Vermeil Wines Review
Address: 1018 First St. Napa,California 94559.
Phone Number: 707-254-9881
Tasting Hours: Sun-Wed 10:00-10:00, Thurs-Sat 10:00-11:00
Region: Napa Valley AVA, California
Reviewer: Mark and Sonja
Review Date: 3/7/2016
Reviewer: Mark and Sonja
As a lifelong fan of the Kansas City Chiefs, Coach Dick Vermeil is one of my sports heroes. He may never have brought a Super Bowl victory to my team, but he brought a sense of calm and compassion, of quiet dignity and integrity that few programs in the NFL or any other league have ever experienced. Dick Vermeil is the epitome of class, so it shouldnt surprise anyone that, in his retirement, he has turned to wine as a means of passing time.
The story goes that, decades ago, the Vermeil family owned vineyard land near Dicks hometown of Calistoga, at the north end of the 30-mile-long Napa Valley. Though best known as a coach whose career spans many decades, and the head coach of the Super Bowl XXXIV Champion St. Louis Rams, Dicks family raised him in wine country, with a love for automobiles and the land they drive upon, as well as fine cuisine and the wines that pair with it. And so, after his storied career as a coach and commentator came to an end, Coach Vermeil thought it time to realize another lifelong dream, and became the proprietor of Vermeil Wines, sourcing fruit from vineyards planted on land that was once owned by his family.
Near the heart of Napas nightlife, Vermeil Wines Napa tasting room (there is also one located in his hometown of Calistoga) opened in 2013. Most tasting rooms, in Napa or anywhere else, fit into one of two categories: either their adornment is a tip of the hat to the agricultural industry that is responsible for the cultivation and very existence of the grapes that are later made into wine (think rustic wooden construction, exposed beams, and a farmhouse feel) or else they attempt to embody the class and elegance of the product itself (think elaborate fountains, fancy art work, and marble bars). For this reason, it is interesting that the Vermeil Wines tasting room adheres fully to neither trend, and instead is adorned in classic images of the coach and his team, complete with a facsimile of the Lombardi trophy sitting behind the counter (think upscale sports bar). The room boasts comfortable leather couches and large, flat screen televisions, as well as high-top stools at the tasting room bar, and attracts an eclectic crowd with the rare juxtaposition of sports and fine wine. The night we were in, two hockey fans screamed at one television in a side room while at the bar an immense man briefly examined his glass of fortified wine before throwing it back like a shot of cheap tequila. Sip, his wife muttered disapprovingly, demonstrating on her own glass of chardonnay.
Vermeils case production is currently a meager 3,500 annually across the portfolio, though they are looking to downsize that by nearly 50% in the coming years, focusing on quality and enhancing the value of the product through scarcity, as the tasting room attendant explained to us while she poured our tastes. As of the next vintage, a new winemaker is to assume the reigns, as collectively the operation is downsized. Though not a tour de force of what the Napa Valley is capable of, my wife and I found many of the wines, including the Zinfandel, JLV Cab Sauv, and Compassion Port when consumed in slow sips to be very enjoyable.
It was difficult reconciling my respect for Coach Vermeil with my love of Napa wines. I enjoy going to sports bars. I enjoy going to wine bars. I felt slightly out of my element in one that was clearly somehow both, however the friendly young lady staffing the room and the smiling images of Coach Vermeil hanging on the walls helped me to settle back into a plush black leather sofa and imbibe a flight of Napa reds while half-watching an NBA game on one of the flat screens. Though certainly not an idyllic destination for every wine connoisseur, Vermeil Wines is perhaps the perfect place to take the friend or spouse who lives for sports, but only reluctantly agreed to join you in wine country.