My first introduction to Battuello family wines was a recent glass of the bright and balanced 2019 Battuello Valdiguié Rosé ($28). Salmon-pink in color, it had a vibrant bouquet and was expressive with fresh fruit, melon and floral hints. There was depth to its flavors that were delivered with a brisk acidity. One of the best California rosé wines that I have tasted this season, it uncovered a new varietal to explore.
Valdiguié has been a staple on the estate and Battuello Vineyards has been a staple in the Napa Valley since 1909, when it was founded by Italian immigrant Matteo Battuello. Matteo was later joined by his wife Serafina and they planted walnut and prune orchards on the property in addition to grapes.
Matteo passed the estate on to his son Dominic who, in turn, passed it to his son Craig. Today, Craig and his son Dave, who both studied agriculture at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, manage and operate the 82-acre vineyard north of downtown St. Helena. For years, the Battuello family has sold most of its grapes to Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars which, in turn, produces a Battuello Vineyards cabernet sauvignon release as part of its Distinguished Vineyard series.
The family has grown wine grapes on the estate for over a century. Only in recent years have they chosen to hold some back, partner with winemaker Michael Trujillo, and produce wines under their own label. A large, historic estate is now supporting its own small, boutique winery that yields fewer than 400 cases annually.
The Napa River creates alluvial soils that are mixed throughout the vineyard, allowing for each of the blocks to be farmed individually with four varietals. Most of the 1 vines are cabernet sauvignon, the others are a mix of valdiguié, petit verdot and sauvignon blanc.
The low yield, sustainably-farmed vines produce robust, concentrated flavors, something I found in all the Battuello wines.
The family’s partnership with Trujillo and changes in clones and rootstock selection have created the perfect terroir for creating fine Napa Valley wines.
Valdiguié, known as Napa Gamay, has been grown in the Napa Valley since the 1920s. Primarily farmed in the Lanquedoc-Roussillon region of France, it is similar to the gamay grown in Beaujolais (south Burgundy) and is a distant cousin of pinot noir.
Valdiguié wines are generally light-bodied, dark in color, low in tannins with expressive flavors that often resemble those in pinot noir.
Aged in French oak, the 2018 Battuello Valdiguié St. Helena Napa Valley ($45) expressed vibrant aromas of fresh herbs and perfumed black cherry. Dark and inky in color, the balanced flavors were bright and fruit-forward, with more cherry notes and hints of vanilla throughout the long finish. It’s a very good wine for the price.
California Valdiguié releases are available online, but somewhat scarce. Two that have received high ratings are the Wilson Foreigner Rancho Chimiles Napa Valley Valdiguié 2017 and the 2015 Rochioli Russian River Valley Valdiguié.
Petit verdot is grown primarily to blend with cabernet sauvignon and merlot in Bordeaux, France, adding color, flavor and tannins. In volume, it is the fourth Bordeaux grape behind cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc. However, much to my delight, it is now grown and released as a single-varietal wine in multiple California and South American regions.
The 2018 Battuello Petit Verdot ($70) is vibrant with jammy fruit and herbs on the nose and palate. The flavors are dark and fruit driven, well-balanced and delivered with a rich mouthfeel. With only 65 cases produced, the 2017 Battuello Cabernet Sauvignon ($90) may be difficult to find outside of the winery which is a reason to visit. The nose is an expressive bouquet of currants, dark fruit and rose petal. The fully balanced flavors are deep and earthy, with dark fruit and hints of spice on the finish.
Battuello Vineyards are uniquely old, but new. The releases are up to the mark, distinctive and worth exploring. They are mostly available through direct-to consumer sales online or at the estate. The family does schedule on-site tastings by appointment only.
More than a century in the making, the young Battuello wine portfolio may be the beginning of something special that is destined to get better.
Guest columnist Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 20 years. Visit his blog at www.lifebylyle.com or email email@example.com.