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2009 Best Cabernet Sauvignon: V. Sattui Winery

Author: Julie Fadda
May, 2009 Issue

“People either know us really well or haven’t heard of us,” says Robert O’Malley, vice president at V. Sattui Winery. Certainly, most NorthBay biz readers are in the know, since they voted the winery Best Cabernet Sauvignon this year.

O’Malley says most people hear about V. Sattui via word of mouth. This is likely because the wines are available exclusively through the winery or its website—you won’t find them in retail stores or on restaurant lists. So knowing about them is the first step toward finding them. But once you do, a visit is in order—and it’s well worth the trip. Recently remodeled, the winery now features a large wine tasting area that was once the original winemaking space, a deli that would please even the most discriminating foodie and large picnic grounds where you can eat, drink and be merry. “It’s always a party here,” says O’Malley. “We’re family friendly, dog friendly; we don’t turn anyone away.”

The winery originated when Vittorio Sattui began making wine in San Francisco in the 1880s. He always purchased grapes from St. Helena because he liked their quality. Today, great-grandson Dario Sattui continues the tradition on the St. Helena property he purchased in the 1970s. The winery now produces 40,000+ cases annually, with 82 percent of its grapes grown on estate property (“so we have control from the ground up, from the vineyard to the bottle”).

Winemaker Brooks Painter crafts seven Cabernet Sauvignons, which span the price spectrum ($22-$125) and offer something for everyone. Current Cabernet releases include the 2006 Sattui Family (approachable, round and lush); the 2006 Napa Valley (medium-bodied, notes of chocolate, spice and black cherries); the 2006 Vittorio’s Vineyard (dark nose, earthy—great for a barbecue); the 2006 Mt. Veeder (bright and lively with dark, supple undertones); the 2005 Preston Vineyard (beautiful, velvety nose, layers of tobacco, leather and red fruit); the 2005 Morisoli Vinyeard (masculine, dry, dark and elegant); and the 2004 Reserve (a blend of the finest offerings from the Preston and Morisoli Vineyards).

And these are just seven of 43 different offerings—from sparkling to a Marsangnier (a blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier) to rosés, reds (there are six single-vineyard Zinfandels, for example) and even some Italian and dessert wines.  

“We like to have different wines available each time someone visits,” says O’Malley, who’s been with the company 20 years. “I think our popularity has grown because so many wineries are going for the five percent of consumers who can afford a $125 bottle. We have wines of that caliber, but we’re also concerned with the remaining 95 percent. People equate us with affordability and good value.”

A popular stopping point for tourists and locals alike, the winery hosts barbecues on weekends; an annual Harvest Ball (this year is the 35th anniversary), a formal event with a multi-course menu, a Michelin-star chef from Italy and live entertainment; and a Crush Party where you can view barrel building and experience taste demonstrations, vertical tastings, reserve tastings, food and music. It’s also one of the few wineries in Napa Valley that hosts weddings.

“We humbly accept this award,” says O’Malley. “It’s an honor to know so many of your readers value our wines. We work really hard to make wines as best we can. It’s liquid food, after all.”

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