I stumbled upon a little pamphlet somewhere along the way during one of my trips to Sonoma County. It’s called the West Sonoma County Field Guide. It lists 20 “Wineries with a Thoughtful Approach”. It claims that these wineries use hand-harvested grapes and a gentle touch to craft wines with memorable flavors, true character, and great depth. Well, doesn’t that sound like a “to-visit” list??? And that’s exactly what it became. On my next trip I knocked off six of those 20 wineries and Castelli was quite possibly the most memorable one.
It’s easy to drive by this little family owned winery. I sure did – about four times before building up the courage to drive up the unmarked driveway – the one with the “Private Road No Trespassing” sign. It’s otherwise completely unmarked. It offered absolutely zero indication that a winery could be found at the end.
What caught my eye about this winery was that not only were they making Green Valley Pinot, but Emilio was also growing Nebiollo in the Green Valley. The brochure claimed he was “an expert in Nebbiolo”. For a region that produces such amazing Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, I just had to taste this Nebiollo – and of course his Pinot Noir!
I pulled in and just sat in his driveway. There was a large, window-less barn to the left and a house and a few vehicles. But it didn’t look anything like a winery! If I had spent just a few more moments on Emilio’s website and read about the barn, I would have immediately known I was in the right place.
A few minutes later Emilio emerged from the house and we headed into the barn for a tasting. It was obvious from the first moment that he was passionate about growing grapes and making wine. His wife popped in for a visit a few minutes later. I soon learned that it was at his wife’s suggestion that they put their name in the little West Sonoma County Field Guide and that it has brought them a nice amount of visitors.
There are small production wineries and then there’s Emilio! He produces around 500 cases of wine “on a good year”. That’s cases. Not barrels. That’s only 6,000 bottles of wine – per year! He’s sitting on five acres of land in the Green Valley which he dry farms all by himself. We spent the next hour chatting about his land and vines and his history. I could have spent the entire afternoon learning from him.
The makeshift tasting area was a small cart in the middle of the barn. I was able to taste just a few of his wines – remember he only produces 6,000 bottles per year. We tasted his 2014 Estate Pinot Noir from the Green Valley, his 2013 Estate Nebbiolo from the Green Valley, and his 2013 Nebbiolo from the Paso Robles area. I definitely preferred his Green Valley Nebbiolo.
Because I was wearing a rose wine themed t-shirt, he gifted me a bottle of his rose which he doesn’t offer for sale. He makes it just for his family from grapes that run along the boundary of his property – his neighbor uses “different” farming techniques so these vines provide a barrier between their land and his vines.
I highly encourage you to reach out to Emilio and plan a visit to Castelli Vineyards the next time you’re out that way! You can look forward to a relaxed and educational journey through his history and wines while enjoying some tasty wines.