When better than this most romantic of days to tell the tale of a winery that was founded on romance?
This is the story of Signorello Estate, a much-honored winery in Napa, Calif. In the mid-1970s, Ray Signorello Sr. and his wife Hope purchased a 100-acre site along the Napa Valley’s historic Silverado Trail, and initiated a vineyard project that would lead to a family business now overseen by their son, Ray Jr.
What brought the Signorellos to the Napa Valley was the romantic side of winemaking: growing grapes, working the land, and enjoying the wine country lifestyle of camaraderie, good wine and great meals.
The Signorellos’ original plan was to grow quality grapes and sell them to existing wineries. But the harvest of 1985 changed their vision. The bountiful crop allowed the Signorellos to custom crush their excess grapes, and that venture demonstrated what fabulous wine their vineyards were capable of producing.
In 1986, the Signorellos began the second phase of their new venture: building the main winery structure. It’s a beautiful building that’s used for barrel storage, wine tasting and retail sales.
Along with the building of the winery, production was expanded to include Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. By the end of the 1980s, the Signorello family was thoroughly committed to making wine as well as growing grapes.
Today, the project continues to grow, as do the spectacular 42 acres planted to several different varietals. The continuing efforts of Ray Jr. represent the invested energies of his parents that created this reality from a dream.
Over time, Signorello Estate has developed a style of winemaking based on the idea of “winegrowing” — described by the French word, vigneron. Basically, it means that everything done in the vineyards is intimately connected to the winemaking.
This technique or style is enthusiastically embraced in the Burgundy region of France. Ray Jr.’s preferences and tastes are decidedly Burgundian. He strives for lush fruit to produce rich Chardonnays, like those of Domaine Coche-Dury and Domaine Leflaive. And he focuses on elegance, balance and depth when producing magnificent Pinot Noir wines, like those from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and Domaine Leroy.
“Our style of winemaking is directly tied to our vineyards,” Signorello emphasizes. “The goal is to have wines with early accessibility, as well as the potential to develop additional complexity as they mature.”
Visitors to the Signorello estate can sample the winery’s wares via an intimate food-and-wine-pairing session that has been rated among the most romantic experiences in the Napa Valley. It’s called Enoteca Signorello, and is available Wednesdays through Sundays by appointment (email@example.com).
Guests sit down and relax indoors in the winery’s Salone del Padrone, a private tasting area with an Italian decor that seats a maximum of nine people. There, Signorello wines are paired with American-style Kobe Wagyu beef products from Snake River Farms.
The cost is $115 per person, plus tax and 18 percent gratuity.
Tastings also can be enjoyed on the winery’s patio, which provides vistas across the valley — also quite romantic, particularly during the quiet non-summer months. Ditto for the private terrace luncheons that can be arranged.
Another touch of class is provided by the winery’s Signature program, which consists of wines that Ray Signorello tastes throughout the time the wines are aging in barrels.
The Signature Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It is dedicated to the memory of Ray Signorello Sr., who died in 1998, and is called Padrone.
The Signature Chardonnay consists of the finest barrels, hand-selected by Ray Jr. to create the celebrated and delicious Hope’s Cuvee, named after his mother, who passed away in 1995.
While the Napa Valley lifestyle remains a very real part of the business, there is a serious responsibility associated with transforming a dream into a reality — something both Ray Sr. and Ray Jr. understood from the very beginning of Signorello Estate.
“This venture was a dream; now it is reality,” Ray Jr. says simply. “We have enjoyed every moment of it, and we look forward to continuing on to make quality wines from the Napa Valley.”