Another favorite winery that we visited in Napa was Del Dotto.
This winery gave off an entirely different and albeit, wonderful vibe. When we walked in the patrons were mostly young and friendly as were the staff. My husband and I were happy to do a tasting at the bar and sample some cheeses, but eventually went on the cave tour and I am so glad that we did.
As we walked along barrel after barrel with a disco ball (I’ll explain that one later) above our heads, our wine expert asked us how we heard about Del Dotto. When I mentioned that a friend told me the people there would be a young, fun crowd, he smiled and said, “Yes, well I hired them.”
I knew then that this wasn’t just a general member of the staff, but I suppressed the urge to ask any questions.
We walked into the dimly lit caves and learned that they were built in the late 1800s by Chinese laborers. Our guide pointed out the pick ax marks on the wall that also had some funky moss and tiny stalactites hanging from above. Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart kept popping into my head.
Another couple joined us and introduced themselves and that’s when our guide told us his name, Giovanni. I finally asked if he was related to the Del Dotto’s and discovered that he’s their son. His sister is also working for the family business. Tada!
The first wines we tried were a 2012 Cabernet. I have heard many times that 2012 was a great year because the weather was superb and created perfect growing conditions for the grapes. The same Cabernet was stored in an American oak barrel and a French oak barrel. You could taste the difference right away; either that or I was growing far too confident as a result of tasting so much wine. I prefer the former. The French oak tasted (to me) like cocoa and coffee. The American oak was like smoked meat. Amazing how different the same wine can taste by storing it in different wooden barrels.
There was an example of what the inside of the barrels looked like on display. I was surprised and fascinated to see that the barrels had rivets running through the inside instead of a smooth surface. More surface area and more opportunity for the wine to take on flavor is my assumption.
To sample the wine, Giovanni used a wine thief. Way better than my term: wine dispenser. My husband and I share a sense of humor that is probably equivalent to a 12-year old so our thoughts went to a bad place very quickly when we saw the wine thief. Giovanni saw our smirks and mentioned it was nothing compared to a bachelorette party he gave a tour to once. I can just imagine.
We went on to sample ten more wines. Some favorites were MO/FO. Stands for Missouri Oak/French Oak. Now you have the dirty mind. See what happens when you hang out with me for too long!? I also found that I loved the Pinot Noir Clone Latache. The Pinots out in Napa are called the Cabernet drinker’s Pinot. My husband really liked the Fort Ross-Seaview Sonoma Coast Syrah.
While we finished sampling our wine, Giovanni brought out some cheese and amazing cured meats made (of course) by his family who also happen to have a chartucerie. One last interesting fact that we learned about Del Dotto’s wine is that after the grapes are picked, each stem and raisin is discarded leaving nothing but the perfect fruit behind. Also, they never press their grapes. Instead, they allow the grape juices to naturally drain.
Let’s not forget the disco ball. The disco ball was actually Giovanni’s father’s idea. At the end of the workday, they change the music over from classical to pop and the place turns into a private sort of nightclub for the employees to let loose. How awesome does that sound?
Giovanni, thank you for an outstanding tour. When we come back to Napa we will be visiting your winery’s other location in St Helena. Until then, we wish you and your family the very best.