The history of Ceja Vineyards dates back the 1950s, when Pablo Ceja, then working in St. Helena vineyards, dreamed of owning his own land where his ever-expanding family could grow their own grapes and make their own wine. Fueled by this dream for a better life for his children, Pablo moved his family from Mexico to the Napa Valley in 1967. Fortunately, 2 of his 10 children, Pedro and Armando, inherited his passion for wine and belief in hard work. When they were old enough, Pedro and Armando planted their first pinot-noir grapes in 1986 and, 13 years later, officially founded Ceja Vineyards with their wives and children. Today, the Cejas' operation boasts 113 producing acres and a chic wine-tasting salon where guests can enjoy sips of the vineyard’s red and white varietals, artisan cheeses, gourmet food items, and featured works from local artists.
In good Ceja tradition, Pedro and Armando’s kids are now beginning to purple their feet in the family business as well. Pablo’s family has undoubtedly made him proud; they’ve done much since their humble beginnings in St. Helena. The family hopes their story of hope and determination surfaces in every sip of their lovingly cultivated wines.
Wildflower-filled vases adorn hardwood tables within Savour St. Helena's rouge-tinted tasting room, where servers dish out hard-to-find vinos culled from small wineries. The Vinter's Tasting offers oenophiles and foodphiles the makings of an authentic vintner's lunch, uniting assorted cheeses and charcuteries with the sipper's choice of three wines. Quaffs of the Areté 2010 sauvignon blanc or the Houdini 2007 merlot escort nibbles of artisanal cheeses, cured meats, and mixed olives to a flavorful promenade chaperoned by bites of crusty french bread and a kindly corkscrew. Alternatively, a flight of Spotted Owl Vineyards 2008 mountain cuvée and Veendercrest 2005 Rutherford cabernet sauvignon can coast in for a smooth landing upon your palate's runway.
Nestled in the corn fields and orchards off Highway 113, Jess Jones Vineyard invites passersby to clink glasses in a rustic setting. Vintner Jess Jones and his wife, Mel, have been growing grapes on the property since 1997. At first, they sold the fruit to outside buyers, including area winemakers. Starting in 2004, though, they began keeping some of the harvest so that Jess could produce his own varietals, drawing on skills he honed through the University of California, Davis winemaking program.
Today, the couple continues to ferment juice into wine. Visitors can fill bottles directly from barrels of zesty merlot, crisp chardonnay, and tawny port, or relax in a tasting room that one Patch.com writer described as "not pretentious, although decorated with many news articles and accolades garnered by the winery."
Sudwerk Brewing Co. is passionate about its pours. The craft brewery has been making award-winning, German-style lagers for more than 21 years. To sample the brewers' spectrum of libations, visitors head to the tasting room, a simple setup right on the brewery's loading dock. Its menu of four brews rotates regularly, rewarding frequent visitors with seasonal beers. Meanwhile, tours of the whole facility teach visitors how beer is made, packaged, and distributed. After visiting the facility, patrons can fill up a growler with their favorite beer to take home, drink, and bring back to Sudwerk Brewing Co. for refills.
Accardi Vineyards produces all of the wines on its five-acre grounds— including its 2010 Rolling Hills California Red, which is a blend of cabernet, syrah, and merlot—without added sulfites. But the low-sulfite yields aren’t only used to make wine: they’re also incorporated into the vineyard’s line of bath-and-body products, Green Visions. Ingredients such as grape-seed oil and grape-skin extract contribute antioxidant power and a subtle scent bouquet to handmade creams, moisturizers, and scrubs.
Wind tousles the broad leaves of vines above clusters of grapes the off-black blue of the dusk sky. Frank and Liz Vez?r, owners of Vez?r Family Vineyard, originally began growing the fruit to help fill the needs of wine producers including Ravenswood and Sin Zin. More than a decade ago, they also began producing their own wines. ?One could call it beginner?s luck,? says Touring and Tasting Magazine, ?but their award-winning streak has yet to be broken. Every single wine Vez?r has produced has won a top award or superior rating. Of most recent note, the 2007 Vez?r Cabernet Sauvignon won double gold at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and a whopping 97 points at a blind tasting at Napa?s Bay Leaf Restaurant.?
The winery adjoins the original Pony Express offices, and one can still almost hear the sound of plodding hooves and hooves frustratedly trying to apply stamps. On a copper-roofed cupola, an equine weathervane twists to face the winds above a sweeping swath of grass that fills with chatter during weddings and other events.