Last weekend I had the chance to visit the Jarvis Winery just outside Napa, one of the top wineries in the US. During the summer Will Jarvis (the son of the owners) had visited both Spil Games and Tudou, so I already heard a lot about the wines before my visit and I was really looking forward to seeing the winery operations.
On Sunday morning I drove over with some friends, it’s a scenic drive to the Jarvis vineyards that are located in the northeastern part of Napa Valley. Once you arrive at the gate to the winery you still don’t see much, just some small vineyards on the mountain slopes but no buildings at all. The reason is simple: the owners built a cave inside the mountain where all operations are located. Even the offices are inside the cave! This winery was the first in the US to tunnel a cave so big that all its operations would fit in there.
I was very honored that Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis (the owners of the winery) would give us a private tour of their cave facilities, it made the visit extra special for me. We met them at the reception at the entrance of the cave and from there we walked around through the whole underground tunnel system that Mr. Jarvis had designed and built. What I saw was very impressive, everything was designed with an eye for detail. There is even a stream and waterfall underground, something I had never seen before in any winery caves.
The wines are also made with attention to every detail. Mr. Jarvis told me for example that the barrels are made out of the very best French wood (they tested many different kinds) and are only used once, unlike most other wineries where they are used several times. This is one of the reasons why their wines are so unique, but of course it also increases the cost (if I remember correctly a barrel costs about USD 900 per piece). The tunnel system has a parabolic shape to make it more stable, and deeper inside the caves there are some huge rooms. One is used among others for their bi-yearly harvest ball and it’s probably big enough to put a few indoor tennis courts.
Because of the attention to detail and only going for the very best quality, the Jarvis wines are among the very best on the market. For example, where normal wineries sometimes have over 2000 vines per acre, Jarvis only has 566 in order to get the very best grapes. Quality is the only thing that counts, and that you can not only see in the whole underground operation, but you can also taste it during their wine tastings.
Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis invited us to a private wine tasting deep inside the caves with some of their very best wines. As regular readers of this blog know I love to drink good wines, so I looked forward to this tasting. I am no real expert (yet), but their wines were incredible. They mainly have reds (Cabernet, Merlot) but also a Chardonnay that totally blew me away. I love Californian Chardonnays and have tried quite a few over the years, but this was probably the best I had ever had.
After the wine tasting Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis invited us for lunch at the newly opened Morimoto in Napa. This restaurant is also highly recommended: we enjoyed our lunch on the terrace next to the Napa river and had among others some wonderful maki sushi. Before driving back to San Francisco we visited the Napa Conservatory that the Jarvis family started in 1995. A very nice theater in the middle of Napa, mainly used for Spanish opera and baroque ballet.
All in all a fantastic day in beautiful Napa Valley. Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis, in case you should read this, thank you very much for your hospitality, I enjoyed it very much.
The Jarvis Winery is located at 2970 Monticello Rd., Napa, CA 94558. Phone: 1-800-255-5280 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Winery tours incl. wine tasting only after appointment, you can book online here. Interested to buy some of the excellent Jarvis wines? Here you can order their products online.