My impression of Mondavi has always been that its too big, so when I heard that they had a spin-off, I assumed that it too would be large and highly commercial. I was surprised to find La Familia a cozily small size and nestled against a hill. The winery is striking, and is what I believe to be one of the prettiest wineries in Napa. The winery has a bocce ball ground in the front with a nearby picnic area. The picnic area was astounding...they should have charged rent. The winery is higher than most other in the valley, so the view of the valley was spectacular.
During my visit, I met several other groups of tourists. Something about the way that the winery is organized fosters a very social atmosphere...perhaps it is the bocce ball field. But the social atmosphere made you feel as if you were at home, with your familia.
As for the wine itself, it is a refreshing change from the Californian wines. La Familia produces its wines in a more Italian tradition than is traditional in Napa. They use varieties of grapes from Italy (the American versions have mutated over the years) and they use Italian methods to harvest the grapes and to produce the wine. All varieties that we tried were good. The staff was very helpful in explaining the different types of wine and the different processes used to produce them. The muscat is simply amazing. It rivals the muscatos that I've tasted in Italy.
My only complaint was that it was hard to find. As it is high on a hill, it is well off the main road and the signs marking the turn-off are not very big. Be sure to get a tourist map on your way into the valley and keep your eyes peeled for the turn-off.
All in all, a visit to La Familia makes for a great day!
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