Driving south on Silverado Trail from Calistoga you’ll notice a large stone facade home and winery set against a redwood forest hill. The gate is often closed but when it is open drop into Paoletti Estates Winery and enter the main winery door for tasting. We found Gianni Paoletti, the owner and a well known Los Angeles restauranteur, pouring his wines.
Tasting is done seated at a long table with Gianni hovering over the guests telling stories and explaining his wine. He obviously loves entertaining tasters and is a world-class gracious host.
The grounds around the winery are beautifully landscaped and the picnic area is one of the best, and least crowded, in Napa Valley. It has a big view north to Mt. St. Helena with the forested sides of Spring and Howell Mountains on either side. It is an idyllic setting for an afternoon of munching and tasting.
Gianni has a wide selection of surprisingly affordable wines. When you see the estate you would think nothing less than $50 but half that is common and some wines are around $20! His trademark Piccolo Cru Cabernet – Merlot blend is a big fun wine. In the 2008 vintage there is much nose, body, and finish but the tannins aren’t overwhelming. The Fiore 2007 Sangiovese is full body and rich but delicate on the tongue. The 2007 Napa Valley Cab is a full body wine with rich fruit and medium tannins for a stunning $26. He treated us to a 1998 Cab – Sangiovese blend that had good structure and was softened with age. The nose, body, finish, and tannins were moderate. It took a while for this wine to open up so we hung around and Gianni was very good at interesting conversation.