Winery Review: Napa Valley's Plumpjack Winery

Sir John Falstaff, a fictional character that's appeared in a handful of William Shakespeare plays. A plump and vain man, who is the sidekick to Prince Hal – the future King Henry V. Spending most of his time drinking at the Boar's Head Inn. This is the character that was coined "Plumpjack" by Queen Elizabeth. And this is where we spent part of a perfect Napa afternoon drinking some fine wines.

We were both familiar with the name, but never had any of the wine prior to our visit. One day we were talking with our friend Ben Cash of Taylor's Wine Shop in Raleigh, and he mentioned if we're going to Napa, we need to reach out to his friend Rick Ratliff at Plumpjack and pay him a visit. And that's exactly what we did.

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The Plumpjack winery and group was founded by ex-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and friend/investor Gordon Getty. The winery was founded back in 1997 when Newsom and Getty acquired roughly 53-acres of land in Napa Valley. Plumpjack was the first Napa winery to start using screwcap closures for its wine – something you wouldn't expect from a winery in Napa Valley. 

Upon entering the winery, we promptly met Rick, who was working behind the tasting bar. Rick asked when we arrived in town, and we told him just a couple of hours ago from our trek from Santa Rosa to Napa. He asked if we paid a visit to the Russian River Brewing Company, which of course we did. "Dathan love his beer," said Jen ... "So of course we stopped there."

I told him we picked up a 6-pack of its very popular Pliny the Elder pale ale to bring home with us. I think Rick approved of the purchase.

We decided on the current release tasting, starting with the 2016 Reserve Chardonnay. The taste of apples, pears and lemon zest were all prominent with this Chardonnay. Made with 100 percent Chardonnay and only 248 barrels produced, it was one of the best Chardonnay's we tasted on our vacation. We followed that up with the 2015 Merlot – a wine very rich in dark fruits. There would be no vulgar quotes from the movie Sideways coming out of our mouths from this full-bodied Merlot.

Next we sampled the 2015 Adaptation Cabernet Sauvignon – which we had to pick up a bottle of this to bring back home. This blend of 78 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 22 percent Merlot was a unique blend of berries, chocolate and just that perfect amount of acidity. Our final wine – at least on the list was the 2015 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. But with Petit Verdot being the second grape instead of Merlot, we got a little more of a herbal garden in the aftertaste – sage or maybe some mint. 

We now follow Rick out the backdoor to check out the patio and the view of the mountains in the distance as he pours us a Stag's Leap district Cabernet Sauvignon from Plumpjack's sister winery down the road, Odette. This wine tasted of overly ripe cherries, violets and pencil shavings. I think Jen and my eyes grew twice the size when we tried this lavish wine. We also sampled a Sauvignon Blanc from another sister winery, Cade. A nice vibrantly acidic white wine to end our tasting for the afternoon.

After our tasting, Rick had a few moments to show us around the facility and inside the winery itself. He pointed out where Screaming Eagle Winery rested on the hill above Plumpjack, and even further up the hill where the Starkist Tuna family lived. 

It's people like Rick that make visits to Napa so enjoyable. People want to feel special and that's exactly what Rick did for us. From the history of the winery and its owners – to the wine – the hospitality and even at the end, helping us find out our next location to visit. And just like our visit to Italics Winegrowers during our stay in Napa, we suggest dropping into Plumpjack and let them show you the great assortment of wine. We promise you won't be disappointed.