AWG Correspondent

Anthony Marocco

Lava Vine Winery Photos

Lava Vine Winery Review

Regions: Napa Valley AVA, Calistoga AVA, California

Reviewed: May 17, 2014 by Anthony Marocco
Published: June 19, 2014

After our trip to Chateau Montelana, we drove down the Silverado Trail in search of a short pit stop at a small winery to kill some time. We had no idea what we were about to encounter when we came upon Lava Vine’s tasting room. Located in the heart of Calistoga, the driveway to the tasting room is marked by an enormous, curling vine located above a sign bearing the words “Lava Vine”.

In 2000, Joe Cabral purchased property containing a 4 acre vineyard in Franz Valley and began reworking the steeply sloped vineyard and produced his first port style wine. Four year later, after teaming up with a winemaker friend, Lava Vine was created. That same year, the two friends grafted the vineyard with Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2007, Joe and his wife Jill purchased a winery property on the Silverado Trail and opened the doors in 2008.

The Knights Valley Estate vineyard they purchased has steep slopes, loose rocky soils, and tight row spacing; all of their vines have to be tended by hand. The vineyard is also organically farmed with the help of their two sheep, who help fertilize the soil and eat the weeds. This particular vineyard produces about 50% of their grape supply. The other 50%, consisting of Viognier, Chardonnay, and Grenache, is grown at other co-op sites better suited for those varieties.

While Lava Vine accepts walk-ins, groups of six or more are required to schedule an appointment. Antique wine tools decorate the front of the barn-turned-tasting room, and bistro tables and a wooden bench provide outdoor seating. The tasting room was absolutely packed on the day of our visit, so we entered and waited patiently for some patrons to clear out. The tasting room contains chairs for people to sit and enjoy a glass, walls lined with local photographers' art for sale, and a 10-person tasting bar. Behind the bar were two laid back gentleman cracking jokes and entertaining the wine tasters at the bar. We noticed against the wall, directly across from the tasting bar, a cushioned bench, chair, and a couple of end tables that we decided to post up on. As we started to sit down, the gentlemen at the bar welcomed us and provided us with some glasses for tastings. For $10 a tasting (refunded with bottle purchase), we tasted five of their hand-crafted wines, as well as the Lava Vine Olive Oil that is paired with a sea salt dark chocolate (sounds odd, but amazing - believe me).

Up first on our tasting was the 2013 Napa Valley Chenin Blanc ($29), only 210 cases produced. The 2013 Chenin Blanc boasts bright citrus, lychee, tropical fruit, pineapple, and hints of basil on the nose. Juicy white peach, apricot, and tropical flavors are balanced by fresh acidity. Following the Chenin Blanc is the 2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($35), only around 140 cases produced. This Chardonnay, much like the Chenin Blanc, is layered with character and shows toasted oak, creme brulee, and floral undertones on the nose. The palate is coated with flavors of vanilla bean, and the wine has a smooth, creamy structure, finishing with immaculate balance with just a kiss of spice for good measure. We then moved onto Lava Vine's red offerings, which were nothing short of big, bold and beautiful. We begin with the 2013 Suisun Valley Grenache ($35). It shows moderate aromatics with some dark fruit and cinnamon notes and a little heat on the nose. This medium-full bodied red shows some very smooth acidity and displays cardamom, dark berry, and a touch of sweetness. The finish is very zesty with intense tannins and light notes of black cherry. It is still very young and could use some more bottle time. The 2012 Suisun Valley Petite Sirah ($39) has explosive aromas of star anise and jammy blackberries. The heavyweight palate is ensconced in spice and blueberry pie flavors. Dry integrated tannins and jammy blueberry flavors cap off the finish that leaves a silky smooth, lengthy finale. We wind down our tasting with what has to be the best port style wine I encountered on our four day California trip - the Lava Vine NV Port-style Dessert Wine ($55). This rich port showed great depth with dried fig, dark berries, and dark chocolate aromas bursting from the glass. It showed much of the same qualities on the palate with a juicy, rich texture and gorgeous, toasted, and fortified oak undertones that carry through the finish. An excellent dessert wine, and one that I’ll be back to get on our next visit. As we were ready to wrap up, we tried their olive oil, which they paired with salted, dark chocolate. The pairing was incredible and shocking, not to mention the most stunning olive oil I’ve had outside of Italy or Greece.

This winery is a true hidden gem from first sip to the last taste of olive oil. If you are in Napa, you have to stop by Lava Vine. You'll thank me later.

Address & Contact Information: 965 Silverado Trail Calistoga, California 94515. Telephone: 707-942-9500, email:, website: Tasting Hours: 10:00-5:00.

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