Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Signorello Estate Winery Revisited

Signorello Estate Winery is one of our favorite wineries, a real jewel. Like a really nice wine, all of its components come together beautifully.  They are located just off Silverado Trail in the Oak Knoll AVA right next to the Stag's Leap District so finding them is easy.  The winery is set back from the Silverado Trail far enough to provide privacy and is elevated up on a hill to offer a very lovely view of Napa Valley to the west with the mountains in the back.  There is a large parking area. Service has always been great. Wines are exceptional. Signorello seems more like a small, hidden, romantic, retreat than a typical winery. The grounds are very pretty with an ivy covered building, an Italian Terrazzo style patio and an infinity pool, providing a private, romantic setting that seems ideal for an intimate culinary experience.  And, indeed, you can enjoy delicious food and wine here because Signorello is more than a small, lovely, family owned winery with friendly service and excellent wines; it also has a full time chef and provides a gourmet dining experience that was awarded 3.5 stars by the San Francisco Chronicle. Check out this article about their wine and food offering: "One of Napa's Best Dining Experiences Isn't At a Restaurant -- It's at a Winery" Article

Signorello winery building

Inside the attractive, airy, Tuscan styled winery building is a gourmet kitchen and there are lovely dining areas both upstairs and out on the patio. While we were there a couple sat outside for lunch and wine in what seemed like an intimate, romantic setting to rival any in Napa Valley.  I could easily imagine this as a place for a marriage proposal or romantic rendezvous. Neither my friend nor I have tasted the food here, but it gets rave reviews from others and for the next several days after visiting, we exchanged phone calls, imagining how nice a wine and food pairing would be at Signorello.  I have a few favorite places such as sitting on the outdoor patio at Auberge du Soleil in the summer with my wife, enjoying French food paired with good wine, while watching the sunset and savoring the scenery.  Signorello seems to be one of those special places where wonderful food and wine come together in a romantic setting.  My friend plans to visit there soon for just such an experience.

Signorello pool and patio

The 100 acres at Signorello Estate were purchased by Ray Signorello, Sr. in the mid 1970s.  He resided in San Francisco and originally planned to have a summer home but decided to plant vineyards and source the grapes to local wineries.  In 1985, however, they had a surplus of grapes and decided to produce some of their own wine.  The summer home never did get built, but a winery building was completed in 1986.  In 1998 Ray Signorello, Sr. passed away and his son, Ray Signorello, Jr. took over, something that was natural for him to do because he had been involved with the winery since the mid 1980s and is even co-winemaker. In 1990 they added new plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon (25.5 acres), Cabernet Franc (3 acres), Merlot (1.7 acres) and Syrah (2 acres). These are mostly on the hillside. The remaining acres are planted with white wines including 5 acres of Chardonnay, 1 acre of Sauvignon Blanc, 1.5 acres of Semillon and 0.5 acres of Viognier.  The Chardonnay vines were planted in 1973 on the valley floor and are some of the oldest Chardonnay vines in Napa Valley. Signorello Estate now has 42 acres of planted vineyard and is certified by the Napa Green Certified Land Program. Total production is only about 7,000 cases per year.  Signorello is a very small production, high quality, boutique, family winery, quite different than the large, corporate owned, high production wineries.

Signorello ivy covered buliding

Our tasting began with the Signorello Estate 2012 Seta at $45.  This is a blend of 64% Semillon and 36% Sauvignon Blanc that was aged in 28% new French oak and remained on the lees for eight months.  It did not undergo any malolactic conversion. 700 cases were produced.  It is a very easy to drink white wine that we have always enjoyed.  This 2012 had a fantastic aroma of very pronounced nectarine, along with melon, peach and floral notes.  On the palate it was full bodied, very well balanced and smooth, with good crispness and intense fruit, mostly melon and pineapple with some toasty oak, vanilla and minerality.  The finish was long and delightful.  Most Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blends are predominately Sauvignon Blanc with a small percentage of Semillon to soften and round it out.  This one is mainly Semillon but the combination works well and we always enjoy it, finding it interesting and different.  I like it on its own, but it pairs really well with many dishes. "Seta" is Italian, by the way, for silk.

