In my first review of an entire winery, I’m starting with one of my favorites: Madonna Estate. Its a small winery by Napa standards, with modest facilities (read: it’s not in a castle, or a pyramid, or on top of a mountain), but they make exceptional wine.
Madonna Estate is one of the oldest wineries in California. During Prohibition, they made wine to sell to the church for communion, one of the few legal ways you could sell alcohol duirng that period. They have decades of history making wine in Napa, and that comes through in their end product.
Madonna Estate is located in the Carneros Valley, in the southern part of Napa County. It’s cool breezes make it ideal for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. With the wine making families deep roots in Napa, they have relationships that allow them to buy choice Cabernet grapes from Rutherford, giving them a full portfolio of wine.
Pinot Noir is their specialty. I’ve never had a bad Estate Pinot Noirat Madonna, it’s consistently delicate and flavorful, and worth the $30 price-point. I recently had the ’07, which has subtle berry notes, and a nice oaky finish. I had a glass with dinner, and a few after, and the food pairing definitely helped awaken the flavors and subtleties of the wine.
Their other Pinot Noir is the ”Due Ragazze” Reserve, harvested entirely from a seven acre plot, and named for the two sisters who represent the 4th generation of winemakers in the family. While it’s clearly the superior of the two Pinot Noirs, at $60 a bottle, I usually stick with the Estate unless it is a special occasion.
For me, the “icing on the cake” of every trip to Madonna Estate is the selection of white wines.
First off, let me say that if given a choice between a red or white wine, I will not hesitate to select red. This is probably because I’ve tasted too many syrupy, one-dimensional rieslings and muscats that taste more like wine coolers than wine. So I get excited when I find a place that makes quality, balanced white wines.
My personal favorites are the Riesling and the Gewurztraminer (which I almost didn’t mention, because it’s hard to spell). Each retails for about $20, and offers a delicate, sweet touch, that I like to enjoy chilled on a warm afternoon.
The Madonna Estate reserve tastings can be scheduled here, it’s a great way to escape the Napa crowds. The pourers are extremely friendly, knowledgeable, and never in a rush. As an additional benefit, the reserve tasting room has a porch that overlooks part of their vineyard. The reserve tasting room is available for grops of 2-30 people, includes 6 tastings, and costs ($15) per person.