When someone asks what is my favorite winery in the Napa Valley, without hesitation I answer “Del Dotto.”

My wife and I first visited Del Dotto 15 years ago when the Del Dotto family had just the original caves off Atlas Peak Road. From there they opened an Estate winery on Highway 29, also featuring cave tastings.

The Piazza Del Dotto opened it’s tasting room door September 1, 2017, with the accompanying caves opening August 1 of 2018 and it does the Del Dotto legacy proud.

At all three wineries, one thing is certain – the Del Dotto family and staff know how to have a good time and want to make sure their guests do as well.

Our host on our initial visit to Piazza Del Dotto was Eric Abraham and Eric personified a Del Dotto team member, ready to have a great time while being informative and attentive. In other words – the perfect host.

While tasting at some of the higher end wineries can be intimidating, at Del Dotto it’s like going to a party!

Our day started with a brief tour of the outdoor area in the back of the tasting room which included checking out the turkeys, peacocks and chickens. There is also a large bar made of marble on the wonderfully landscaped outside area, complimented by columns and statues throughout.

Having been around the family the last 15 years, the Piazza personifies the Del Dotto brand and put a smile on my face immediately.

From there it was off to the Piazza caves, which currently cover 11,00, square feet, but are eventually grow to 29,000 square feet (construction is underway) and include a full kitchen.

The caves are always something that have set the Del Dotto visit apart. Eventually when the caves are complete at Piazza, there will be a bridge from the parking lot across to a new tasting room in front of the caves.

The existing tasting room may become a members’ area.

 

The caves are lined with marble, lit by chandeliers and are every bit as decadent as the Estate caves. The original caves offer a different experience with more earthy and rustic walls, with the lighting coming from candles on the wine barrels.

And as is always the case, the music – ranging from Bocelli to other great vocalists from around the world, plays throughout the caves. After my initial visit, it became a custom of mine to play the same type of music around the house when enjoying a fine glass of wine, much to the chagrin of my kids!

As you go through the ornate caves, you taste straight from the barrels. All are one vineyard and as is the case with the other two Del Dotto properties, if you like what you have tasted out of one of the barrels you take a card from the barrel and you can buy bottles from that barrel.

The wine has not been bottled for you at that point, but it will be and mailed to you. It was something that drew me into the fold initially and still is the main draw in my mind.

Of course, there is plenty of wine to purchase from the tasting room, but the chance to hand pick your vintage and barrel is a big selling point.

We tasted 11 wines in the caves – okay, I did say it was a party and a lot of fun – and the beautiful thing was, our opinions were varied as to what was our favorite wine.

My favorite from day one and it still occupies that spot for me is Cabernet Sauvignon that is aged in American Ustave Oak from Missouri. It’s a big, strong Cab that is not for everyone, but hits my palate perfectly. It’s not often I will say that a $225 bottle of wine is a bargain, but that’s how I feel about this wine.

The rest of our group leaned more towards the smoothness of wine aged in French Oak. The 2017 Piazza Del Dotto Oakville Vicard Symetrie French Oak North Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is also $225 a bottle and is a smooth, yet powerful bottle of wine.

Those looking for a cheaper bottle of wine to walk away with take a good luck at the 2016 Cave Blend Napa Valley for only $55 a bottle.

From there we moved back the tasting room for some wine and food pairings. At Del Dotto, the belief is that the food compliments the wine, the opposite from traditional pairings at other wineries.

“We’re a winery, so we emphasize the wine first,” said Abraham. “It’s all about the wine and food.”

Under the guidance of Del Dotto executive chef Joshua Schwartz – formerly of the French Laundry – who has been with the family for over a decade, the food was indeed an incredible compliment to the wine.

We enjoyed house cured salami, tenderloin, rib-eye, prosciutto, truffle tots (yes they were amazing as they sound) and it was all topped off with a sourdough pizza crust, topped with wild mushrooms, buffalo mozzarella and arugula.

Paired with wines such as the 2013 Piazza Del Dotto “Cinghiale” Vineyard Pinot Noir ($38), the 2014 Piazza Del Dotto Cabernet Sauvignon ($65) and the 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($125), it was a sensory experience.

We topped off our visit with a sampling of port and chocolate.

Incredible.

There are four types of tastings available.

The basic bar tasting is $45 a person where guests get a complimentary cheese plate to pair with each wine flight. Allow 45-60 minutes for the tasting.

 

The Poppers ($60) allows the guests to enjoy a selection of six pizzas paired with four savory, bite-sized treats from the chefs. Allow 60 minutes for this.

Delicacies ($175) is a one of a kind connoisseur-tasting showcasing the best of the barrels and wine pairings. You start in the caves enjoying five of the highly rated wines. Following you are seated to enjoy four luxurious small plates that are paired with five bottled wines. Allow two hours for this package.

The Cave and Barrel tasting ($75) allows the guest to the wines served right out of the barrel. Each tasting concludes with the house made sourdough pizza. Allow for 90 minutes for this experience.

As I have written about before, there many wineries in the Napa Valley making world-class wines. If you are going to spend the day wine tasting, you want to find an experience you are going to carry with you and make you want to come back again.

You want to visit Piazza Del Dotto.

For more information on all the Del Dotto properties, please go to www.deldottovineyards.com.

By Dennis Miller

 

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