Bella Grace – Sutter Creek Review
Address: 73 Main St Sutter Creek,California 95685.
Phone Number: 209-267-8053
Tasting Hours: Thurs-Mon 11:00-5:00
Region: Sierra Foothills AVA, Amador County, California
Reviewer: Elizabeth Smith
Review Date: 11/5/2016
Reviewer: Elizabeth Smith
During the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, California, I had the great pleasure of meeting Stephen Havill of Bella Grace Vineyards. During one of the conference lunches, he led me over to his table where he was pouring some of their wines. After tasting a few, I was immediately smitten and knew I had to plan a visit. It would take me three months until I could make the trek to Amador County and the winerys tasting location in Sutter Creek, California.
Walking up Main Street in Sutter Creek is like stepping back in time. The pace of life is much slower and relaxed than where I live in the Napa Valley. As I approached the address of the tasting room, I caught a glimpse of this beautiful, old home surrounded by a classic white picket fence. It turned out that this was not a home, but Bella Graces tasting room. I snapped a few photos of the beautiful façade and entrance before entering. I am always amazed at how beautiful California is during the month of November. The recent rains had rendered the surrounding plants and lawn very green. Lush, shade trees revealed tinges of autumn color on their tips.
As I entered the building, I found myself in a foyer, where I noticed a piano. Is this really not a home, I thought? To the side was a gift shop area where I noticed olive oils for sale. I proceeded down a short flight of stairs into the tasting room, where I was greeted by one of the tasting hosts. The tasting room was stunning, with its high ceiling and wood paneling. Tasting options include tastes of up to five wines: $5.00 per person for the standard tasting and $10 for the reserve tasting, both refundable with purchase.
Bella Grace was founded in 2006 by Stephens parents, Charlie and Michael Havill, who also serve as the winerys farmer/vineyard manager and winemaker. They grow grapes, including grenache, grenache blanc, mourvèdre, petite sirah, primitivo, roussanne, syrah, vermentino, and zinfandel on 20 acres of vineyards at the home estate. They also source barbera, sauvignon blanc, tempranillo, and viognier from some of Amador Countys best vineyards, as well as cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir from Sonoma Coast and Mendocino County, and chardonnay from Mendocino County, the latter to produce a sparkling wine in a partnership with Roederer Estate. The estate also includes 70 olive trees from which they make their own olive oil. From a love of Italy that began on a trip a few years ago, Bella Grace imports and sells an Italian sparkling rosé made from a rare combination of cabernet sauvignon and merlot and a variety of balsamic vinegars. In 2011, Bella Grace opened their Sutter Creek tasting space in this historic building dating back to the 1860s to meet the demand of a growing customer base and wine club membership.
Soon after my arrival, I was joined by Stephen, who led me through a comprehensive tasting of nearly all of their wines in various locations of the property: the tasting room; a den-like sitting area (for appointment tastings, wine club members, and other larger groups), and outside on the patio. We began with the wines from the standard tasting and then proceeded to the reserve list. Nine wines into the tasting, Stephen says, “I don’t want to pour you too much.” I assured him that I was perfectly fine with tasting as many wines as possible. His enthusiasm was infectious and the wines delectable. I did not want the tasting to end.
I was excited to discover that all of Bella Graces offerings were fantastic. Fewer than 300 cases of each wine are produced except for the barbera and zinfandel. I was instantly drawn to the estate offerings, especially the tiny-production 2015 Vermentino and 2013 Primitivo. The 2015 Vermentino, sourced from only two acres of vines, is the perfect alternative to sauvignon blanc, with its juicy, tropical and citrus fruit aromas and flavors, and easy drinkability at only 12.2% alcohol. The 2013 Primitivo, sourced from less than one acre of the estate and aged in 40% new Ambrosia American oak barrels, tastes sumptuous; unveiling a stunning mélange of brilliant, black cherry and a warming, spicy finish.
During my three hours at Bella Grace, Stephen was nearly constantly in motion: taking care of me, welcoming new guests, entertaining wine club members, and preparing for a member dinner that evening. It was immediately evident that Bella Grace is first and foremost customer-focused, with an emphasis on hospitality and small-production wines for every palate. A visit to Bella Grace is truly about the experience, with the winerys world-class wines being the tasty icing on the cake.