This image is borrowed from Rutherford Grove’s Website.

Rutherford Grove Winery & Vineyards is a bit of a new comer to the old Napa scene, only as a winery, though. In 1993, Bob and Marvin Pestoni purchase a 9-acre winery and vineyard property adjoining their 52-acre family ranch in the historic Rutherford Appellation of Napa Valley. The following year, Bob’s oldest son Andy Pestoni became a winemaker, following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather Albino Pestoni, grandfather Henry Pestoni and uncle Fred Domingos. By 1994, Rutherford Grove Winery & Vineyards opened it doors with a new tasting room. So, although it appears that the winery itself is a newcomer to the Napa scene, this family has been embroiled in the wine business and lifestyle for many generations.

Doorways have always fascinated me.

Although the title of this blog suggests that I’m going to jump right in with Petite Sirah, I’m going to start  by defining what I call the Meow Factor. Even though you’re expecting a huge Petite Sirah finale to the week, that’s coming after I establish something a bit off the wall. I have a passion for Saugivnon Blanc… so much so that I’ve devised my own rating system for it. My tasting at Rutherford Grove began with their really refreshing wine. What a better way is there – besides a cracker – to cleanse one’s palate than with a crisp, clean wine, uncluttered with a lot of dark fruit flavors and huge tannins? This is how this tasting began… with Saugivnon Blanc. Rutherford Grove, by-the-way, was a lovely end to the PS Napa Valley tour that’s included not only Rutherford Grove, but also August Briggs and Vincent Arroyo.

Lyla Diaz and Spike in RG’s tasting room.

PS just happens to be the cultivar for which I was entrusted to market, so by design I lean that way in discussions. I’ve learned so much about it by being around it or so long.  At the Florida Winefest, as I was explaining the history of Petite Sirah to a gentleman who had asked about PS’s history.  (Poor thing, these days… Don’t get me started.)

About half way into it, he looked right at me and said, “I’ll bet you know more about Petite Sirah than anyone else in this room!” I said, “No, I don’t think so, because there are plenty of winemakers here.” He looked around the room and shook his head “no,” saying, “No, you know more about the variety than anyone else in this room.” Well, maybe the history, because I’ve been living it for the past seven years day-in-and-day-out, but don’t put me in the lab to evaluate it, or send me off to the Foundation Plant Services department at UC Davis, because I know I still have a lot to learn about PS.

Meanwhile, when I go wine tastings, I enjoy the full gambit of what’s being offered, and I love white wine, as well as red.

Have I said anywhere in my blogging that I’m a total Sauvignon Blanc freak? So much so, boys and girls, that I’ve devised my own rating system. As a woman, I just can’t bring myself to talk about the p_ss factor that gets thrown around so liberally. It just gives me shivers thinking that I’d have to get so graphic about Sauvignon Blanc.

How I’ve gotten around it, and now describe what I’m tasting, is what I call the “Meow Factor.” I rate Sauvignon Blanc by the claws. If a great Sauvignon Blanc really has that litter box thing going on, it’s Five Claws. If it’s mostly missing that SB trait, it only gets One Claw… Remember, Sauvignon Blanc is a noble variety from the Bordeaux, so I couldn’t ever give it a No Claw… That’s just good Meow Factor policy.

I took this picture outside of Rutherford Grove’s front door!.

Another aspect of the Meow Factor is that it has absolutely nothing to do with wine quality, and everything to do with the nose and how it measures up to the litter box effect.

Back to our Rutherford Grove Winery visit.

  • I began by tasting their 2007 Rutherford Grove Estate Sauvignon Blanc. This Sauvignon Blanc has lots of minerality, was bright and crisp with grapefruity characters, showing its cold fermentation had worked magic. A beautiful mouth feel was totally delicious, and left me wanting more. [$18.00] 91 Points and a Two Claws ~ I bought a bottle for dinner.

Ross Workman was our tasting room educator for the day. He was a delight and totally enjoyed allowing Spike to be with us during our final stop for the day. (Small dogs take up so little space.)

  • Their 2006 Rutherford Grove Spring Creek Vineyard Petite Sirah (Napa Valley) was an almost black wine in color, promising – and delivering – rich juicy black berry fruit, a solid tannic structure, and a toasty vanilla finish. It very fruit forward, and as very well balanced with a solid finish, as only Petite Sirah can deliver. This wine enjoyed 10 months of oak aging. Spring Creek Vineyard is located in the St. Helena Appellation on the west side of the valley floor, and benefits from lots of direct sunlight during the growing season, as well as cool breezes in the afternoon. This is a perfect scenario for Petite Sirah, and this wine demonstrated all of those benefits. [$37.00] 92 points

Rutherford Grove is one of the newer members of PS I Love You, and I knew it would be a great final stop for our  tour of PSILY member wineries. We weren’t disappointed. I’ve passed this winery so many times I’m embarrassed to say  I’ve never taken time to stop (10 hour days just don’t have much wiggle room, honestly). It’s right there on Route 128 in my travels, and a beautiful stop with its garden grove and picnic area with tables just waiting for you. Surely this is a best kept picnic secret, for those who have picked something up at Oakville Grocers or Dean & Deluca. If you’re looking for a picnic place that’s befitting your gourmet lunch, look not further than Rutherford Grove Winery, 1673 St. Helena Highway in Rutherford. Bring a blanket and sit on the lawn in the sun. Spike the Wonder Dog had a ball running in ever narrowing concentric circles, then plopping down in utter exhilarated exhaustion when he reached the end of his shenanigans. (This is how a dog does wine tasting at its finest, spiraling into ecstatic collapse.) We were very lucky that day, because we had their entire back lawn to ourselves, and Spike was allowed to cut loose.