At Del Dotto, the winemakers think the barrel is important, and its tour centers around that. It offers similar experiences in its three Napa Valley locations.
On a Del Dotto tour, you won't taste fully aged wine poured from a bottle. Instead, you'll sample directly from the barrels. You may stop to inhale the surprising aroma of an empty barrel, too. Your tour guide will use a wine "thief" to draw samples from wine barrels for you to taste.
Depending on your tour guide, your tour may vary. You might explore the same fermented grape juice aged in different types of oak, discovering flavor differences contributed by the wood. Or you could taste different base wines (same grape, different year) aged in the same kind of wood, revealing the grapes' contribution.
What’s to Expect
Del Dotto's singular focus on how the barrel affects the wine that ages in it is unique. It may be the single most informative tour you'll ever take about winemaking, in terms of how that glass of wine in front of you came out tasting the way it did.
The historic caves are fascinating and intimate. The wine gallery in St. Helena is fancier, full of marble statues, while the Piazza has an outdoor barn with doves, peacocks, and pheasants.
The tour ends with the ultimate wine pairing: wine with chocolate. You'll also get a chance to sample its port wines. The St. Helena location even serves appetizer-sized portions of freshly baked pizza.
Why You Should Go
You will love this tour to learn about wines, how they are made, and how the process affects the product. If you love chocolate, you'll also enjoy the wine and chocolate pairings, which are not an easy thing to do well.
Del Dotto produces port wine, as well as chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Sangiovese.
Wine Spectator magazine gave Del Dotto's 1999 Cabernet 93 points, and its Cabernet Franc garnered a score of 92. In 2014, Robert Parker rated its 2012 Del Dotto St. Helena Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and its Del Dotto The Beast Cabernet Sauvignon at 98–100 points.
Know Before You Go
The tour and barrel tastings are by appointment only.
Del Dotto's three locations have a very different ambiance. The historic caves, hand dug in 1885, are located in the historic Hedgeside Distillery Building just outside the town of Napa. The Piazza Del Dotto, found on St. Helena Highway, is the winery's newest location and has a barn surrounded by 8.5 acres of cabernet sauvignon, vegetable gardens, and 17th-century fountains.
The St. Helena location brings to mind a Venetian palazzo where even the floors are paved in marble. Its caves are bigger, with more tour groups in them at once.
You won't see the crushing machine, the fermentation tanks, or the bottling area on this tour.
A word of warning: On this wine tour, you'll sample many wines on this tour, and each pouring is generous. It's easy to get intoxicated, more than at other wineries. To keep yourself safe on the drive home, pick a designated driver, hire someone to take you here, or arrive with a full stomach, take a tiny sip of each wine, and sob while throwing out the rest.
You should also be aware that the wines you'll taste are still immature and not the refined, fully ready-to-drink wines that you might sample in other locations. Don't let that deter you from going—the experience is all part of learning to appreciate wine and enjoy it.
Del Dotto's wine grapes grow in many viticultural areas, and they have a wider range of wine varietals than some other wineries do. They produce 400 to 500 cases per year.
Historic Del Dotto Winery & Caves
1055 Atlas Peak Road, Napa CA 94558
Del Dotto Estate Winery & Caves
1445 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena CA 94574
Piazza Del Dotto Winery & Caves
7466 St. Helena Highway, Napa CA 94558