AWG Correspondent

Mark and Sonja

Reverie Photos

Reverie Review

Regions: Napa Valley AVA, Diamond Mountain District AVA, California

Reviewed: June 29, 2016 by Mark and Sonja
Published: January 17, 2017

On my recent trip to the Napa Valley, I visited so many tasting rooms that pretty soon they all began to look alike: polished wooden racking, dark marble bars, big windows for lighting, a few stained oak barrels for ambiance, and maybe a small rack of assorted kitschy trinkets for sale – you know, corkscrews and golf balls and baseball caps, that kind of thing. Beautiful though these places often are, my favorite experiences in the Napa Valley, I have found, are almost always had outside. Often, however, one runs into the difficulty of not being able to both simultaneously be outside and taste the wines, and when presented with such an unfair ultimatum I generally tend to opt for the latter, propping myself up at yet another polished marble bar in order to taste the precious nectar that lured me so far from home to start with, and usually purchasing yet another waiter’s key to take home and add to my ever-expanding collection.

On Diamond Mountain, however, Reverie has created what for me represents the very best of both worlds. During a nearly two-hour long tasting in late June, I never once set foot inside the building, being first escorted about the grounds by Matthew McEligot, an amiable, casual, and knowledgeable fellow who clearly enjoys his work and sharing what makes Reverie the place he’s chosen to pour himself into. Winemaker Ted Lemon, an employee whose tenure spans two decades at Reverie, sources his grapes from 29 planted acres terraced into the steep hillsides. Whereas on the Valley floor, the land could be expected to yield 5, 6, 7 – even 8 or 9 tons of fruit per square acre, here in the tough terrain of Diamond Mountain, they’re lucky to get 2 tons per. For this reason, Reverie’s case production is modest, the fruit concentrated and full of character. Yet even these most interesting observations paled in comparison to the “tasting room” in which Matt conducted much of our experience that afternoon.

Northern California and, in particular, the Napa Valley, comprises a unique ecosystem, an environment which many have fought hard to protect. Here, rattlesnakes and vintners live in (relative) harmony while a diverse array of flora abounds, making it easily one of the most beautiful and Edenic environments I have been fortunate enough to inhabit. In this ecosystem, like many north of it, the massive redwood trees will grow until man or nature stops them from doing so, many reaching hundreds and hundreds of feet in height, and growing so wide that early settlers in the area would famously carve tunnels through their trunks to drive their buggies, and later, their cars through. But when these monstrous sentinels do die, a fascinating thing can happen.

What were once but sapling offshoots of the mighty tree continue to grow around the trunk and proceed with growing long after the original dead redwood has rotted away. The result is a near-perfect circle of towering trees the diameter of the original’s trunk, and one of these bizarre natural structures can be found just across the creek from where we parked our car at Reverie. In the case of Reverie’s, this stand must be some forty feet in diameter, and it was here that owner Norman Kiken established a sort of creative outdoor tasting room unlike anything I’d ever seen. In the hollowed-out stump of a long-dead tree, wine was stored temporarily and removed when it needed to be poured for guests like myself. Within the circle, we seated ourselves on wooden benches and stared up in awe at the trees that surrounded us. Were they 100 years old? 200? 300? I couldn’t venture a guess.

Carmelita, the “head of security,” who had greeted us with an interested sniff and a wag of her tail upon our arrival, accompanied us on our tasting, occasionally darting off to defend the realm before returning again to receive a fresh round of scratching behind the ears. Amidst the mighty redwoods, we sipped at Reverie’s portfolio of beautiful wines, all of which are sold direct-to-consumer. That fact alone makes this a brilliant visit for the lover of bold Napa reds, as you won’t find Reverie’s terrific product on the shelves of even your most exclusive wine store. Of particular interest to me was a 100% varietal Cabernet Franc, one of the best I’ve had, in addition to some truly remarkable Cabernet Sauvignons that Matt was also pouring.

Norm’s late wife, Evelyn, had been a master gardener, and while Norm went about the tricky and time-consuming business of establishing a winery in the Napa Valley in the mid-1990’s, Evelyn busied herself with the aesthetic of the place. The exotic gardens boast a bountiful and fragrant array of flowers and other plants, and offer still greater natural ambiance to what is already one of the most intriguing and unique tasting rooms in the entire Valley, if not the world.

Reverie translates loosely to “daydream” in French, and amidst the cultivated gardens and unthinkably tall stands of redwoods, it would be irreverent, and probably impossible, not to do so. It is a small operation, producing only 2.5-3K cases of wine annually, and seeing only 3-4 groups of guests a day, representing one of the more exclusive experiences to be had anywhere in the area. The wines are incredible, the service excellent, and the environment perhaps unparalleled. Regrettably, my wife Sonja was not with me on my last visit to the Napa Valley, though Reverie immediately rose to the top of the short list of places that I will not fail to take her upon our return.

Address & Contact Information: 1520 Diamond Mountain Rd. Calistoga, California 94515. Telephone: 707-337-9155, email:, website: Tasting Hours: By appt..

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