As fires continue to rage on in Northern California, many in Wine Country are still reeling in the aftermath of the fires last fall: Among them, Signorello Estate, which lost its hospitality center—along with proprietor Ray Signorello's home— in October.
Thankfully, the vineyards, crush pad, and barrel cellar were spared, which means there are vintages to be shared. And while the process of rebuilding will take some time, a temporary tasting room has popped up next to the empty lot where the estate once stood.
"We were lucky in the fact that we didn't lose any wine or vines, and nobody got hurt," says Signorello, who founded the winery with his late father in 1977. When the place burned to the ground last year, it only took Signorello a couple days to decide he would rebuild; but after meeting with architects, he received what he calls "sobering news." The process would take two to three years—not ideal for a business. But he had an idea: an interim tasting room.
Set adjacent to where the tasting room once was is a gray, 60-by-12-foot modular unit. While the wreckage has been cleaned up, the empty lot can't be ignored. A Signorello sign sits on the ground in the middle of it, a symbol of survival.
Signorello hired Katie McCaffrey of Angus-McCaffrey to transform the trailer into a simple, yet sophisticated tasting room with wood, metal, and leather elements. Several windows provide a stunning, birds-eye view of Napa Valley. On one wall, a black and white photograph serves as a chilling reminder of what transpired last October; on another, a rendering of the new hospitality center looks to the future—Signorello says the interior design is a small preview of what can be expected. He hopes to break ground on the project—helmed by San Francisco-based Taylor Lombardo Architects (Silver Oak Cellars, Francis Ford Coppola Winery)—before the end of the year. A complete departure from the original, Signorello 2.0 will be ultra-modern, with concrete, steel, and lots of glass to put the estate's incredible views on full display.
"We had a really nice facility before; you wouldn't have taken a bulldozer to it, but that's essentially what happened," says Signorello. "It gives me a clean slate, and it's a unique opportunity where we'll have some of the oldest vines in Napa with one of the newest wineries."
Underground caves are a big part of that vision. Designed for wine production, they'll also feature a space where visitors can taste. "The caves will enable us to create the ultimate experience not only for people, but also for the grapes coming through the system," he said.
But for now, guests are invited to taste in one of the chicest trailers around: You'll be greeted with a glass of wine and then load up into a golf cart for an educational vineyard tour of the estate's 100 acres before sitting down to tasting and food pairing in the trailer's Estate Room, a scaled-down version of the winery's former Enoteca experience, which featured a five-course gourmet meal.
Signorello was one of the first in Napa Valley to incorporate a culinary component to wine tasting, launching the first iteration of their chef-driven program back in 2005. Their wines are made for food, crafted in an Old World style: restrained, balanced, and low in alcohol.
The winery plans to reinstate a robust food and wine program at the new tasting room, but in the meantime, the Estate Experience ($100/person) pairs four bites from Napa Valley catering company Tre Posti with four wines (two whites and two reds). The newly released cabernet sauvignon, for instance, is matched with a mushroom duxelle (finely chopped mushroom mixture with shallots and herbs) on a crostini.
Tastings in Signorello's interim tasting room are offered five days a week (closed Tuesday and Wednesday) at 10am, 1pm, and 3pm for up to eight people. // 4500 Silverado Trail (Napa), signorelloestate.com