If you are tired of the traditional wine tasting – sitting at a winery or in the vineyards, then take a chance on the Vintner’s Collective in downtown Napa.

Garret Murphy and Kim Erasmy opened the doors in 2002 at the historic Pfeiffer building giving a voice to unknown, but highly acclaimed boutique wine makers.

“There are small production wineries that produce amazing wines but don’t have a brick and mortar winery,” said Josh Uran, the Director of Hospitality for Vintners Collective. “These vintners wanted a place where they could do tastings. We wanted to make it like a collectors’ experience.”

They have done just that. There are a couple ways to taste at VC. There are two stories to the building. The first story features a traditional wine tasting bar where people can walk-in – 80 percent of the business per Uran. The second-floor features tables and chairs for a more personal, private tasting experience, where reservations are required. There is also a comfortable balcony used for tastings on the second floor as well.

Walk-ins can enjoy a three-wine tasting for $10 or a more extensive, six-wine tasting of wines tailored to your palate which runs $30.

There are also two options on the private side. The Collector is set to help the guest build their own collection. This package also includes artisanal cheeses and charcuterie and goes for $65 per person.

Finally, the Aficionado is the ultimate experience. The private tasting features some of their most exclusive and hard to find wines, including some highly-sought Cabs from the Napa Valley. It also includes artisanal cheese, charcuterie and chocolate for $95 per person.

We took part in the Collector tasting when we were there and it was wonderful. Talking wine with Uran was a far more personable experience than what you normally get standing at a tasting bar where one host pouring for multiple groups.

Some of the wines Uran poured were an Ancien Pinot Noir; a big Cab-Syrah blend from Mi Sueno; an On Q Cab; and a Flanagan Cab.

They all were excellent and all were unknown to me, except for Mi Sueno. The cheese/charcuterie came from the nearby Napa Valley Bistro and was excellent.

Vintner’s Collection has done such a nice job building their reputation that they need not search out wine for the business, but can sit back and pick what best fits with them.

“We usually have 5-10 wineries a month that want in,” said Uran. “Garret takes care of that aspect. There are usually two things we ask: one, that we will be the only place where you can get the wine and two, that they have a really good story.”

There are some of the wines available at some retail outlets, but many of the wines are available only at Vintner’s Collective. With a such a broad spectrum of wines available, it makes for better purchase options.

“You can go to a winery, and there are some beautiful wineries in this area, but then you are tasting just their wine,” said Uran. “But here you can taste multiple wineries in one place.”

Almost lost in the enjoyment of the tasting experience, is that the building itself is special, as it is the oldest in Napa and was the one of the buildings continually featured on TV following the big earthquake in 2014.

Philip Pfeiffer bought a piece of land at the corner of Clinton and Main streets and by 1875 he had built a small stone building on it, for use as a brewery. When Pfeiffer’s brewery hit hard times, he sold it to Gotthelp Barth in 1879. Barth built up the area around the building, increasing the brewery’s production and size. Unfortunately, in 1881 a fire burned the new construction to the ground, and the lone building fell back into the hands of Philip Pfeiffer.

Pfeiffer started over, calling his new business at 123 Main Street the Stone Saloon, which at the time was at the heart of Napa’s red light district. The Stone Saloon had several small rooms on the second floor, which operated as a brothel.  Madame May Howard is said to have moved her business here, where she ran a prestigious and upscale establishment, catering to bankers, ranch owners and other professionals. In 1905, more than 20 bordellos lined both sides of Clinton Street.

Vintner’s Collective has seized on the history of the building with their different wine club options by names such as The Red Light, The Madame and The Bordello to name a few.

Downtown Napa has become a destination place all on its own and Vintners Collective is a vital part of the vibe in the area. I highly recommend shelling out the money for the Collector’s private tasting as not only will you have some great food and wine pairings, but receive a large dose of inside information on the wine.

For more information go to http://www.vintnerscollective.com.

By Dennis Miller