highway 121, a right on Silverado Trail, and there was our destination: the Soda Canyon store just up the road. If you just wanted to go for a drive and have some of the best sandwiches on earth, you could stop right there and turn around and go back to Winters. Well, theoretically, you could but when you’re so close to hundreds of Napa Valley wineries, the temptation is too great. That said, I was attempting to try something completely different this time and as we sat and ate lunch, decided to check out Round Pond Estate and go for an olive oil tasting. Great idea but, hmmm… $45 to taste olive oil? For that price you could visit two wineries.
Olive oil or wine… olive oil or wine.
I don’t have to tell you which way the scales tipped. Besides, for $45, I could go purchase several bottles of olive oil and taste it myself. No contest there.
As we had no plan and no itinerary, this was a spur of the moment trip. I’d always wanted to stop at Black Stallion Winery, for no other reason than I like horses, so I gave them a call. (You should call Napa Valley wineries rather than drop in on a whim, because many of them now have rules regarding wine tasting — many will only do tastings by appointment. That said, you can call from the parking lot and ask many wineries for an appointment in five minutes and if there’s room for more visitors, you can get around that silly rule.)
The person who answered the phone was so astoundingly pleasant and welcoming, there was no further decision to be made. Given that Black Stallion is just up the Silverado Trail a bit, we were there in moments, greeted first by the gorgeous towering statue of a rearing black stallion atop a tiered waterfall, and then by the voice at the other end of the phone: Adriana Vargas, the concierge. She directed us toward our choice of an indoor tasting room or a lovely outdoor patio. We opted for the outdoors, and first strolled through the miniature on-site vineyard right next to the patio.
Each row of grapes was a different varietal, and guests were encouraged to try a grape or two, right off the vine, and experience the differences and discover how your favorite Cabernet or Pinot Noir got its start. Once we’d walked all the rows, we were still only steps from the patio, where a lovely young lady, Lydia Farrer, filled us in on both the wines and the winery itself.
Lydia explained that the winery got its stallion logo as a nod to its own history. The property was once the site of the Silverado Equestrian Center, which was purchased by new owners and turned into a winery. The vineyards were planted six year ago, and are not yet in production, but Lydia expected that they would be ready soon. Until then, the winery purchases grapes elsewhere, which is surprisingly not that uncommon. Black Stallion wine grapes currently come from the Monte Rosso Vineyard, one of the oldest in the area, with vines that are 110 years old.
The only thing better than enjoying great wine in a postcard perfect setting is being served by someone who is interested in the industry and enjoys her job. Lydia was such a person, and explained that her dedication was simple: She simply loves wine. She didn’t study viticulture, and gained her expertise on the job.
“I didn’t know much about it until I was exposed to this environment, and then the obsession flowered pretty quickly.”
It helps if you enjoy chatting with the public, and Lydia says “I enjoy getting to talk about wine all day.”
She was quite a sociable hostess, and poured a flight of reds and whites, many of which fell in the affordable $30-45 per bottle range. A bottle of Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio sells for $22 and on up to $200 for a 2009 Bucephalus Red Blend, with a wide range of varietals in between. “Bucephalus,” explained Lydia, was the name of the horse that belonged to Alexander the Great, so it seemed like a fine name for their finest wine. And, no small coincidence, the Black Stallion logo and statue bear striking resemblance to the fiery black stallion of Greek antiquity.
A tour and tasting at Black Stallion Winery costs $30 per person, as does their “All About Wine” tasting, which is an introduction to wine and wine tasting. A private tasting costs $25. All-red tastings are $20, and all-white or mixed tastings are $15.
When we’d reached the last tasting in our flight that day, we moved over to the sofas and just enjoyed the sun and scenery, and then meandered through the gift shop. If you love horses, you’ll find plenty of things you “must” have, from wine charms and coasters to hats and tote bags, as well as a selection of wine, books, sweets and snacks.
All in all, you couldn’t really ask for a more simply perfect visit, and then a lovely drive back home through rolling hills and shady oak groves, with never a line of taillights blocking the view.
For more information about Black Stallion Estate Winery, visit www.blackstallionwinery.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (707) 227-3250.