Far Niente: A Jewel Box that Produces Luxury Estate-Bottled WInes
Legendary for its jewel box beauty, stunning gardens and critically acclaimed estate wines, Far Niente is a nominee for a Readers' Choice Award for Best Domestic White Wine.
Far Niente was founded in 1885, by John Benson, an original forty-niner of the California gold rush and uncle of the artist, Winslow Homer. It was one of the Napa Valley's first gravity flow wineries, which gently moves the grapes through each stage of production.
Benson named the winery "Far Niente" after the Italian phrase "Dolce Far Niente" meaning, "sweet to do nothing". The winery prospered until its abandonment at the onset of Prohibition in 1919. The winery was abandoned for sixty years, until Oklahoman Gil Nickel purchased the property and adjoining vineyard in 1979 and began a meticulous, three-year restoration. Nickel, a physicist by education with a background in agriculture through his family's nursery business, had relocated to California with a quest to create a world-class Napa Valley wine estate. While the winery was being restored, Nickel took courses in the enology and viticulture program at the University of California at Davis. Nickel's efforts were rewarded with the placement of Far Niente on the National Registrar of Historic Places.
Gallery: Far Niente
Far Niente owns 250 vineyard acres located in some of the most coveted regions of the Napa Valley. Far Niente only produces two wines--Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Such a limited production is somewhat rare among California wineries, but Far Niente made a decision in the interest of achieving the highest quality wines possible. There are no other products to distract the winemaker's focus and potentially compromise quality.
Far Niente is perhaps best know for its Chardonnay wines, which are marked by classic proportions of structure, elegance, style and length. The absence of malolactic fermentation provides the Chardonnay with the ability to age gracefully for several years after its release, which is unusual for California Chardonnay. Far Niente's Chardonnay has subtle, tropical flavors, complex aromas and an uncommon richness often associated with the winery. Like its Chardonnay, Far Niente's Cabernet Sauvignon (which display cassis and blackberry notes along with spicy oak aromas), is also widely recognized by critics, the trade and collectors, as being among the most consistent wines produced in every vintage.
Set among 13 acres of stunning gardens that feature the largest planting of southern azaleas in California, Far Niente is open for public tours and tastings. The tour takes guests through the tri-level winery that is built into the surrounding hillside. Visitors see a portion of Far Niente's 40,000 square foot wine aging caves, which were the first modern wine caves built in North America when excavation began in 1980. The tour concludes with a visit to the winery's Carriage House, home to a fascinating collection of classic automobiles.
Tastings feature the current releases of Far Niente's estate wines, including a Napa Valley Chardonnay and Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as carefully aged Cabernets from the Far Niente Cave Collection. Each tasting ends with a taste of Dolce, the sumptuous, late harvest wine produced by Far Niente's sister winery, also called Dolce. Far Niente offers daily tours and tastings, by appointment, Monday through Sunday. The fee is $50 per person. For more information, call the winery at (800) 363-6523.
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