Knowing Our Winemaker
Before we moved to California, my wife and I carefully chose our wine in liquor stores based on the label design. Business travel allowed us to learn about and appreciate the wine selections of others (with larger expense accounts than ours). That’s how we discovered “the best” pinot noir wine was from Oregon, and that zinfandel came in red as well as white!
Over the past couple decades, we’ve visited many California wineries. The best experiences have been at small wineries whose names we didn’t recognize from advertising campaigns. Meeting the people at small wineries who grow the grapes and make the wine has added so much to our wine knowledge and preferences.
We discovered Elkhorn Peak Cellars when we Googled “wineries near me” shortly after we moved to Hiddenbrooke in 2012. Some of our greatest lessons about wine have come from Ken Nerlove of Elkhorn Peak. He reminded us that “wine is a beverage” and the tastes we enjoy are more important than what someone else writes in the tasting notes, and that chardonnay doesn’t have to be drunk real cold… unless it’s bad chardonnay. Pinot noir grapes are difficult to grow, but the nuanced taste distinguishes it from other red wines. OK, maybe that last lesson came from “Sideways”. We appreciate the movie, and we appreciate a good merlot, but Ken’s pinot noir wine is special to us.
Elkhorn Peak Pinot Noir is what we serve to our family at Thanksgiving, and share with friends who know great wine. Now we know, the best pinot for us is not from Oregon – it’s from a hillside vineyard just 13 miles from our front door. Elkhorn Peak Cellars is where we guide all our out-of-town guests to learn more about growing grapes and making wine from Ken and his daughter Elise Nerlove. Since Elise joined the family business, she has introduced some amazing sparkling wines to their cellar. Also, she has been instrumental in designing Napa County’s new “microwinery” designation that will allow small producers to pave the way for the next generation to keep vineyards like theirs in the family. Maybe it’s the wine, or the amazing view from the vineyard, or just the personal stuff that makes their wine taste best to us. We don’t have to choose.
Getting to know Ken and Elise has made us more confident wine drinkers. We try not to be snobs about it, but it was revealing when we asked a friend in Montana what kind of wine they were serving as they set up the bar at their house party. Without looking up, they answered “white AND red” in all seriousness. And then they looked at us and said, “Oh, you know the difference.” Yes, yes we do.
We are proud to be Elkhorn Peak Winery club members and to support local small family farms. Ken and Elise tell us that they will host a complimentary tour and tasting for anyone who mentions “Hiddenbrooke.” The tour and tasting experience is about 60-90 minutes and includes a walk through the vineyard and a tasting through all of the Elkhorn Peak current release wines. To learn more about this special offer, check out elkhornpeak.com/hiddenbrooke.
Update, January 23, 2023: Pati Iovanni and several more of our Hiddenbrooke neighbors visited Elkhorn today. Who knew that free Napa tasting were still a thing?
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