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.
The cooks at Sips Bistro and Wine Shop use locally acquired and organic ingredients where possible in their classic menu of small plates, varietals, and espresso drinks. The intimate bistro setting—rendered warm by colorful murals of pastoral settings and elegant wood wine racks—hosts guests as they try refined eats such as a chicken, brie, and caramelized onion quesadilla, or a brined and herb-crusted bone-in pork chop. During wine flights, vino sippers may choose their own drinks from a temperature-controlled wine bar or the frigid palms of a grape-eating sprite. The company also occasionally hosts events such as champagne Sundays and special tastings.
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.
A novice might raise a skeptical eyebrow at a coriander- or sorghum-infused beer, but to craft brewer Erik Schmid, ingredients like these aren’t unusual in the least. At The Brewmeister, Erik teaches small groups of students to concoct liquid refreshments that are both distinctive and tasty. Beer-brewing classes cover the basics of fermentation, proper sanitation practices, and how to funnel beer into bottles or directly into bellies. Though Schmid prepares batches of seasonal ales in brewing classes, he can advise students on any brewing technique.
Those who wish to pursue the art of home brewing can purchase brewing equipment and ingredients such as malts, barley, and hops in The Brewmeister's shop. Schmid also stocks wine-making materials, including a variety of yeasts and rental presses with which to extract juices from grapes or grape-flavored juice boxes.
It is not just the pastas, sandwiches, and pizzas that keep guests coming back to Pete's Restaurant and Brewhouse and Original Pete's?the handcrafted beers also play a major role, quenching thirsts with flavors ranging from the Uptown blonde?s light layers of honey to the highly hoppy profile of the Skinner?s Horse IPA. Pete?s team keeps meals in balance by offering food-and-beer-pairing suggestions, assuring diners that the Midtown ale harmonizes with fish tacos and that the Old Town red?a malty, medium-bodied amber ale?improves coordination for slam-dunking meatballs.
Imbibers don't just sniff, swirl, and sip their wine at Vintner's Cellar Custom Winery—they make it themselves. During this unique process, Vintner's experienced staffers guide customers through the first steps of the fermentation process. After six to eight weeks, aspiring winemakers pour their batch into between 24 and 30 bottles, which they then emblazon with custom-designed labels or tribal-themed temporary tattoos.
Vintner's Tuscan-style whites, reds, and dessert wines are also available by the glass, bottle, and half-bottle during regular tastings. A trim food menu brims with cheese platters and chocolate-wine truffles that pair perfectly with wines made from California's most well-adjusted grapes. Winemaking and pairing are taught in a Blend-it-Up Experience, during which customers create unusual flavor profiles by mixing different wines together.