In the immortal words of Ms. Linda Richman–the iconic “Saturday Night Live” character–Handwritten Wines in Napa Valley is like buttah. (And they serve buttah, too. Be sure to read on for that…)
The brand is one half of The Good Life Collective as the founding couples – all involved in the medical field including doctors and ophthalmologists – also own Jessup Cellars. Launched in 2009, the name is homage to all things handcrafted and handwritten.
Handwritten is headed by award-winning winemaker Rob Lloyd, who before joining the brand in 2009 crafted wines for the likes of Cakebread, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and La Crema. His mission is simple: to source grapes from premium, primarily hillside vineyards to create exquisite, velvety smooth, small-production wines that they can provide direct to consumer through relationships. They are especially known for their Cabernets; in recent years they have turned heads with their Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc blend and Rosé. According to the Handwritten team, Lloyd currently sources primarily from Carneros, Coombsville, Yountville, Oak Knoll, Oakville, Stags Leap, Mt. Veeder, Rutherford and Calistoga. They also source a handful of grapes from the Central Coast near Santa Barbara.
Starting small with a tasting room housed in a historic bungalow in St. Helena, in 2020, Handwritten Wines moved into its idyllic headquarters. Nicknamed SOYO House given it is located at the southern tip of tasting rooms in Yountville, the space was designed to feel like a progression into a modern home with warm accents, intimate nooks, an expansive great room and an atrium-style patio courtyard. There is a clear play between modern and antique as it relates to the décor, and there is even a high-end hat store – Montecristi Panama Hats –– connected to tasting room’s northern rooms.
As much as the character of the brand comes from the rich, flavor-forward wines, quite a bit of the fun of visiting the tasting room is due to its team, led by wine member and tasting room manager Bill Miller. The San Francisco native and husband, Gary, have called Napa their home for more than a decade and fell in love with Handwritten’s approach and vision. Though a successful marketing executive, Miller threw caution to the wind and joined the team to help curate its in-house experiences. He is joined by a merry band a wine rock stars who virtually anyone who has visited in person even once knows by name in Napa native and personal wine curator Virenda Mattson, Vacaville native and wine curator Ezekiel Hampton, and many others.
Walk-in tastings are welcome, but it is best to make a reservation to ensure a premium spot inside or out, given its popularity and prime locale. There are currently three tasting options available, starting with the Classic Experience ($75 per person, which is waived with $100 in wine purchased). It features four wines pre-poured in a side-by-side comparative format, usually allowing for guests to sip from Napa Valley hillside and mountain District Cabernet Sauvignons and accompanied by specialty truffle potato chips. There is also the Quick Read Experience ($60 per person, which is waived with $75 in wine purchased), which is a fast flight of reds or whites for those on the go, also accompanied by truffle chips. Finally, there is the Bread and Buttah…er…Butter Experience ($100 per person, which is waived with $200 in wine purchased). Creamy, dreamy and a bucket list pairing in Napa County, it features four of the brand’s most coveted Cabernets (and usually a pour or two of a Pinot, a white wine or even a Rosé) alongside Bouchon Bakery baguettes, truffle potato chips and the most artfully plated artisan butters likely ever seen. They are domestic but from all over the country and change regularly. The board is completed with Coppa Salame and P’tit Basque cheese, making it nearly impossible to choose what to pair with each sip. No worries as every single combination is a melt-in-your-mouth marvel, each helping the wines to bloom on the nose and on the palate. The one-on-one attention during each experience makes every guest feel like a VIP.
There are also a host of virtual and in-home experiences available and, of course, Handwritten Wines by the bottle available online. Though all are lightning in a bottle, there are a few standouts this season that beg to be sipped right now:
Handwritten 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Carneros: An elegant mélange of red cherries and cranberries, tempered by spice and herbs, this is a pure expression of the lauded Carneros region. $130
Handwritten 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Coombsville: The wildly differing temperature in Coombsville during the day and at night give this bottle a beautiful mixture of blackberry and plum, but also ever-so-gentle notes of chocolate and coffee beans. $155
Handwritten 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville: Structured with bramble fruit and blueberries but also toasted vanilla and leather, every sip here is big and bold, but with fruit notes that are exceptionally pleasing to most any palate. $125
Handwritten 2022 The Author: The brand’s sole Sauvignon Blanc (really 90 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 10 percent Semillon), this estate offering has fragrance to spare with bursts of passion fruit, mango and pear. The flavor is just as intoxicating with a surprising creaminess without losing that minerality beloved in this type of varietal. $50
For more information, visit handwrittenwines.com.
6494 Washington St.
Yountville, CA 94599