AWG Correspondent

Tom Riley

Robert Sinskey Vineyards Photos

Robert Sinskey Vineyards Review

Regions: Napa Valley AVA, Stags Leap District AVA, California

Reviewed: April 12, 2013 by Tom Riley
Published: April 29, 2013

When my wife, two daughters, and I moved from Connecticut to California in 1996, everybody we met in our new town said we had to get up to Napa. We had to visit wine country. Well, being smart enough to follow the local wisdom, we hightailed it up the Silverado Trail to do as we were told.

The first winery we happened into was Robert Sinskey Vineyards (RSV). Although it was our first time through their doors, we were welcomed like long-lost relatives and felt immediately at home.

In the years since our first visit, RSV has become one of our old reliables, a winery that we offer to any one who asks us, now locals ourselves, for a Napa recommendation.

RSV opened its doors in 1988, having been established as a vineyard-only several years earlier by internationally renowned eye surgeon and inventor Dr. Robert Sinskey. As the winery enjoyed immediate popularity, its founder, increasingly active with his medical work, brought his son Rob aboard to oversee day-to-day operations. What began as a short break from Rob’s advertising career to help his father became, as he calls it, “a twenty-five year obsession.”

If you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to drive right by the RSV winery, so well does it blend into its hillside setting. Constructed of wood and stone, it is both rustic and modern, a fitting home for an enterprise that is justifiably proud of its progressive, back-to-the-land ethos.

The winery’s front and side yards are covered with rows of organic herbs and vegetables, where Culinary Director Maria Helm Sinskey, who also has as her official title “chief cook & bottle washer,” sources many of the ingredients for the popular one-and-a-half hour-long “Farm to Table Tour.” Groups up to eight begin, glass in hand, with a stroll in the winery’s gardens, where food and wine pairings are discussed; then, a trip through the winery’s production areas. Everything comes together at the Vineyard Kitchen’s farm table, where guests enjoy seasonal offerings paired with a choice selection of RSV wines.

As you step into the tasting room, you find yourself in a cool, dim, almost church-like space, with a long wooden tasting bar stretching in front of floor-to-ceiling windows, behind which sit the tanks and hoses and barrels of the winery. At various points about the room visitors can read displays explaining what goes into being a certified organic and biodynamic operation or browse among the shelves holding cookbooks, kitchen utensils, and various food products. All this, combined with the open-hearth kitchen and the flowered oilcloth-topped farm table, creates an inviting, homey atmosphere that insists guests relax and take their time enjoying their visit to Sinskey.

On the day of my visit, the Flight of Fancy ($25) included four wines and a small plate of “Daily Bites:” organic olive oil roasted almonds with sea salt and herbs; a gougere, a tartlet, a thick slice of artisanal cheese, and several McEvoy olives. All delicious and perfect matches to the various wines I was ready to enjoy.

We started with their just released 2012 Vin Gris, a rosé of 100% Pinot Noir, which was not among the wines listed, a pleasant little extra. I was surprised that Luisa had remembered me from a visit several months earlier, but only a little. The people I’ve met at RSV are habitually on their A game. When I expressed an appreciation for the almonds, Luisa reached over and grabbed a recipe card, written by Mrs. Sinskey, telling me how I might prepare the dish at home.

Back to the Vin Gris. The rose-colored wine was crisp and cool, with layers of fruit and minerals that make it perfect for any event accompanied by even a hint of sunshine. It’s easy to see why this label, even with purchase limits, sells out quickly every year.

From the pink we moved into their 2009 Pinot Noir from the cool, rolling hills of Los Carneros at the southern end of the Napa Valley. A medium-weight Pinot that balances bright fruit with a deep earthiness, this is wine that will partner seamlessly with a wide range of foods. And, at $38 a bottle, it’s a relative bargain compared to many other California Pinots that underperform at much higher prices.

The next three wines, all various combinations of Bordeaux varieties, went down far too easily. The 2009 POV, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc sourced from various Napa vineyards, was smooth, with just enough acid to make it refreshing. The 2008 Cabernet Franc, from the Vandal Vineyard in Carneros, was herbal and smokey, perfect for something off the summer grill. Finally, the 2006 Marcien, RSV’s proprietary red blend, also from Merlot, Cab Sauv, and Cab Franc, all from Los Carneros, was rich and deep and elegant, a wine of substance to be enjoyed know or years down the road.

One of the special things about tastings at RSV is that when you have finished the day’s lineup, you don’t really have to be finished. Treat yourself, like I did, to a glass of whatever wine struck your fancy that day – in my case the Vin Gris – and head out to their expansive patio, half in shade, the other half furnished with broad canvas umbrellas. Pull up a bench or a chair and enjoy the scenery, from the Silverado Trail below the winery and across the heart of Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District.

It won’t be long before you start feeling like a local yourself.

Address & Contact Information: 6320 Silverado Trail Napa, California 94558. Telephone: 800-869-2030, email:, website: Tasting Hours: 10:00-4:30.

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