Signorello tasting bar
Signorello tasting table

Next up was the Signorello Estate 2011 Hope's Cuvee Chardonnay at $70.  30% of this saw 16 months on new French oak, and it underwent 100% malolactic conversion. Native yeasts and whole cluster pressing were used, with 634 cases being produced.  It had great aroma for a Chard, mostly melon and lemon.  On the palate it was very smooth, round, buttery, and silky, with mostly citrus, peach and pear along with some vanilla and toasted oak.  The finish was medium length and soft with some additional pineapple and tropical notes.  It is nicely done for this style of Chardonnay and should appeal to many people who like a Chardonnay that is generously oaked and creamy.

Signorello pool and patio area

With our third pour we moved on to the red wines with the Signorello Estate 2009 Merlot at $70.  It is 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  A mere 90 cases were produced.  This is another one of those very good Napa Valley Merlots that scoffs at the misinformed presumption that Merlots are not interesting.  This one began with a very good nose of black cherry, vanilla and toasted oak and was medium plus bodied.  It had good fruit, mostly red cherry and raspberry with decent structure, good acid and tannins and a medium length finish.  It benefits from some air.  Quite decent and easy to recommend.

Signorello window view

Signorello is famous for its Cabs, though, and these were next.  The Signorello Estate 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon at $90 came first.  It is 93% Cabernet and 7% Cabernet Franc and saw 16 months in 45% new French oak, with 1,025.5 cases being produced.  (They list 2,051 half-cases.) It was given 93 points by Robert Parker. I enjoyed the lovely ruby to purple color. It had an earthy nose with cherry, some mushroom and forest floor with hints of cedar.  On the palate it was black cherry, black currants, vanilla, toasted oak, cedar and baking spices with good structure.  It is a fairly big Cab and will continue to improve with age.  If I had tasted this blind I would have guessed it was from the Stag's Leap District, even though I love Oak Knoll Cabs just as well.  Highly recommended.

Signorello patio
Signorello patio table

Our final tasting, and my favorite of the line up, was the Signorello Estate 2010 Padrone at $155 which is dedicated to the founder, Ray Signorello Sr. The 2010 is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Aged for 20 months in 75% new French oak, it sells for $155 and only 658 cases were produced.  Grapes come from two blocks on the rocky hillside where the annual yield is only 1.3 tons per acre. This is a big, full bodied Cab and I'm not surprised that Robert Parker gave it 95 points.  After a good, interesting nose of blackberries and black currants, it came on with a powerful presentation of blackberry, black currant, Sumatran like coffee, dark Belgium chocolate, vanilla, toasted oak, good tannins and lots of structure with a long finish that seems to last forever.  Although this is a wine that will easily last another twenty years or more, it was, for me, very pleasant to drink right now.  Usually wines of this power and complexity are not very drinkable now and really must be cellared for years until they are approachable.  It does need some air of course.  Very highly recommended.

Signorello sign
Signorello Estate is a charming winery you will certainly want to visit if you like romantic settings, great wines and excellent service, but do consider one of their gourmet food and wine pairings or one of their special events. Personal cooking classes are also offered.

Signorello Estate Winery
4500 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
Phone: 707-255-5990 or 800-982-4229
Date of visit: February 4, 2014

We have always had excellent service at Signorello Estate--friendly, unpretentious and helpful. Our thanks this time to our host, Joseph. Because of their license they are open to the public only by appointment, but they can sometimes accommodate last minute appointments so be sure to call them if you are in the area. The tasting fee at the time of our visit was $35 and includes a taste of their $155 Padrone.  They are in the Napa Neighbor Program. Information about visiting hours and reservations:  Visiting

Signorello grounds
Signorello kitchen
Signorello Bacchus
Signorello fountain
Signorello driveway
Signorello grounds
Signorello sitting bench
Signorello tasting room

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