Private versus Public Wineries

Anyone who has been to Napa knows that out of the 400+ wineries, many of them are listed as Private, which often means you cannot access them……unless, of course, you know someone…or someone who knows someone else.  We have some of those connections in the valley, connections that would allow guests to have access to very private and exclusive tastings not offered to anyone unless you are “in the know”.  We often don’t publicize the fact because the prices on some of these private wines can be $75 to $150 and up, and the expectation of the winemaker is that the individuals coming to the winery are on a “wine-buying” trip and are serious about buying a case or more of wine from them.  Most of these wineries only produce one thousand cases or less, which means there is very little to go around.  There are “cult wineries” that have started like this- Screaming Eagle, for one.  It was a small private winery and in 1992 it received 100 points from Robert Parker- high praise indeed.  With that rating came higher prices, and a waiting list for the wine.  It doesn’t matter that the original winemaker is gone; the cult-following is there.  Look for anything on a menu with Screaming Eagle and you can see upwards of $1500 or more for a single bottle of wine.  Today there is a waiting list to be put on the wine club members list, a wait of up to 3 years, we’re told.  Anyway, other private wineries are producing great wines and some of them are providing really unique experiences.  One place we visited (and you can too, for the right price of course) was up on Diamond Mountain.  We took a dirt road, parked, and then walked through some sagebrush to a 3-tier platform that had the most magnificent view of Napa Valley.  One section was covered with a trellis, with a table and chairs set up for formal wine tasting.  This winemaker only produces one wine, but he had 3 different years for us to taste and purchase.  It was a fascinating exercise in how wine changes over the years, and to speak to him about why he made it different each year and what he was trying to achieve; this was the real bonus.  Not to mention the VIEWS!  Then he told us that he is willing to do private lunches and dinners at the vineyard with the following stipulations: you have to hire a driver to take you there and back home (dinner drivers run about $100 for the evening).  I can understand why, as you are able to drink as much wine as you like, meander through the 13 acres of vines, or to just stare and gawk at the VIEWS.  Did I tell you about the VIEWS?  Okay, so that is really what you are paying for.  The other stipulation is that you wear comfortable walking or hiking shoes as you have to walk on this trail approximately 50 yards to get to the platform.  This is not a place dressing up; this is meant for casual dress for dinner.   Also, your bathroom (which is extra if you want it) is an outhouse that he will put on the property.  He also has plenty of lanterns and lighting for night events so you won’t get lost getting back to your driver.  For $125 per person for lunch, or $150 per person for dinner, you get wonderful VIEWS, as much wine as you want to drink (the wine is about $70/bottle), and a gourmet meal (beef wellington was the last meal he served).  He is willing to do it for 2 people up to 12 people, exclusively for The Inn On First.  If you want to go, all you have to do is ask.  We’ll be glad to set you up.


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