Last year, we had the opportunity to visit the Vincent Arroyo winery, a small production winery in Calistoga, California. Before visiting Napa, I was unfamiliar with the Arroyo winery but am now a big fan!
In 1974, Vincent Arroyo left behind a career as a mechanical engineer in the Silicon Valley and purchased 23 acres of land. For years, he was a one man operation: farmer, sommelier and sales force. Alone, he originally produced a few hundred cases of Petite Syrah and Cabernet, and sold the majority of his grape tonnage to other Napa wineries. Today, he has more than 85 acres, and produces more than 8,000 cases of wine each year!
Each wine at the winery is hand-crafted, starting from before the grapes are harvested. Arroyo himself decides how the grapes from each vineyard will be vinified, when they will be picked, how they will be crushed, what fermentation regimes they will undergo and finally, what percentage of French or American barrels will be used to maximize the optimum flavors during the barrel-aging process.
A smaller winery known for its intimacy, Arroyo hosts events for its fans throughout the year. Annually, one of its most popular events is its Winemaker Dinner. Each year, they entertain 140 people over two nights in a tent set up next to the winery. The dinner is a three course meal catered by Knickerbockers of St. Helena, California. Space is limited with reservations accepted beginning on January, 2nd of each new year. Often, the dinner is fully booked within a week of opening the call for reservations.
Our friend had to return home unexpectedly: someone broke into her home. Mary, the dinner coordinator was fantastic and allowed us to cancel her reservation at the last minute and was patient as we tried to navigate the ever-evolving situation.
When all was finally settled, we showed up at the dinner and enjoyed some pre-dinner cocktails. We saw the vineyard’s wine dog and met some nice folks. We checked in and learned we would be dining at table one.
At table one we met some wonderfully interesting and energetic people. One couple we especially connected with has dedicated themselves to improving the lives of others in Nicaragua.
We had an incredible time, and JBS nearly was an honorary member of the Arroyo family by the end of the night!!
Italian Ribollita Soup, Grilled Bread, Parmesan Cheese, Virgin Olive Oil
Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm the vinters will go into the wine library to check and see how the older vintages are aging. Each year, they set aside a limited amount of each wine, bottle it, and put it into the library. They try to pour as many of these older vintages as possible, and release some of them for sale. Saturday’s Open House is the chance to fill your wine library with some of Arroyo’s great older vintages or re-stock your cellar with old favorites!
The only event bigger and more exclusive than the Winemaker Dinner or the Open house is of course the Crush event at Arroyo, “Amigos de Arroyo“.
Each October during the crush, Arroyo has a lottery. 80 lucky winners, a very select group of “Amigos” harvest the grapes and transport them to the winery for stomping. Once all the work is done, they feast on paella prepared over an open fire and drink some of his best wines. Each member of the group receives 2 bottles of the wine that they helped to make and every Amigo is listed on the label as a wine maker!
Visiting Arroyo For A Tasting
Vincent Arroyo winery is located just North of Calistoga. Tours are available by appointment only. It’s small and the staff are great. they pride themselves in the personal experience and give you a thorough tour of the winery, its vineyards and you can even get one to take you to the back and do a bit of barrel thieving if you ask!!
If there are four people or less in your entire party, then the tasting is complementary. For groups of 5 -10 people the tasting each guest is $10.00. But remember, tours are available by appointment only!!