Piña Cellars caters to Cab Enthusiasts

Overlooking the rolling hills of the historic Silverado Trail stands a quaint winery where premier Napa grapes and a legacy family are united. There are no frills at Piña Cellars – just first-class Cabernet Sauvignon. So please, only serious Cab lovers enter.

At first glance, you know you are walking into the heart of the winery – the cellar. You will see the towering stacks of oak barrels with an overturned barrel acting as a table to showcase recent vintages of their highly demanded Cabernet Sauvignon. Here, wine tasting starts from the bottle but doesn’t stop there. The family is eager to “thief” maturing wine right from the French oak barrels for your sipping pleasure. This is the way to experience the mystery of wine.

The charisma lies within the wines themselves. Specializing in six vineyard-designated Cabernet Sauvignons, the Piñas highlight some of Napa’s superior microclimates. Their 2004 Howell Mountain is a prime example of a Napa Cab, delivering notes of blackberry with a hint of fresh cedar lingering in the bouquet. One sip reveals a “jammy” mouth feel and finishes with refined, chewy tannins.

The 2005 D’Adamo vineyard Cab is slightly more reserved and sophisticated. This workhorse of a wine presents aromas of elegant “red fruit” and follows through with mocha, bing cherry and spicy undertones of currant. Both of these wines are a Cab fan’s dream. The four other Cabs were still maturing in oak but revealed a hint of great things soon to come.

How did all of this get started? The tradition of farming for the Piña family reaches back to about 1856 with Great-Great-Great-Grandfather, Bluford Stice. The family’s first winemaking was traced to Great-Great-Grandfather, Lafayette Stice in the late 1800’s. In the 1920’s, the Piña side of the family arrived when John Sr. and Maria Piña moved from Malaga, Spain. Their son, John Jr. purchased a small vineyard off the Silverado Trail and started a vineyard management company. The company eventually was transferred to the four sons.

Today, Larry, Davie, Randy and John Piña make up the dynamic team. With 94 points from Wine Spectator for the 2004 Howell Mountain Cab and a 95 rating from Wine Enthusiast for their 2005 Howell Mountain, they may decide to expand their production from the current level of 2,000 cases anually. No decision has been set on how much wine they will eventually produce.

Winemaker Anna Monticelli joined the crew in April 2007 and recognizes she has been presented with a wonderful opportunity for making great wine. “It’s nice when the grower and the winemaker can work together,” she said. Despite her young age of twenty-nine, she brings years of study in France, production in Bordeaux and locally at Seavey and Bryant Vineyards.

“Great wines start in the vineyards”, serves as a family motto. And this winemaking family works with prominent Napa vineyards — the Buckeye, Howell Mountain; the D’Adamo, Napa Valley; the Firehouse, Rutherford; and the Ames, Oakville.

There is no doubt that with their years of vineyard expertise, Piña Cellars will be steadily recognized as a prized winery in the Napa Valley for wine enthusiasts and collectors.

By James Claus
© 2008, Artisan Wine Tours, LLC