Winemakers and vintners, both those who were born to the wine industry and those who found an unusual path to the life, could be found in a sun-dappled park in Calistoga Saturday pouring their boutique wines and telling their personal stories of how they and their wines came to be a part of the first annual Calistoga Wine Experience.
In this one-of-a-kind experience where dozens of wines grown or produced in the Calistoga AVA could be enjoyed in a serene Pioneer Park along the Napa River, members of the Calistoga Winegrowers Association set out to create an event that would both showcase the unique qualities of the Calistoga AVA and give people attending the popular Calistoga Harvest Table on Sunday, a full weekend experience by attending the Saturday event.
The Calistoga Winegrowers Association placed informative posters at the entrance of the park describing such things as the AVA’s diurnal change, the most extreme temperature swing in Napa Valley that allows grapes to relax after a warm day and the cooler nights allow for more acid retention creating balanced grapes that turn into balanced wines, and how the area has the highest percent of volcanic soil, which grapes love, in the Napa Valley.
Many of the wines poured for the Calistoga Wine Experience can only be purchased direct through the winery, or at select restaurants or retailers. This tasting was a wine-lover’s golden ticket to not only taste the wine, but interact with vintner or winemaker, who, in some cases wears both hats.
Those attending came from near and far – such as Ed Mykyten, Parke Crawford, Stacy Crawford and David Smith from Atlanta or like Bob and Britt Bell who came from Australia to visit their daughter, Jenny, who lives in Calistoga – and others discovered the event simply by walking by the park on Cedar Street and inquiring about what was going on. Some who had planned trips to Calistoga said they found out about the event in advance by searching online for things to do taking place in the area. With live music by band Hot Club of San Francisco, food provided by Chef Rick Warkel of Calistoga Kitchen, there were a lot of happy faces.
Larry Arnoff, president of the Calistoga Winegrowers Association (CWA), said they sold more tickets to the inaugural event than they had hoped for, which was a humble guess he estimated.
The venue provided a mostly shaded cover and where the sun hit hardest shade umbrellas protected those underneath. The wood-chipped area all around was dotted with plenty of tables and chairs where people dropped in to nibble sandwiches, dates, nuts, tomatoes and mozzarella for a few minutes before they got up to explore more Calistoga wines.
The time and space flowed with a crowd that still had elbow-room enough to get a few up and dancing in front of the gazebo where the band played, such as the Australian Bell couple who needed only a little prodding, their daughter said.
Most of the wineries present do not have a full-time tasting room or the permit for drop-in tastings and require appointments. Some of the wineries pouring have no opportunity other than events such as this to showcase their wines.
Among those wineries that were pouring include Amici Cellars, Baldacci Family Vineyards, Barlow Vineyards, Bennett Vineyards, Bragg Vineyards, Canard Vineyard, Chateau de Vie, Fairwinds, Harris Estate, Huge Bear Wines, Jax Vineyards, Jericho Canyon Vineyard, Jones Family Vineyards, Kenefick Ranch Vineyards, Laura Michael Vineyards, Next Door Wine, Phifer Pavitt Wine, and more. The full list of participating wineries is available on CalistogaWinegrowers.com.