Explore Eight of Napa Valley’s Finest Small Production Wineries
The Caves at Soda Canyon tasting room is elegant, sophisticated and welcoming. Off the beaten path, on a less traveled and winding road, reward yourself with a wine tasting adventure while being mesmerized by valley views, when you arrive at The Caves at Soda Canyon.
The wines you will sample are pure elegance in a bottle, to be enjoyed in a magical location overlooking the Napa Valley. Escorted back to the tasting area, seated at a comfortable table, The Caves features a selection of some of Napa’s finest boutique wines. Josh Uran, estate director, will generally be hosting the tastings. He is a wealth of knowledge about each of the nine wineries this collective represents, and about Napa Valley itself.
As you taste with Josh, he will give you insight to Napa Valley, “then and now.” Josh’s family has been in the valley “since the beginning,” as he is fifth generation. Josh and his family have lived the history, growth, challenges, and successes of the area. Being able to pour and represent wines from premium Napa producers, while supervising an estate such as The Caves, is a dream come true for him. Get him talking and you will hear vignettes about Napa Valley, his family, it’s evolution and what a great place it is to grow up and live in, (“living here I still feel that small town vibe while having a lot of fancier dining and tasting options to choose from”). Of course, Josh will also tell you about the wines and winemakers.
On our visit, we tasted wines from several winemakers, including:
Hertelendy Vineyards. Ralph Hertelendy is still a virtual newcomer. Ralph’s first release was in 2016, a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, earning him a score of 95. As Robert Parker commented: “It should merit serious attention.” Since then, Hertelendy wines have received scores of up to 99 from the industry’s most respected critics. It is a treat to be able to sample these wines at The Cave.
Tasting several selections from Lobo Wines was another unique experience. Initially the Wulff family purchased vineyards and grew grapes, as they were farmers. Their fruit was so exquisite that they started selling fruit to elite producers such as Randy Lewis of Lewis Cellars, and Mumm. Eventually purchasing land on Atlas Peak, they grew grapes which they used for their flagship Cabernet Sauvignon. Lobo Wines are consistently awarded high scores from the likes of James Suckling, Robert Parker, Wine Enthusiast Magazine, additionally receiving medals from the most prestigious wine competitions. Winemaker Victoria Coleman has experience working with some of the world’s most renown winemakers, including Erik Tourbier, at Chateau Mouton Rothchild. Her experience and expertise are reflected in the wines she produces for Lobo.
The story of S.R. Tonella Cellars is a narrative of Napa Valley itself, reaching back a century, to Steve Tonella’s great uncle, Joseph Ponti. Arriving in San Francisco from Italy following the 1906 earthquake, Ponti eventually ended up working for and becoming head winemaker for Beaulieu Cellars, where he crafted Napa Valley’s first internationally recognized Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, Tonella wines, especially their Cabernet Sauvignon, are in high demand and greatly respected. As the Robb Report stated: “S.R. Tonella’s Cabernet Sauvignon is history in the making.” Although the reputation is built on Tonella’s record of producing ultra-premium Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietals, do not overlook Tonella’s whites, especially their Reserve Sauvignon Blanc. This is simply a Sauvignon Blanc that stands apart from others. With the bouquet of aromas and varying tastes on the pallet, this Sauvignon Blanc shows off how truly elegant this varietal can be. Steve Tonella is carrying on a family tradition reaching back 100 years—continuing to create history, sharing that with those who sip their wines.
The Wines at The Caves at Soda Canyon
Buoncristiani Family: Three brothers who grew up in Napa, from a long lineage of Italian winemakers, formed their own winery in 1999. Working together, they strive to produce high quality ultra-premium wines, to be enjoyed with family and friends.
Hertelendy Vineyards: Ralph Hertelendy is a superstar whiz kid (well, he was a kid when I first met him). Speaking 5 languages, a classical pianist, sports enthusiast (skydiving among his passion), Hertelendy wines have earned Parker scores up to 99 points. Ralph is constantly seeking the golden grail of a 100-point wine.
Husic Vineyards is located next to The Caves, with the same amazing views looking over Stags Leap and the Southern Napa Valley. This boutique winery produces primarily Cabernet Sauvignon; however, their Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Late Harvest Semillon is a complimentary addition to Frank and Julie’s winery. Winemaker Mike Hirby (owner/winemaker of Relic Wine Cellars) is consistently producing award winning, highly regarded wines at Husic.
Innovatus: First American Korean winemaker Cecil Park is known for her creativity. Managing over 80 vineyards in Napa, Cecil knows just about every inch of Napa Valley soil-and making innovative wine from those grapes is the result of her experience and knowledge. “She’s challenging that status quo of a typical cab/merlot blend from Napa…” (Cathy Huyghe, Forbes).
Lobo: Victoria Coleman began her career at Stag’s Leap, also working in China and France (as mentioned above). Her wines at Lobo consistently receive high recognition; her 2015 Cabernet received 96 points from Decanter Magazine, their highest rating that year for a California Cabernet. Also, being the first female African American Winemaker in Napa, Victoria has paved the way for others to follow.
Okapi, under 1000 cases are produced by this micro-label brand, owned by Dan and Kim Johnson. Their passion for small lot premium wine is matched by their commitment to protect endangered species, a portion of all proceeds being donated to The Okapi Wildlife Preserve. Producing elegant wines with a passion and a purpose.
Patland Estate, a family winery, started by Ukrainian owners Henry and Olga, with son Michael (GM) and assistant winemaker (son Felix). Estate wines are from their estate Terra de Cuore Vineyard, and they also source from the well-known Stagecoach Vineyards.
S.R.Tonella: 3rd Generation family with deep Napa roots. Steve involves himself in all phases of the winery-from the vineyard to the label. As winemaking legend André Tchelistcheff once said, “It takes Rutherford Dust to grow great Cabernet Sauvignon.” S.R. Tonella strives every day to make wines that truly represent “Rutherford Dust.”
Come Sip at Soda Canyon
Josh Uran invites you to join him in the cave tasting room, or out on our patio overlooking the exquisite Napa Valley for an elite experience tasting elegant, small production, boutique wines. By appointment, choose from their Classic experience: 2 whites and 4 reds or choose their Cabernet Tasting where you may create your own flight from 6 of their elite labels.
You will be moved by the wines, hypnotized by the view, and relish a unique wine adventure at The Caves at Soda Canyon.
Don Sonderling is a freelance writer covering California’s Wine Country lifestyle, and culture. He and his wife are constantly sipping their way from Santa Barbara to Napa, focusing on Paso Robles and the Central Coast, where they have explored for about 25 years. Don has earned his WSET2 (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) certification, has completed the Bourgogne Masterclass through the Napa Valley Wine Academy, and is a member of the LA. Wine Writers.
Focusing on the people and unique experiences to be had, Don’s goal is to have people read about California’s amazing wine country adventures, seeing it through his eyes, and say: “I want to go there, try that, meet them,” and enrich the lives of others as his has been, by exploring California’s wine roads.