Last month I did one of my regular swings through Napa, a place I can safely say is among my favorites in the world. On this trip there were two particular standout wineries to which I’d like to introduce you.

The first is Calistoga’s B Cellars. Now in its 10th year, B Cellars is the collective brainchild of founders Jim Borsack and Duffy Keys. Along with winemaker Kirk Venge, these three men are bonded by a driving vision to craft superb, food-centric wines. They specialize in blends that appeal to chefs and home cooking enthusiasts alike. Reflecting its commitment to excellence, the ‘b’ in B Cellars refers to brix, the food and wine term that defines the percentage of sugar in juice – in other words, the sugar/alcohol content in grape juice that reflects the grapes’ maturity and potential for greatness as a wine..

I visited their tasting room, housed at Calistoga’s Silver Rose Inn, which offers a wide variety of flagship, library and limited-production wines that were just plain fun to explore.

I was introduced to their prize-winning 2011 Blend 23 ($49), a mixture of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. This was my favorite, with good depth and weight, medium flavors, and a long finish. We moved on to another flagship blend from the Library Selections, the 2008 Blend 24 ($54). I found this Cabernet and Sangiovese combination excellent on the palate and well balanced. I mentally paired it with a goat cheese and honey appetizer.

However, you need to move fast to visit B Cellars’ current tasting room. They will be moving down the Silverado Trail to a property on Oakville Cross Road in the heart of Napa Valley fairly soon.  They’re taking a forced relocation as an opportunity to expand, with a new 45,000-gallon winery. B Cellars’ current residence, the Silver Rose Inn, is being redeveloped into premier 84-room hotel and spa, with a restaurant, a 10,000-case winery, a six-acre vineyard and 21 freestanding homes. The Four Seasons dominates rumors as the most likely future owner.


The next morning I met up with Pat Gallagher, a senior wine educator and host at Calistoga’s Castello di Amerosa.  This beautiful, audacious venue is straight out of the pages of Italian architecture. This castle has everything from a moat and drawbridge to a torture chamber (complete with 300-year-old iron maiden), and – more appealing to us wine lovers – a two-acre barrel cellar and tasting rooms where visitors can sample the Castello’s exclusive wines. This love letter to all things Italian comes from fourth generation vintner Darius Sattui.

Of the wines we sampled, I liked the 2009 Vermentino ($25), which was clear, brisk, and had a fun attitude. I appreciated the classically peppery 2008 Sangiovese ($30), a nice wine with a long, elegant finish. The 2009 Merlot ($34) was even smoother, and I thought a great buy. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($49), which had a blend of Merlot and Petit Verdot, was young yet silky on the palate.

Between the wines and the memorable location, this Castello is decidedly worth checking out.