Cool Wine Caves
To find the best places to sample wines, sometimes you have to go underground.
You can’t beat Napa’s seemingly endless vistas of rolling hills and vineyards, but to get a different perspective, head underground for unique experiences in architecturally stunning sometimes-historic wine caves, where the cooler temperatures and humidity offer the perfect conditions for aging wine. Here is a list of our eight favorite caves that also provide visitor tours.
High atop Howell Mountain, proprietors Ron and Susan Krausz’s Arkenstone Vineyards has a 26,000-square-foot cave that isn’t just for show. The underground space is a working facility and includes three barrel-storage rooms and two fermentation halls all resting two levels beneath a crush pad that sends grapes to tanks using only gravity. The cave design and construction process was four years in the making and helped along by Magorian Mine Services, which convinced the couple to move the design of much of the above-ground facility to the underground caves while leaving enough height to move the fruit to tanks by way of gravity. Tours and tastings are all appointment only, $30 per guest, waived with wine purchase. arkenstone.com
The Juancarlos Fernandez–designed and LEE D (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold–certified Cade Estate Winery features a 14,500-square-foot network of wine caves built into the hillside. Although the caves are used primarily for wine storage and barreling, they can be toured when visiting the winery. If you’re lucky enough, you may even get invited to a private chef’s dinner and tasting at the cave’s visual focal point, a gathering table made from material procured from a World War II submarine. Tours by appointment only, tasting and cave tour $35 per guest. cadewinery.com
Only the lucky ones invited to a private dinner, wine tasting or intimate wedding will set eyes on Calistoga Ranch’s private wine cave. Set in the bedrock of a hillside running along Lake Lommel, the hidden space boasts iron chandeliers, stone walls and private lockers for storing the vacation home owners’ personal collections. No fee, but cave visitors must be a guest of the resort or attending a private event held there. calistogaranch.com
Castello di Amorosa
Owner Dario Sattui, who grew up in Fairfax and is a Drake High School and College of Marin alum, employed medieval designs and construction methods to create his 13th century–inspired, 107-room Tuscan-style “Castle of Love” complete with drawbridge, torture chamber and secret passageways. Set aside enough time for this almost twohour tasting and tour of the property and caves. The eight-level castle (four-levels are underground), was built by workers from six countries, and one of its most impressive designs is the labyrinth of cave cellars that house thousands of bottles and barrels. Tasting and tour $33 per guest. castellodiamorosa.com
In 2002, Canadian businessman Cliff Lede purchased the S. Anderson Vineyard sparkling wine property in the Stags Leap District and revitalized it with a focus on Bordeaux varieties, a new name — Cliff Lede (pronounced “lady”) Vineyards — and the construction of a 25,000-square-foot cave system that houses the red wines and is an ideal spot for the bottle-aging process. Call ahead to book the appointment-only Estate Tasting Tour, which includes a guided swing around the property’s vineyards and caves, along with canapé and wine pairings; tour available Tuesday through Saturday, $75 per guest. cliffledevineyards.com
Located near downtown Napa Valley, Palmaz Vineyards is literally housed inside a mountain — Mount George to be exact. Visitors enter the winery on the fourth level (inside the mountain) to tour a series of caves connected via tunnels that make the space look like a giant underground wagon wheel. The cave houses its own water treatment plant and fermentation tanks are rotated using a custombuilt carousel. The cave also boasts a gigantic fermentation dome that the vineyard proprietors say is the world’s largest underground reinforced structure. Cave tours by appointment only, $60 per guest. palmazvineyards.com
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
Inside the entrance to the caves are dramatic spaces including the Great Room, which glows with hammered copper sconces and shimmering quartzite floors, and the Round Room, which rests 100 feet underground. Once inside, guests can enjoy a private viewing of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ estate wines aging in barrels and see a rare Foucault Pendulum, a device that demonstrates the rotation of the earth and, according to winery staff, is only one of 50 in the world. Beyond the architecture and science, the winery is also a showcase for artisans and art, including 17th-century original paintings of celestial maps. Make an appointment for the one-hour estate and wine cave tour, $40 per guest. cask23.com
The Jon Lail–designed Vineyard 29 winery includes 13,000 square feet of caves and three distinct tunnels reaching 125 feet back into the Mayacamas Mountains, all serving as both a subterranean showplace for a wine library and a way to precisely regulate the temperature and humidity for aging each barrel and bottle. The facility also produces all of its own energy by way of microturbines that help to chill and heat the winery’s water and the cave interior. Tours by appointment only, includes food and wine pairing, $60 per guest. vineyard29.com