“Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe
Rain may fall, and wind may blow
And many miles be still to go
But under a tall tree will I lie
And let the clouds go sailing by”
― J.R.R. Tolkien
My friends Lory and Eric moved to Las Vegas from Los Gatos, California last year. Eric formerly worked in the wine industry in Napa. They have a lovely lakefront home in Las Vegas, but it is their wine collection that is most enviable. Lory and Eric love to entertain, and they had recently hosted a party, introducing their Napa Valley friends, Henry and Olga Patland, their son, Michael and his lovely fiancée, Natalie Kelly.
Henry and Olga own Patland Estate Vineyards, and they brought several bottles of their wines for us to try. They also brought a special bottle of their Premier Napa Valley offering from several years ago. Their Premier wine had been foot crushed, and Natalie, a dancer, was one of the foot stompers. It was a remarkable evening of wonderful food, wine, and conversation. Henry, Olga, Michael, and Natalie were wonderful company. However, the best was yet to come. Michael invited me to join them at the winery for their 2016 vintage release party.
Henry and Olga emigrated to the United States from the Ukraine, met, married, and had three sons. They founded Patland Estate Vineyards in 2007. Patland Estate Vineyards is a beautiful winery overlooking Stags Leap and Chimney Rock. It is truly a boutique winery, producing 400 or fewer cases each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Rosé, and a proprietary red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon. They also produce Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, a Port, and a sparkling wine. Unfortunately, Henry and Olga’s flagship estate was devasted by the 2017 Atlas fire in Napa. However, it has staged an amazing comeback, and this was an opportunity to showcase their wine.
Eric has an incredible nose and palate, and the night before he was asked to put those talents to good use tasting the 2017 vintage. He was also going to help pour at the release party, so he left the hotel early in the morning to go to the winery. This was going to be my first time at the winery, so Lory served as my GPS. Lory had not been back to the winery since the fires. She did not realize that I caught sideward glances of the startled look on her face as I drove. Landmarks that Lory had taken for granted apparently were no longer there, and you could see the sadness on her face. In fairness, Mother Nature has made an incredible comeback.
The Caves at Soda Canyon is located at the top of the hill. The Caves is where the wines are produced. The Caves at Soda Canyon is a joint venture amongst four separate wineries. It is the only fully underground cave in the Napa Valley. The Caves at Soda Canyon is more than 1,800 feet above the valley floor, and the view is magnificent. They were just finishing setting up for the party when Lory and I arrived. The band, the Urban Sherpas, led by Natalie’s father on keyboard, were tuning their instruments. Henry greeted us warmly and took us into the cave where the tasting was going to be held. Natalie was setting up the wines she was going to pour, and Eric was setting up at the next table.
The Urban Sherpas began to play as a caravan of Ferraris streamed up the hill and people started to arrive. Henry and Olga still belong to the local Ferrari club, notwithstanding having lost two Ferraris in the fire.
Natalie’s table was fittingly at the Cave’s entrance, and she was pouring Patland’s Sparkling Wine. What a great way to start the party! Eric was pouring a mélange of Patland’s samplings: 2015 Chardonnay; 2015 Sauvignon Blanc; 2016 Malbec; 2017 Rosé; 2016 Syrah; and a 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon. The food was wonderful, but the wines were clearly the star. Each wine demonstrated what Patland is about. The wines were complex and made to bring out the most of each varietal.
Michael introduced me to Jay Buoncristiani, Patland’s talented winemaker. Jay, a Napa Valley native, is from a long line of winemakers. He started the Buoncristiani Family Winery with his brothers and formerly worked as winemaker at Hess Collection Winery. He is truly passionate about his wines. Jay described his winemaking procedure and philosophy. Listening to an expert explain the winemaking process is so much better, no matter how much you know about wine, and this was the perfect setting.
Jay and Michael have their own wines called Hidden Gallery, and they opened a 2015 Blanc Caché. Michael had even designed the label. The Blanc Caché is a Rhône-style white blend, comprised of Marsanne, Viognier, and Chardonnay varietals all from Stagecoach Vineyards.
After several hours of eating, drinking, and exploring the facilities at the Caves, the release party was starting to wind down. We shifted the party, taking a short drive over to the Tuscan-styled Patland Estate Vineyards called Terra del Cuore, meaning “Land of the Heart” in Italian. The Estate is a picturesque property comprising almost 40-acres. There are Sangiovese, Merlot, and Syrah vines that were planted there, and they have, miraculously, survived the fire.
The property is beautiful, reminiscent of an estate in the rolling hills of Tuscany. This was my first time at the estate, so I could not appreciate the extent of the damage the fire had caused. I thought the flora was extensive until I later saw the “before” pictures.
The main house had been destroyed, except for a metal stairwell that now leads to nowhere. There was a roofless structure resembling a chapel, complete with frescoes, that looks like the remnant of an ancient Roman ruin at Pompeii. I thought that is how it was designed until I saw “pre-fire” pictures of the property.
Mother Nature will always stage a comeback. Eric showed me a tree that had been singed by the fire on the outside. However, just underneath the epidermis, the tree was alive. This was a cork tree, from which wine corks are made.
Michael posted a very poignant video on YouTube following the fire that is particularly apropos. Set to Maya Angelou seminal poem, “Still I Rise,” it vividly shows the extent of the Estate’s devastation.
Still I Rise
By Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
There is a life-sized metal eagle on a perch at Patland Estates Vineyards looking out over the valley. The eagle was scorched in the fire, but otherwise unaffected. Perhaps, the eagle is a metaphor for Patland Estate Vineyards and all of the Napa Valley.
Enjoy the slideshow!
Excerpt from Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise” from And Still I Rise: A Book of Poems. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.