Jericho Canyon (4.63)

Open: 10am-4:30pm

Appt required? Yes

Last visit: 2011


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I randomly came across Jericho Canyon when looking for new places near Calistoga. When we visit wine country, we typically stay farther south near downtown Napa, but since we were out on our last trip specifically for the Larkmead release party and our go-to hotels were booked, I found us a room in Calistoga. I figured we may as well take advantage of our northern locale and hit some spots in the area, and the power of the Napa Map and the internet led me to Jericho Canyon. With a little research, I found that the winemaker at Jericho Canyon worked for a number of years at Lewis. Upon hearing that, I was hooked and booked our appointment.

We had no idea what to expect as we pulled into the parking lot for our 11am appointment. Jericho Canyon is well north, even beyond top-of-the-trail spots like Zahtila and Chateau Montelena. We saw one structure that could have been a Failla-esque "house-turned-tasting room", but sure enough…it was just a house. We eventually made our way beyond what we later learned was the owner's house to the wine production facility, met another couple who would be tasting with us, and met our host Phil Gift.

Phil walked us up past the crush pad and asked if we were interested in a short hike. We all were up for a walk, and we climbed up the hillside to the top of one of the vineyards. Jericho Canyon was one of the last wineries to do terraced planting in Napa Valley (it’s no longer allowed), and from our perch we were surrounded by vines ripe with fruit and the canyon. Phil explained the different growing conditions that existed even within the canyon due to sun exposure, talked about the history of the winery and the different vineyards we were looking at, and eventually led us back down the hill to try some wine.

When I booked the appointment, I wasn’t certain what the tasting entailed. We walked into the production building, past a machine that was being prepped for use in crush, and toward a small tasting bar. But I was pleasantly surprised when we veered right, walked through two double doors and into a tunnel that connected to the adjacent hillside. The tunnel led to Jericho Canyon's sizable wine cave; we proceeded through rows of barrels and arrived at a large oak table, prepped and ready for us and a sit-down tasting within the cave.

For the tasting, we tried just 3 wines: a Sauvignon Blanc, the Creek Block Cabernet (produced as more of an "entry point" Cab), and their flagship Jericho Canyon Cabernet. The first two wines were good but not fantastic, but the Jericho Canyon Cabernet was excellent. They also make a Reserve Cabernet, but this was not part of the tasting. The $25-a-head price tag was a bit much for only 3 wines (and no Reserve Cabernet), but the experience definitely exceeded my expectations.

We exited the cave and went to the small tasting bar to settle up. By the time we arrived, the aforementioned crush machine was up and running, and we were able to close out our tasting by watching large bins full of fresh-picked grapes be processed by what I think was a destemming machine. All in all, the facility, structure of the tour, unexpected wine cave, and above average wine made this stop well worth our time.

Recommended wine: The Sauvignon Blanc was good and the Creek Block okay, but the Jericho Canyon Cabernet was excellent. I can only imagine the Reserve Cab is even better, but it was not part of the tasting.

Ratings (out of 5):




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