Recently, Sonja and I shared one of our best experiences together in California wine country to date. Sonja doesn’t always come with me when I travel to Napa for writing trips, though this past excursion marked our fourth in as many years. She’s pregnant (again) — due in April with our little girl. I wanted to be sure that I got plenty of writing done, but also that Sonja enjoyed herself in spite of not being able to imbibe, so I went way out of my way to find experiences — like touring the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield (see Sonja’s previous post) and visiting historic, scenic locations to keep her interested.
One of the places I thought we’d both enjoy was Salvestrin. The ancient house erected by Dr. Crane in the 1880’s still overlooks a 26 acre parcel of his original vineyard, and there Italian immigrants John and Emma Salvestrin had made a home for their family in 1932. Eddie, an employee of the Salvestrin estate and admittedly not a morning person, had nevertheless graciously agreed to meet with me for an 8am tasting, and together we sat in the beautiful tasting room overlooking the historic Crane Vineyard which that morning was covered in fog, and I got to taste many of Rich Salvestrin’s exceptional wines.
Of all the wines I tried at Salvestrin that morning, the “Three D” Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 stood out among giants. This 100% varietal Cabernet, limited to 350 cases, had spent a lengthy spell of 35 months on oak. Robust and full bodied yet exceedingly smooth and easy drinking, with formidable structure and the dark fruit profile necessary to provide excellent balance, this was among the best Cabernets I was fortunate enough to try during my last visit to the Valley. A tribute to winemaker Rich Salvestrin’s talent as a vintner, and to his three beautiful daughters, it quickly became a favorite. After the tasting, Sonja and I sat at the ancient dining room table chatting with Ed, Rich’s father, and Eddie, about the history of the estate and of the entire Napa Valley, of winemaking, of family, and of life, until at last we had to go lest we be late to our next appointment.
Sonja didn’t taste a drop of wine during our visit, yet it was obvious that it was one of her favorite visits during the trip. And that, to me, epitomizes what it is that draws me to the Napa Valley time after time after time. Of course I love the wine, and the views are all but unparalleled, but what makes California wine country so very special in my mind is the people I encounter while I’m there. That’s the draw. Even if you removed the viticultural aspects of the place completely, you’d still be left with one of the most wonderful places in the world because of those who live there. It’s people, people like the Salvestrin family. Like Eddie, and like Ed. Their warmth and sincerity, their generosity and their spirit is what makes this place a thousand miles from Nebraska my home away from home.