There’s more to Napa Valley than the big, well-established brands and “cult” producers of unobtainable Cabernet Sauvignon. There are hundreds of family-owned wineries making distinctive wines that are reasonably priced and not sold out before release. Read on for five such wineries, including one that may become the next big name for collectors.
 
TASTING NOTES
 
Tres Sabores

Tres Sabores is a certified organic vineyard at the base of the Mayacamas mountains in western Rutherford. It bears no resemblance to stereotypical notions of a Napa winery. I stood at their small, outdoor tasting bar just the other day, sampling upcoming releases while snow-white baby lambs bounced happily through the bright yellow mustard flowers that serve as inter-row ground cover.
 
Proprietor/winemaker Julie Johnson co-founded Frog’s Leap Winery in 1981 with Larry Turley and her then-husband John Williams. Six years later, she left to live on and manage the Tres Sabores vineyard. Today, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Verdot and a bit of Petite Sirah grow on the dry-farmed estate. Two carefully-tended outside vineyards provide Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and additional Petite Sirah. Johnson’s winemaking style is non-interventionist, letting the vineyards reveal themselves. Her wines are oak-aged, but most of the barrels are well-used and flavor neutral. 
 

Zinfandel is the Tres Sabores Vineyard’s signature grape, delivering distinctive, balanced, food-friendly wines that are very different from the jammy, heavily-oaked Zins which are so common today. The nose here offers fresh cherries and berries, huckleberry, white nectarine and sweet herbs, with just a hint of vanilla. In the mouth, it’s dry and medium-bodied with moderate tannins, very fine and lightly grippy. Flavors include cherry, dark berries, cocoa, coconut and spice. 100% Zinfandel. French and American oak, mostly neutral. 500 cases. 90 points

Wine glass and bottles via shuttersto​ck