According to the website Just Call Her, “You don’t go on three dates with just anyone. It’s a milestone. The third date is the end of dating and the beginning of an unofficial relationship, whereby both people involved begin to have expectations of the other.”
Twenty-five years ago, Bart and Barb O’Brien went on their third date, only Barb’s last name wasn’t O’Brien… yet. Apparently recognizing the significance of the occasion, they did not go to Wendy’s for a Frosty or even Denny’s for a late-night breakfast.
No, Bart and Barb paid a visit to Napa Valley, where they fell in love with the land and, presumably, each other. By the next year, they were Mr. and Mrs.
The couple’s path to winery proprietors could be called circuitous. There were various business ventures, including in the high-tech realm, along with a couple of missed opportunities to cash out for big bucks.
But finally, just after the dawn of the new millennium, the O’Briens had enough cash on hand to purchase the Costello Vineyard. Barb’s dream of “owning land in Napa Valley” had come true.
As one fan of the winery pointed out, “Most O’Briens can be found in Counties Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford. Bart and Barb O’Brien can be found in the County Napa.” And that is where they make wine that has been receiving rave reviews from top critics.
So on this final Friday before St. Patrick’s Day, what better winery to visit than the O’Brien Estate—which also happens to be where Bart and Barb have raised their family, which includes 21-year-old Emily, now attending Napa College, and 19-year-old Mason, now at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
They also have five cats—Motor, Hobbes, Chicharrón, Malcolm XX and Gemini—and past winery visitors may remember their Hungarian Viszhla named Sasha, who recently passed away at the age of 12.
Of course, the O’Briens have fond memories of Sasha, who was featured in the book, “Wine Dogs of Napa Valley.” As they like to muse, Sasha “was the only professional model in the O’Brien family, even though everyone agreed she looked like a dog.”
Because theirs is a romantic tale, the O’Briens have selected romantic names for several of their wines, and even include poetry on the back labels of their bottles.
The wine called “Passion of the Soul” is a Cabernet Sauvignon, and “represents the proposal phase of a relationship when you have decided that this is the person you want to marry.”
Imagine opening a bottle with your significant other, pouring a couple of glasses, and then placing the back label in front of him/her so he/she can read this prose: “You are the one I want to become one with / To intermingle our footsteps on the sands of time / Will you join with me?”
Then there’s the Bordeaux-style blend known as “Romance of the Heart,” with this on the back label: “Extend to me the hand of conversation / Twirl me with laughter / Embrace me with kindness / Will you be mine for a moment / or for a lifetime?”
The O’Briens love nothing more than sharing their passion for wine with visitors, and they work hard to exceed expectations. That’s why they prefer appointments, giving them an opportunity to set up a tasting on one of their back lawn’s picnic tables, weather permitting. Private tours of the winery also can be arranged.
O’Brien Estate winemaker David Yorgensen shares the O’Briens’ passion for wine. “Every aspect, from the vineyard to the final moment the wine is served and consumed, all give relevance to the perception of the resulting wine,” Yorgensen, a native of Vermont, says. “There are many decisions that need to be made throughout the winegrowing and winemaking processes that independently may seem insignificant, but cumulatively contribute to the culmination of a fine wine.”
Kind of like the progression of a successful, long-term, romantic relationship.