The other day we were driving around the Napa Valley making short videos to go into our Napa Valley Wine Tour iPhone Apps, which lets us drop into wineries that we haven't visited in a while. At the Zahtila winery, a small family place just outside downtown Calistoga, I heard from the owners, who were pouring the wine, that they are changing the name of the winery to Laura Michael. That's her and his first names.
This kind of combo isn't uncommon here, Elizabeth Spencer are the names of the two owners/winemakers. Arger Martucci are the last names of the two partners who both brought vineyards into the mix. But the story of Zahtila is more romantic than that. Laura had started the winery by herself after leaving another career. A number of years later she has married and her husband is her active partner in this venture. While continuity of a brand is smart, love is more important.
A couple of days later I'm out doing more videos and I pull into the Rutherford Grove Winery, which has above the name an equally big sign that says Pestoni Vineyards. This family has farmed their land on the edge of Rutherford and St Helena for years. They produce a very good wine at surprisingly reasonable prices, in part because they bought the land back in the days of steam powered tractors, there is one parked in the front drive.
If you are going to produce wine from your own grapes the cost of your land is always a factor in the price of the wine. That's why families like the Pestoni's, the Regusci's, the Milat's who have owned their land from when there were more sheep and plum trees than grapes, are often a great deal.
The most dramatic renaming, or maybe we should call a reclaiming of a name, is Rubicon's metamorphism into Inglenook, a name that estate has not used in many years. When the former corporate owner of that label took it over Inglenook was a revered Napa name. The wines produced after prohibition and during the Second World War with that label set a high bar that others aspired to for many years. That corporate entity then cashed in on the name by putting it on a line of jug wines made in the Central Valley, where it sat for generations. Recently Francis Coppola bought the name back for the estate and they are gradually replacing the Rubicon signs.
One little glitch. They took down the Rubicon sign on Hwy 29 and haven't replaced it with the Inglenook sign yet, so newcomers to the valley couldn't find them. For some odd reason GPS is useless in that part of the Valley and it often places Rubicon farther north in the vicinity of Grgich Hills. This will be the third name on that winery since the Coppola's took it over, but what do you expect when you are dealing with an artist. They can't resist tinkering with their artwork to suit their evolving vision. Which is one of the reasons that winery names change.
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