Editor’s Note: This article is part of a Napa Valley wine tourism blog series covering a route recently taken by contributing writer Giana Pacinelli. Follow along as she walks us through her experience and offers advice to those who are looking to taste their way through beautiful Napa Valley, California.
Third Stop: Del Dotto Caves in Napa
Background on Del Dotto Vineyards
Del Dotto is a fairly new player within beautiful Napa Valley but has quickly grown their small operation and made their mark across the appellation. A second-generation, family-owned winery, they have spent the last 20 years acquiring vineyards through Rutherford, Oakville, St. Helena, Spring Mountain, Howell Mountain and the Sonoma Coast. Del Dotto has two locations in the valley that are open to the public, one in Napa and one in St. Helena — grapes are grown in Northwest California. Del Dotto is another winery that doesn’t distribute their productions nationally. Wines can only be purchased at the Del Dotto winery itself, or online for shipment to a home or business.
We visited the Napa Historic Winery & Caves location, and took a tour ($65) of the 350 foot, hand-dug wine cave. Before we came, we had heard that the Del Dotto Cave Tours were known to give generous pours. While in Napa, tour guides at other vineyards further solidified this fact by explaining Del Dotto actually had the nickname of “Del Blotto.”
All the wines we tasted were sampled directly from the barrel, which was a very different experience from our previous stops. The tour was also extremely informative. The cave was intimate and cool and added to the overall experience. Our guide, Simon, was very knowledgeable and proud of Del Dotto wines and the processes they use.
The first wine we tried was a 2015 Pinor Noir. The second and third wines were 2014 Cabernet Sauvignons that aren’t being released until Fall 2016. They were the same wine, but from a different barrel, and you could clearly notice a difference between the two. The first Cab was big and bold while the second one was much lighter in body. This opened my eyes to the different nuances involved with winemaking and how different processes can significantly affect the outcome of a wine. This notion was further solidified as we began trying a few different blends with different percentages of Merlot and Cabernet.
Overall, we tried 15 different kinds of wine. Although we tried a good amount of reds, we learned that Del Dotto is known for their wide selection of Sauvignon Blanc. At the end of our tour, we were invited to stay in the cellar and socialize over more wine, if we felt like it, and were also offered cheese plates.
Other things to note:
- Del Dotto was a 2015 Cellar Pass winner for the Best Food and Wine Pairing offered out of their St Helena location.
- Del Dotto barrels come from France and they always use new barrels, which cost about $1 million annually.
- Founder Dave Del Dotto was originally a California real estate investor, who sold a “Cash Flow System” course and wrote a book, How to Make Nothing but Money
We initially thought we were visiting the St. Helena location, which was closer to Beringer Vineyards, and had to rush to our tour at the Napa Historic Winery & Caves, which was a ways away. Luckily, this gave us the opportunity to drive through the Silverado Trail, which is more desolate than the St. Helena Hwy and is lined with extensive vineyards. I was glad we had the opportunity to take the more scenic route, and would recommend others to factor it into their travels as well.
The Del Dotto Caves were stunning and unique and I found drinking wine right out of the barrels to be an interesting and fun experience. The tour gives you the opportunity to try some excellent, very expensive wines. However, when drinking so much, the tastings individually begin to lose their appeal. I would recommend spitting or sharing to avoid this. Also, if you are driving, don’t expect to continue driving after this tour.
The experience felt familial and cozy and I am glad I was able to experience a wine cave tour. It was distinctly different from the Beringer’s tour, where we covered more of the grounds, and I would be interested in visiting their St. Helena location on my next trip to compare their food and wine pairing with Beringer’s.
Overall, the tour is worth the price based on the intimacy of the experience and the amount of wine you are provided. I would recommend it to others who are looking for a unique experience.
Giana Pacinelli is a full-time advertising executive and a part-time freelancer writer. Her passions for writing, traveling and being awkwardly straightforward have led her to become a contributing writer on platforms such as The Huffington Post, Elite Daily and Thought Catalog. Other hobbies include reading, football (Go Gators, Go Cowboys) & eating (mostly pizza). Find out more at GianaPacinelli.com.