The Del Dotto Estate Winery and Caves
Summary: The new Del Dotto Vineyards tasting room is stunning. The newest Del Dotto winery, tasting room and caves opened in 2007 in St. Helena.
The newest facility for Del Dotto was opened in 2007. The winery has been built into the side of a hill. A large green garden adds a lovely contrast to the building. The lower level is the tasting room and the caves are located beyond. A fountain outside of the doors adds to the impression of a majestic entrance. Upon entering the facility, visitors will see marble floors and walls with pillars rising to the ceilings. Large chandeliers add to the character of the ornate facility. Just inside the door, encased in a glass display unit, are several metal French wine thieves from the 19th century.
Dave Del Dotto sees this winery facility as a temple for their wine which they believe are world class wines. The property for this facility was purchased in 1988. The drive to the parking area passes through vineyards. Del Dotto has also collected vineyards throughout Napa Valley. The winery produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Merlot. Ten thousand cases of wine are sold through the tasting room direct to the consumer.
The tour began with a visit to the winery where they were sorting and destemming grapes. The winery has two sorting tables. At the first table the large stems and other material other than grapes, MOG, are removed. The grapes enter a destemming machine and then go on to the second sorting table where small jacks (the small stems that attach the grape to the stems) are removed. The tour then proceeded to the wine cave. On the way we stopped to view a map of Del Dotto's vineyards.
Candles help light the caves and add to the wonderful ambiance and as visitors tour the wine cave, samples are drawn from various oak barrels to taste. Most of the oak barrels are French. The cave was built for several reasons including that they believe wine is sacred, wine is a gift from God, wine should be placed in an atmosphere that is sacred and has a focus on the wine.
Our guide conducted the tastings from the barrels. Frequently he asked the group which wines they liked. There were always mixed answers and our guide was always accepting of everyone’s answers. The tasting was educational and often compared wines for example one aged in American oak contrasted with the same wine aged in French oak.
Caves Merlot 2005 was a dark ruby color. There was an aroma of cherries and black fruit with mineral hints. The taste was of black fruit with layers of fruit. The finish was very fruity with tannins. Sangiovese 2007 was in French oak. The aroma was of cherry with raspberry nuances while the taste had notes of cherries. The finish was fruity with mild tannins. Cave Blend 2006 was a blend of 60 percent Merlot, 30 percent Cabernet Franc and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. The aroma and taste was of black, jammy fruit. The fruity finish had mild tannins. Cabernet Franc 2008 had an herbaceous aroma and taste. The taste also had some fruit. Merlot 2007 (from the vineyard at the site of the winery) offered cinnamon spice and black fruit notes. The taste was also of black fruit. The finish was fruity with bold tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from three vineyards. The aroma was of blackberries and spice. There were blackberry notes on the taste. The finish had bold tannins. This wine was still somewhat young. Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 was produced from fruit in Vineyard 887. The aroma and taste were of blackberries and cocoa. The finish was fruity with bold, chewy tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 was from St. Helena Mountain vineyard. The aroma was of dark fruit with flower nuances. The taste was smooth with layers of fruit. The finish had bold tannins.
An interesting analogy was made while we were at Del Dotto. Fine wine is like a gourmet meal; grapes are the ingredients, barrel toastings are the spices and the winemaker is the chef.
To learn more about Del Dotto’s older caves, read the article on Wine Trail Traveler.
The Del Dotto Estate Winery and Caves
1445 St. Helena Highway South
St. Helena, California
GPS: N38º 28.768’ W122º 26.521’
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