My friend, Chuck Caldwell, introduced me to Altamura wines. Chuck is one of those rare people from Texas who was visiting and enjoying Napa wines during their early Renaissance in the 1970’s. He has many wonderful stories about some of the valley’s iconic wine makers. I only wish I could have traveled on those old, quiet, Napa Valley roads with Chuck…preferably in a little convertible. Chuck has been a wine mentor for me. He has great recollections of meals eaten and wines consumed with them. His treasured friendships with people like Frank Altamura are just pleasant chapters in Chuck’s storied life. I always tell Chuck, “I can’t wait to hear the story about when you raced in the Iditarod.” To me, Chuck’s done EVERYTHING, so running dogs in the Iditarod doesn’t seem too far-fetched. Of course, there would be wine. It’s Chuck’s wine stories that have made me eager to reach out and pluck the grapes of all these beautiful wines and learn about the vineyards from whence they came.
So back to my serious Red. I was introduced to Altamura wines by Chuck. And on my last trip to Napa we visited Altamura vineyards. The visit, of course, being arranged by Chuck. He’s such a nice guy and we love his wife, Jane, too. The Altamura estate is in Wooden Valley, located down an 11 mile woodsy, hair-pin-curve road running northeast out of Napa proper. Altamura is the only winery in Wooden Valley that is within the Napa Valley AVA. A word of advice, try to avoid this drive with a hangover or sitting in the back seat of the automobile. Trust me. All of us were slightly green on arrival… but we made a splendid recovery!!
The winery is much further away from Napa in spirit. The estate and surrounding area is very quiet and pastoral. It truly is a road less traveled. The recently built winery appears as though it was transported from Italy. The building is faced with stones ‘harvested’ from the estate. The big wood doors have an old Italian feel while concealing a very modern wine making facility inside. I didn’t see it completely finished. I think the construction was done over several years… perhaps dictated by the success of their harvests. How very old school!! Luckily, Napa has fairly predicable harvests. During our visiting 2014, we arranged the details of our wine shipment of our wine in a modest, but very practical, portable trailer next door to the winery. It was air-conditioned! No one cared!
Altamura Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. A big, cocoa and coffee infused Cabernet. Nice structure. Still with acidity despite its ripeness. Sublime with my Grass Fed ribeye, mashed Cauliflower ‘potatoes’ and steamed broccoli. This Cab is lush, sensual, , and a joy to drink. Soft tannins and polite acidity. I am glad I have a few more bottles in the cellar. This Altamura Cabernet has aged well . Although this vintage is no longer available, recent Altamura Cabernet Sauvignon vintages run $85-ish.
Altamura also produces several Italian varietal wines such as Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, and Negroamaro. I have been so pleased with all of them. I have also tried their Sauvignon Blanc which is Fume Blanc in style. Well crafted and well praised… as long as you like yours oaked.
If you are out in Napa Valley, consider a stop in to Ciccio, the Altamura family restaurant in Yountville. Inside this old Italian grocery store, we delighted in the casual atmosphere, excellent pizza and salads. The menu offers everything from pasta, wood grilled artichokes, to steak. If you live to have a Negroni, the bar offers seven variations. Additionally, all of the Altamura wines are available… and they are very, very nicely priced.