While the Napa Valley has always been accommodating to the equestrian lifestyle, having a thoroughbred winery intermingled with a 22-acre horse ranch is a new attraction in Calistoga.
To initiate this blend, owners Barry and Jennifer Waitte showed their fondness for good wine and good equines by holding an open house last week at their new Tamber Bey Vineyards and Sundance Ranch on Tubbs Lane, just north of Calistoga. About 350 guests attended, which included neighbors, vintners, friends and journalists.
Tamber Bey Vineyards, which was founded in 1999 with vineyards in Oakville and Yountville, has had its wines produced at another winery. The Calistoga property will provide custom crushing facilities for other vintners.
“We have a permit for 28,000 cases,” Barry Waitte said, “and plan to produce half of that to Tamber Bey, and the other half to clients. Tamber Bey is producing about 10,000 cases, and we plan to bring it to 14,000.”
Waitte said the custom crush is operating at capacity. “We have nine clients,” he said. “The vintners are coming from all over Napa County, from Calistoga to Yountville.”
Waitte and his wife have been very much involved in endurance horse racing, which means their horses are conditioned to ride up to 100 miles in one day. “When we saw this property for sale, we knew it was what we wanted,” Waitte said. “The county was very happy, too, because we weren’t adding any new buildings. Everything was already here. The buildings and the horse stalls were all here. We just did some renovation to the clubhouse, and the old 15,000-square-foot barn was converted to a winery.”
The Sundance Ranch facility was designed by architect Howard Backen. The clubhouse tasting and reception center retains an East Coast, colonial design, where visitors can taste the wines while enjoying the sights of some exceptional Arabian endurance horses — and all within the sight of Mount St. Helena. Adjacent to the clubhouse is the new winemaking facility.
Because of its proximity to the Old Faithful Geyser of California, which is next door, Waitte said the soil is not suitable for grapes. In addition to his own vineyards, used for his estate wines, Waitte said he is sourcing grapes from other vineyards in Calistoga and other areas. Waitte owns a 60-acre vineyard in Yountville and 11 acres in the Oakville appellation.
The wine label got its name from the Waittes’ first two Arabian horses: Tamborina “Tamber” and Bayamo “Bey.” The winery has become known for its 100 percent estate-grown cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot proprietary wines. It also produces a chardonnay, and recently introduced a rosé. The wines are crafted by winemakers Thomas Brown and Frederic Delivert.