Chelsea Hoff is by far the most inspiring wine maker and owner we have ever met. You leave her tasting not only joining the wine club (because there was no hesitation there – the wine is amazing) but wanting to be best friends with her. Super small production of only about 900 cases a year her wine was some of our favorite this trip – the kicker? It was also the most affordable. Her whole vision is a direct to consumer model to keep cost per bottle down to allow others to be able to pursue their dream without breaking the bank. Chelsea was a UC Davis graduate and is no stranger to the wine world – her parents own the incredible Fantesca Winery so you know wine making is in her blood. She has also worked in France and Australia almost setting routes down in Adelaide (so thankful she came back here for us to experience this more readily). Do not get us started on the little pups Leila and Bella on their property. The friendliest little puppers making the incredible experience even better (who doesn’t love dogs?)
We started our tasting with the 2017 Marsonne, you guys we are so sad that this isn’t being produced anymore (as is she)… if you’re lucky maybe she will have some left when you book your tasting appointment. Next up was the Fume Blanc which is 100% chenin blanc which has a chablis and sauvignon blanc mix and feel. It’s SO GOOD and would pair incredible with spicy food. Next up was the rosé made from grenache grapes – the note next to it? YES YES YES. What we love so much about her rosé is that it was intended to be a rosé and it shows. A little snippet of what Chelsea shared with us, is that not all rosé is made with the intention of it being one and to be honest once she said that it makes sense. There have been so many rosés that we’ve tried in the past that just don’t hold a flavor profile. Another cool fact about her rosé? The grapes are sourced from Shakridge Ranch which provides a bunch of grapes to female winemakers #womensupportingwomen. Last but certainly not least because it was our favorite of the tasting is her Grenache. It’s amazing – run online and buy a bottle or case (honestly case is the safer option because this is the everyday drinker you’ve been searching for).
There’s a lot to be said about great wine, but there’s even more to be said about the great people behind the wine. Fearless will always have our undying love and support for her message, for her wine and for the empowerment that she wants to give everyone. If we were to pick one winery from our entire trip that we think you should try and support it’s this one.
You guys. This is such a BEAUTIFUL property. So we have driven past this winery a dozen times and every single time our thought is “wow this property is stunning we need to look it up”. Well we finally looked it up and it turned out to be Storybook Mountain Winery – a wine property that dates back to 1883 but the current Storybook that we visited was established in 1976. This property has an incredible hand carved cave – in fact they had the same cave diggers as the infamous Schramsberg Winery. Storybook keeps a light staff of 9 people and they never use outside help or source their grapes. Another unique fact about this property? The owner and winemaker, Jerry, helps handpick the organic grapes before they are harvested and go into the destemmer. There is so much heart that goes into these wines and it shows, everything we tried was so good!
Now let’s talk about the wine because this was the highlight of the tour (I mean we all love a beautiful property but the wine that pairs with it is why we’re there!) The tasting started off with their Rosé which was clean, fruity and acidic. The next tasting and the first proper zin was the Mayacamas Range Zinfandel and this was such a great wine to start with – it’s silky and on the first sip you get the fruit and wine flavors, the tannins hit your mid tongue and the spices on your back pallet. This is a wine that would pair with just about anything and has a reasonable price point. Our personal favorite was the Eastern Exposure Zinfandel. This zin was wicked smooth and mixed with 10% of their Viognier – something we have not experienced before a white and red grape blend but with 90% Zinfandel grapes this was everything you wanted in that varietal. SO. DARN. GOOD. The last wine worth a mention was their Viognier – not typically a fan of this varietal but man this wine was a game changer. We LOVED this – it’s a viognier for non viognier drinkers.
This is the winery that if we were locals we would be at every weekend. This winery is farm chic – with a traditional southern feel. It’s the kind of place you lose track of time. When you’re there with a group of friends you feel like you can just relax and enjoy. We had Jim as our host and he was amazing and so informative – if you can request him because we really enjoyed our time – he was never pushy on sales and was ready for any question thrown at him. When we were looking up this property we didn’t really know what to expect when we got there but let me tell you – it is b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l. There is lush thick ivy on the buildings and a sea of hydrangea as you walk back to the tasting area – it feels like a whimsical garden. Don’t even get us started on the super cute swings that were at our table (also pictured here). They were so comfortable and relaxing – a nice warm breeze, comfy swing, and a glass of wine in our hands is perfection.
One of the things we loved about this tasting is that it wasn’t a flight with all the wines poured out at once and that they took the time to bring you a new glass each and every time and waited until you were finished before pouring your next. This allowed for the wine to always be tried at its designated temperature and for you to truly experience it how it is meant to be drank. One thing we learned through our tasting here and at other places in Napa is that you need to keep an open mind to every varietal. There were so many instances where one of us would think this is not my favorite varietal and I don’t really want this… then we tried it and it ended up being our favorite from the winery. This happened to me twice here, once with their chardonnay and then again with their syrah (and we ended up buying a bottle of both).
The reserve chardonnay at Frank Family is single vineyard from Carneros and it was crisp with apple notes made in a Burgundian style – cool climate, french oak aged and would be a dream paired with a good ole fashion New England lobster roll (hence why we bought a bottle to take home, don’t have to tell us twice to get a lobster roll!) The syrah just as surprising with how good it was, it ended up being my favorite wine of the tasting. Another wine to note was their Zinfandel – it had a beautiful nose, it was fruity with a lingering carmel finish that would be amazing with any tomato based dish – especially pizza.
Overall this is one that we definitely think is worth a visit, especially if you’re looking for a more lowkey Napa experience.