Tamber Bey Vineyards Review
Address: 1251 Tubbs Lane Calistoga,California 94515.
Phone Number: 707-942-2100
Tasting Hours: By appt. 10:00-6:00
Region: Napa Valley AVA, Calistoga AVA, California
Reviewer: Mark and Sonja
Review Date: 6/29/2016
Reviewer: Mark and Sonja
While Robert Redford was filming The Horse Whisperer, he would regularly make his way down the winding mountain paths to the valley floor near Calistoga, nestled neatly amidst the two mountain ranges in the northern part of the Napa Valley, in order to visit his friend Carol Green. Carol had built her horse ranch in wine country with little regard for the economic promises of the booming viticultural industry that was rapidly evolving all around her, preferring instead to design and construct a horse ranch in the style of those shed seen in Kentucky to pursue her own equestrian interests. It was a peaceful place, more or less removed from the heavily trafficked highways of the valley, where the nickering of a horse could still be heard without being drowned out by the constant noises brought on by traffic, construction, and humanity at large. Carol named her 22 acres and the stables and outbuildings upon them Sundance Ranch after her most famous friends most famous role, and spent much of her time there with her horses until her death in 2010.
Not far down Valley, Barry and Jennifer Waitte shared, amongst other things, a love for equestrianism. Horses were beautiful, powerful, and noble, and had helped to form a strong bond between the couple, a passion that had helped to bring them together. In particular, they enjoyed endurance horse racing, and they were good at it. Jennifer regularly bested Barry during these 100-mile competitions, but then again, Jennifer regularly bested most people in those races, and even today is ranked among the top endurance racers in the world. But what Barry couldnt offer his spouse in advice about riding he made up for by sharing with her his other fondest pursuit: a love and knowledge of fine wine. This would over time become another shared passion amongst the two of them. Barry had purchased a 60-acre vineyard in 1999 with a vision for making incredible wines. The first vintage of Tamber Bey, named of course for horses (Barrys first two Arabian horses were named Tamborina and Bayano) was released to humble beginnings in 2001. We sold wine off our back porch, Jennifer later recalled, smiling slightly at the now distant memory.
Upon the passing of Carol Green, the Waittes found an opportunity to combine what had by then evolved into the two greatest interests of their lives, and they moved the operation up valley from their home in Yountville to the Sundance Ranch, converting it into the Tamber Bey winery and tasting room, a facility that could accommodate not only their winemaking ambitions, but also their equestrian ones. Their first crush at the facility came in 2013, their 15K square foot crush pad situated squarely below what was once a covered riding arena with their beloved horses trotting about freely in the nearby stables.
Today, an elegant tasting room is easily overlooked in favor of the opportunity to sit outside and sip wine in the company of the horses, with the mountains towering in the background and the rays of the sun gradually warming the earth. Winemaker Frederic Delivert produces an array of interesting, hand-crafted reds and whites, ranging from traditional, varietal-specific wines such as a crisp and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc and rich, earthy Merlot, to a masterful left-bank style red blend aptly titled Rabicano. Sitting on the patio in the cool morning air, we tasted the blend. Of all the wines weve made, Jennifer said softly, staring thoughtfully into her glass, this is my favorite. She paused, looking fondly out at the horses stamping about playfully in their pens, before raising the stem of her glass high to finish the taste, and then rising to lead the way back inside.
The facility keeps on hand an extensive library of older vintages, dating back far before the opening of the ranch to the times when the wine was still being sold off of the Waittes back porch in Yountville. Thanks to the wonders of a Coravin system (a device that inserts a surgical needle through both the foil and the cork to allow small tastes of wine to be removed without opening an entire bottle, replacing the wine with heavy gas and preserving the remainder of the bottle for another time), many of Tamber Beys library vintages can still be sampled and purchased on the property.
The Waittes business plan caps the winerys entire production right around 8.5K cases of wine, placing them squarely in the boutique category and allowing Delivert and his assistants to personally monitor and taste every barrel of wine during all stages of production. At most, the staff at Tamber Bey will see around 25 people a day, all of them by appointment. With such limited availability of both the wine and the room for tours, its advisable to schedule your visit as far in advance as you are able.
Jennifer was preparing for her next great race, the Tevis Cup, while I was visiting the ranch this past June, but she took time to talk to us, to taste a bit of wine, and to show us around the beautiful ranch and winery that stands as the realization of a common dream for her and her husband, Barry. There on the property, the Waittes can house the Sunrise Horse Rescue, raise their racing horses, and produce world-class wines, all while enjoying the quiet serenity of the mountains that rise high above them to both the east and the west. Though the Valley continues to grow in population and as a tourist destination while failing to expand in size, a person can still hear the nickering of a horse in this rare and beautiful environment. Tamber Bey is an idyllic setting in which to experience the wine industry, and for anyone who shares the Waittes common love of viticulture and all things equestrian, its the must-visit location in all of California wine country.