During a rainy autumn week in Napa Valley, a blue, sun-filled sky opened up for a visit to the new Stewart Cellars “home” in downtown Yountville. Having officially opened in August 2016, the Stewart family has begun to welcome guests with open arms into their new home and locals are already buzzing about the exquisitely designed Nomad Heritage Library, elegant Tasting Hall and local-friendly Gather Café.
If you’re an avid wine lover whose name dons the mailing lists of exclusive Napa Valley wineries, you’ve likely heard of or are already a mailing-list member of Stewart Cellars. Founded in 2000 by the patriarch of the family, Michael Stewart—who brought on renowned Paul Hobbs as consulting winemaker—Stewart Cellars is no newcomer to the Napa Valley wine game. In fact, they have been looking for a place to call home and pour their wine for years.
When the large property on the east side of Yountville’s Washington street went up for sale, the Stewart family leaped at the opportunity to join the Yountville community. After purchasing the property, co-proprietors James Stewart and Caroline Stewart Guthrie (son and daughter of Michael) set out to both “respect the heritage of Napa” as well as implement the “concept of a Scottish Abbey,” James states about the design of the property. Complete with three buildings and outdoor lounge space, making the
property a viable village, Arcanum Architecture and San Francisco
Designer Ken Fulk turned the Stewarts’ dream into a beautiful reality.
In the Tasting Hall, a long, u-shaped tasting bar is the centerpiece of the room. An antique winery windmill brings a touch of rustic charm and wine country pride, while the leather-topped bar and cylindrical hanging lights offer Napa Valley elegance. Here, a $40/person tasting of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and two Cabernet Sauvignons is offered.
The second and easily the most intimate piece of the property is the Nomad Heritage Library. A warm and welcoming space, the Nomad Heritage Library offers more than just wine. The library is fully equipped with rare-find books—purchasable by visitors—that were hand-selected by Caroline, and offer everything from classic literature to the very best works on wine and food. The books are interspersed on shelves with well-chosen and artfully placed antique finds, “really giving that impression that Old World meets New World here in Napa Valley,” James points out. It’s true, because while the Nomad Heritage Library has an endlessly inviting antique charm, it’s elegance brings modern-day Napa Valley front and center. And “although it’s very neatly curated,” Caroline says about the neatly displayed shelves, “we encourage everyone to touch and feel and explore.” A private tasting of select library vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon and NOMAD Beckstoffer Las Piedras Cabernet Sauvignon is offered here for $85/person with advance reservations.
In between the Tasting Hall and Nomad Heritage Library, guests are welcome to enjoy the outdoor lounge space. “We want you to relax like it’s your own backyard,” Blair Guthrie, Winemaker and husband of Caroline, says with a smile. Caroline furthers, “We encourage the social aspect. Come in, hang out and stay awhile.” And stay a while you just might, because the property is designed for lingering with its on-site Gather Café.
From Washington Street, you’d be remiss if you walked by Gather Café without stopping by. From the outside, you can’t help but be lured in by the smell of coffee and delicious breakfast/brunch and lunch items prepared by local Chef Sarah Heller. While the café is certainly open for all visitors to the Stewart Cellars home, “The Gather Café is really meant to be a spot for locals,” James says. “So we’ve kept our prices affordable and our food options really healthy. You can come in, get it to go or call in an order—we also do catering.”
The Gather Café is open from 8am-3pm and Sarah’s menu offers seasonally inspired dishes of delicious favorites like Belgian waffles, unique takes on both green and grain salads, hearty soups and tasty toasts—which are mini, open-faced sandwiches packed with flavor. The salads can be accompanied by protein add-ons like avocado, egg, chicken, shrimp and mushrooms, and Sarah is happily taking feedback from the locals to continue expanding the menu.
At the beginning of my visit, James proclaimed, “Our dream, Caroline and I, has been to find a home for Stewart Cellars,” and I would say that they have accomplished that and much more. The new Stewart Cellars home in Yountville may provide a brick and mortar for pouring their wines, but it goes above and beyond that by offering an inviting village in which all who visit are feel welcomed and encouraged to soak in all that Napa Valley has to offer.
As for the current wines, the 2013 NOMAD Beckstoffer Las Piedras Cabernet Sauvignon is a beauty. This Napa Valley Cabernet has a complex nose full of cassis, black cherry, cocoa and sweet tobacco leaf. Silky in the mouth, the palate brings a lot of spice with layers of soft tannin and structure that surround flavors of raspberry, plum and violets. There is depth here and nice length on the finish.
But the 2013 NOMAD Cabernet Sauvignon is only a taste of what’s to come, because NOMAD will be expanding into a collection of six single vineyard bottlings from each of Andy Beckstoffer’s heritage vineyards. “For people who are really into wine, this is going to be a terroir tasting,” Blair states about the new collection. “For me, these wines are an expression of the dirt, the vineyard and the winemaker.” The collection is tentatively set to launch in 2018, but Blair says, “We don’t want to make a decision on an exact release date just yet, because we want to do what’s best for the wine.” And certainly, with James, Caroline and Blair at the helm of the new Stewart Cellars home, they are doing what’s best for the wine and then some—welcoming all to Yountville to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
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