Napa Valley is not a place that sits still. Amid the decades-old, world-renowned wineries sprout signs of new beginnings. Sometimes, the new blood is younger-generation Napa, while other times, innovation is sparked by an outsider with a new take on things. These six wineries are some of our under-the-radar favorites.
Ashes & Diamonds
Just outside the town of Napa, Ashes & Diamonds is the vision of founder Kashy Khaledi, whose L.A. background includes time in the music video biz. Khaledi seeks to create a provocative ecosystem of food, wine and design, while winemakers Steve Matthiasson and Diana Snowden Seysses craft delicious bottlings from Cabernet Franc Rosé to Rancho Pequeño Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
Winemaker Massimo Di Costanzo of Di Costanzo and his wife, Erin Sullivan, whose Acme Fine Wines is a fantastic source for small-production bottlings, are behind this Cabernet Sauvignon brand. It utilizes grapes from Farella Vineyard in Coombsville, where the couple was married. The wine is structured and classic, mired in spicy restraint and grace.
Driscoll Wine Co.
Jason and Hilary Driscoll launched small-brand Tilth out of Oakville. In 2014, it released its first Tilth Zinfandel, made from vineyards in Napa Valley and Lake County, and also blended with a smidgen of Napa Valley Petite Sirah. It’s lovely and subdued, while it also shows spice and structure.
Grounded Wine Co.
The indefatigable Josh Phelps of Grounded Wine Co., previously of Taken Wine Co., has undertaken this project of his own, which debuts Steady State Red as its first wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blend. Phelps is a Napa native, whose father made wines for some of the top labels. With his own project, he aims to make wines that are clean, balanced and easy to love.
Second-generation grape farmer Dave Wilson and his wife, Christine, who grew up among the vines of the Sierra Foothills, make fresh, fun wines from vineyards across the state. Most important is Rancho Chimiles, their vast ranch in Wooden Valley. The standout is the winery’s Valdiguié, sourced from homegrown vines planted in 1972 by Dave’s dad.
The second act of former Araujo Estate proprietors Bart & Daphne Araujo, this St. Helena operation is part shared wine production facility and culinary gardens, all devoted to biodiversity. It even has chickens roaming free. Nigel Kinsman and Sarah Donley, formerly of Araujo and Colgin, make a lovely Wheeler Farms Cabernet Sauvignon that’s earthy and refined.