Effervescent Travels: Altra Winery in Napa

I am feeling a bit wistful.

This time last year I was preparing to embark on a marvelous week-long visit to Napa, California and I was absolutely giddy with excitement. It was a girls trip–I was traveling with one of my wine-loving girlfriends, and the plan was to experience as much relaxation and wine country goodness as we could humanly manage over the course of 6 days.

It was an absolutely blissful, magical week. Truly magical. Nary an average morsel of food nor drop of mediocre wine passed our lips even once. The weather was absolutely springtime glorious–highs in the mid 70’s to low 80’s with sunny, breezy blue skies. As spring gets closer and closer these days, those fab weather days dominate my thoughts and transport me right back to Napa.


The lovely, lush, oh so beautiful vineyards of Altra Winery

Did I mention already that this trip was magical? As good fortune would have it, I happened to be riding the jitney {Okay, so no one on the West Coast actually calls it the jitney but it sound so much better than “transportation service bus.” It’s my story and I’ll tell it how I want} that takes you from the San Fran Airport to downtown Napa with several friendly women who resided in Napa.

After I struck up a conversation with some of them I discovered that one of them–a pretty, petite, blond named Margo Culcasi–owned her own boutique winery. When I told her about my girls trip she gave me her card and told me to give her a call if we’d like to stop by for a visit. The winery is not open to the public, but Margo said she’d be happy to have us over to show us the winery as a fun little social call.

Yep, that Napa hospitality is unsurpassed, I tell ya.

A few days later we finally make our way over to the winery, and I was immediately enchanted. There were three structures on the property and they all had a lovely and unique character to them that let you know they had some good history behind them. After chatting with Margo about the history of the property, I learned that one of the historic structures actually used to be a slaughterhouse {it has since been converted to a guest house and wine cellar}, so they decided to call the brand “Slaughterhouse Cellars.”


The historic slaughterhouse on the grounds of Altra Winery, now converted in a cellar and guest quarters.

IMG_1227After divorcing her husband, Margo re-branded Slaughterhouse as Altra Wines and established her own identity in the wine industry. Though she still had some Slaughterhouse on hand, the Altra Wines were what we had the immense pleasure of enjoying, along with a beautiful display of charcuterie that Margo created herself {I told you–unsurpassed hospitality!}.


Fabulous wine and charcuterie, anyone?

We spent the afternoon chatting–learning about the history of the property {Margo has old clippings about the land as well as the previous owners}; getting to know each other; learning a bit about the day-to-day life of a winery owner {she told us that if we’d come by the night before we could have had dinner there with her and a close relative of Francis Ford Coppola}; and being loved on by her sweet pup. It was one of the most wonderful, enchanting, relaxing, fun, and entertaining afternoons I have ever had. Just another typical, lovely, awe-inspiring day in wine country.


Another historic building on the winery grounds is preserved and now used for storage. Isn’t it charming?


Our sweet protect taking a quick nap after shooing the birds from the vineyards.


This sign greets us as we enter the cellar. l’cave de l’abattoir = the cellar of the slaughterhouse


Just take the plug outta that barrel and let me insert my straw.


This huge wooden wheel artfully holds bottles of the good stuff in the cellar. I love a touch of fun aesthetics.

As for the wines themselves? We had the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, and both were beautifully crafted, wonderfully delicious, and an absolute privilege to drink. The Cab Sauv was rich and complex and elegant. The flavor profile had layered depth to it with “dark” notes–think dark red berries, dark chocolate, dark roast coffee. The tannins were smooth as silk and the finish lingered like a lover’s kiss. Yeah, it was that good.


The Sauv Blanc is a blend with just over 20% of Semillon added had bold acidity but still manage to posses a creamy texture. The flavors burst through with ripe melon-musky honeydew, sweet-tart citrus {think lime, Meyer lemon, and pink grapefruit}, and rounded out with an herbaceous, grassy note. This is a wine you can sip all day long.


Altra Wines recently released a rosé called “Fiore Rosa” and I can’t wait to try it! Why? Well, first of all because the other wines are so well made that I have no doubt this one will be too; and second, check out the tasting notes courtesy of The Wine Spies:

Altra Wines Fiore RoseNow who wouldn’t want to drink THAT?! Now before you get too excited, because Altra is a boutique winery getting your hands on a bottle may take some effort, but it will be so worth it. You can try Total Wines in California; contact the winery itself for ordering info; or you can find the wine while in Napa at Brix Restaurant and the Rutherford Grill, or at Oakville Grocery.

More posts on my travels in wine country are on the horizon with more wine finds and recos as well as my travel tips. Oh, and you KNOW my time there included sipping lots of bubbly, so stay tuned for that as well!

Now be a darling and please excuse me while go plan my next trip to Napa.