The GRADE Cellars is owned by Calistogans Tom Thornton and Brenda Mixson. Thornton’s love of all things Robert Louis Stevenson and his connection to Calistoga is the basis for the winery’s name, and the names of their wines. Stevenson and his bride, Fanny, honeymooned on Mount Saint Helena in 1889 in an abandoned mining town called Silverado.
It was during that time Stevenson penned his book “The Silverado Squatters.” Stevenson writes, “ … we entered the toll road, or to be more local, entered on ‘the grade’,” which is where the winery name was born, and the toll road to which the author refers is where the vineyard is located, on Lawley Old Toll Road.
The GRADE is a small production winery producing 215 cases of SEA-FOG Sauvignon Blanc. It was harvested in August 2016, and released in October 2017. It has an alcohol content of 13.8 percent.
Winemaker and Calistogan Thomas Rivers Brown said, “This wine possesses a stern minerality that starts immediately in the front and carries all the way through to the finish. It’s marked by a dry flintiness that speaks to the ancient riverbed gravel that is littered throughout the vineyard.”
Aptly named SEA-FOG has a briny character, and is a brightly acidic Sauvignon Blanc with layers of herbaceous flavors, pineapple and stone fruit, lychee nut, and creamy lemon curd.
It has the color of golden straw with tropical fruit aromas, a luscious mouthfeel with a slightly viscous texture.
The grapes come from Fish Vineyard located in Calistoga where warm days and cool nights give the fruit time to develop full flavors and steep acidity.
There is a tasting room located in downtown Calistoga on what Tom Thornton describes as “the shady end” at 1236 Lincoln Ave., in the upstairs portion of the building shared with Lovina restaurant. They also offer tastings and tours at Winfield Vineyard, the vineyard on Lawley Old Toll Road.
IF YOU GO:
There are three tasting options. The Winfield Estate Vineyard tour, $100 per person, includes a short ride in their 1967 Land Rover from the Lincoln Avenue tasting room to the vineyard where an Airstream trailer serves as a tasting room and overlooks the 12-acre, 7-block vineyard. Current releases and select library offerings are included with a taste of the single-block “Kingley Project” Cabernet Sauvignon, all paired with locally sourced artisan cheeses. Allow 90 minutes.
“The Library” tasting, $35 per person, takes place in the Lincoln Avenue cottage and includes current vintage offerings. Allow 45 minutes for this tasting.
A 60-minute tasting for $75 per person takes place in the cottage in the “Stevenson Room” where guests will enjoy current vintage wines as well as a selected library vintage paired with locally sourced artisan cheeses.