A big part of what makes this tasting experience so special is getting there. If you think the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley is beautiful and a great alternative to what can be a heavy trafficed highway 29, wait til you cruise along Sage Canyon Road to get to Brown Estate Winery. Some of the trek to the vineyard is along a tranquil lake, and the remainder is via windy, quiet mountain roads. After you get buzzed in at the front gate (this is an appointment only establishment), you’re ushered into a lush, unspoiled property with hillside vineyards within a few feet to one side, and a big, handsomely converted barn as tasting room, to the other side. Before you make it past the parking lot, you’re greeted by Sky, a tall, lean furry welcoming committee who also serves as the Brown family pet.
Right on Sky’s heels is the equally friendly Jona, the tasting room host. After introductions are made and crisp, lean and flavorful Chardonnay (some oak) is distributed, Jona launches the tour. With glass in hand, you walk outside for a bit while given fascinating information about the history of the property and the proprietors, Dr. Brown, originally from Jamaica, and Mrs. Brown, originally from Panama. The East Rutherford estate was acquired by the Browns in 1980 and they are proud to have only developed 50 acres of the 450 acreage total to vines. The rest, as they say, “is roughneck wilderness that they strive to tend, not to tame.”
Across from the quaint and modest personal home on the property is a big, curved wooden door imbedded in the stone wall. To visitors’ surprise and delight, the door opens to a root cellar that houses the barrels. A brief tour of the cellar leads to an arched doorway and the tasting room, which is an extension of the cellar. The tasting room is dark, romantic and elegant, with seating for eight at the bar. Jona begins the next part of the experience with a small food portions for pairings with the wines; four of the five wines are paired with cheeses, and one with chocolate. All are delicious and perfectly compliments each wine.
Varietals: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel