Heading west on Highway 128 from Winters, one of the very first wine tasting stops in the legendary Napa Valley is Nichelini Family Winery.
Established by Anton Nichelini, who homesteaded the property in 1884 and founded the winery in 1890, Nichelini Family Winery is the oldest continuously family-operated winery in the Napa Valley.
Third, fourth and fifth generation Nichelini descendants still run the winery, and at least one Nichelini family member can most always be found in the tasting room during regular business hours, which are Friday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Winters residents may be surprised to discover that some of those family members are familiar faces, like Winters resident and fifth generation Nichelini, Janette Dahn.
That said, even the faces that aren’t familiar won’t be for long, because Nichelini Family Winery specializes not only in fabulous wine but hospitality as well. Besides wine tasting flights, visitors are welcome to take a picnic lunch and bottle of wine downstairs and enjoy a lovely, lazy afternoon, try their hand at bocce (the only sport that can be played while holding a wine glass) or stroll down to see the newly restored family cabin.
Nichelini Family Winery also hosts a variety of special events and tastings all throughout the year, such as their “Behind the Scenes Experience,” planned on Saturday, Sept. 30. At 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., visitors will enjoy five wine tastings with five food pairings, and will receive a logo wine glass as a souvenir. Tickets are $35 general admission, and $25 for wine club members. (Go to www.nicheliniwinery.com for tickets or more information.)
A major attraction at Nichelini Family Winery is a genuine antique Roman Press, spanning the entire length of the tasting patio. Anton Nichelini used this press when he started making wine, and it is only one of two known such presses left in the entire country. With the press as a backdrop, the downstairs tasting room is shady and airy, and overlooks the picnic grounds and bocce court. Upstairs, the tasting room is in the actual Nichelini family home, with family photos and artifacts on display.
While many wineries in the Napa Valley require appointments for tasting, this restriction was put in effect almost 25 years ago, and does not apply to wineries founded before that time. So, although appointments can be made at Nichelini Family Winery, they aren’t required.
When setting out to explore what wine tasting delights exist down Highway 128, Nichelini is a five-star stop and will set the bar quite high for future tasting experiences. Throw a stone in any direction in the Napa Valley and you can find excellent wine. However, it just seems to taste better when you’re greeted warmly, time after time. A visit to Nichelini Family Winery really feels like coming home.
Find the winery at 2950 Sage Canyon Road, St. Helena, CA, 94574. Contact the winery at 707-963-0717 or visit www.nicheliniwinery.com for more information.