Baldacci Family Vineyards is located in the gorgeous Stags Leap District in Napa Valley. The Stags Leap District is located south of Yountville Cross Road on scenic Silverado Trail. I drive up Silverado Trail every Saturday from April to September to help care for orphaned song birds before they are released back into the wild. And every time I make that drive it is a reminder of how lucky I am to live in this beautiful section of Northern California!
Stags Leap District borrowed its name from a legend handed down by the Wappo Indians who were native inhabitants of Napa Valley. Story has it that a strong and beautiful stag was trapped between steep cliffs and (non-vegan!) hunters. Instead of giving up, this stag soared across the chasm in the cliffs, eluded the hunters and created this wonderful legend! This legend is just the beginning of the District’s long history. In the mid-1800s even though Silverado Trail was nothing more than a quiet horse trail, this did not stop the grape growers. And by 1878 the region’s first winery was built. Many of you Cabernet lovers may already know this but the more recent history of the Stags Leap District began in 1961. Nathan Fay planted 70 acres of the region’s first Cabernet vineyards. This decision bordered on brilliant. There are now over 9,800 cabernet acres in Napa Valley and the Stags Leap District is recognized for its world-class cabernet sauvignons! And that isn’t just us bragging. In 1976 at a blind tasting held in Paris, nine French judges awarded Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars first place for its 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon. Ten years later the same wines were judged a second time and this time Clos Du Val’s 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon took the honors!
Thomas and Brenda Baldacci arrived at the site that is now Baldacci Family Winery almost 20 years ago. It includes 45 acres of Estate vineyards, an on-site winemaking facility and a unique system of wine caves below. They have also purchased 23-acres in Carneros and replanted with their Family Collection varietals which will produce Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay. Many of which are vegan-friendly. And in 2013 they expanded yet again with the purchase of Stella Vineyards. This 8.5 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes is located upvalley in Calistoga at the base of Diamond Mountain.
When my husband Steve and I made the decision to move all the way across the country from Raleigh, North Carolina to Napa, California three years ago I was really nervous. I had spent the last five years living in the South and I imagined that everyone in Napa would be too busy or worse yet – not friendly! Thankfully, I was so unbelievably wrong. I have lived from Northern Michigan to Southern Florida to Eastern Virginia to Central Colorado to Eastern North Carolina and have met many wonderful people. But I have never felt as welcomed anywhere else as I have since I moved to Napa. It is such a wonderful place to live. Happy, friendly people; perfect weather and lots of wine!
Matt Mills is one of those special people. Through the wine industry, Steve and I met Matt very soon after we moved to Napa. We have all stayed in touch and I was excited when I learned that he is the Direct-to-Consumer Manager for Baldacci Family Winery. When I reached out to Matt to schedule our wine tasting, he discussed our vegan lifestyle with their winemaker, Rolando Herrera, and created a special wine tasting just for us!
We enjoyed the delicious 2012 Frederich Gewurztraminer, the 2012 Sorelle Chardonnay, the 2011 Elizabeth Pinot Noir and a not yet released Pinot Noir all grown from their Carneros Estate vineyard. They were all such amazing wines that we came home with a bottle of the Chardonnay and the Pinot! And not to start bragging about the award-winning wines produced in the Stags Leap District again but their vegan Sorelle Chardonnay was the 2014 winner of the prestigious San Francisco Wine Chronicle!
One concern that I have when discussing vegan wines is that many wines may be vegan-friendly one year because the winemaker chose not to fine the wine but may not be vegan the next year if the winemaker feels fining is necessary and he uses an animal product to do the fining. This is a problem we vegans do not have to worry about with Baldacci Family Winery. Matt explained that all of the wines we tried will forever be vegan because even if the winemaker decides to fine his next vintage of Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer or Pinot Noir they use vegan-friendly bentonite clay for these particular wines! I also learned something really interesting from Matt for my gluten intolerant readers. Since Baldacci uses the natural cork which seals perfectly, no gluten is used in the bottling process.
Baldacci Family Winery is located at 6236 Silverado Trail in Napa and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Contact them at 707.944.9261 to schedule a tasting appointment with Matt! Please thank them for using a vegan-friendly fining agent in several of their wines and let them know you are vegan when you schedule your appointment. And be sure to take home one of their delicious smelling soy candles. But most of all, enjoy…Cheers!!