Mike & Chao Drink All Day


…but we should probably give you some of the back-story before we talk about drinking wine straight out of the pump-over equipment. As part of our recent trip to California (link to Mexican food post), we also swung by Fleury Estate Winery, one of Napa’s finest boutique wineries and a destination/product Mike’s been all about for the last few years. We did the tastings, learned about the production, got the full tour, but what struck us more than anything was the life of a vintner.

There’s definitely a misconception (one that even we, scholars that we are, might have even bought into) about the life that goes along with moving to Napa and making wine. There’s a sense that the days of a vintner are spent swirling a glass of wine in front of perpetual sunset.

Brian Fleury

A few hours in the constantly mobile world of Brian Fleury and any trace of that perception went out the window. The way Brian explained it (and from what we both observed), every customer–and we mean every single one–is important to them.

There is no royal treatment, in a sense, because everyone receives the royal treatment. This is in part because heĀ sells directly to collectors and the peopleĀ drinking the wine, rather than distributors and restaurants.

So whether it’s a family who booked their trip months in advance and have been doing research on wineries for months before that, or a repeat customer who makes a surprise visit via private plane–both require his attention, often simultaneously. (Which makes it really handy that there’s so much wine around.) Oh, and then by the way, it’s harvest season.

This guy is always on the clock, but in a way that you never feel that he’s on the clock–it’s effortless, jumping from the barrel room to an intimate dinner to giving a tour to hosting an extensive paella dinner… it’s exhausting.

But he pulls it off flawlessly: the winery itself is breathtaking (see the photos at the end of the post), the wine is–obviously–awesome, and the people are all happy to tell you about what’s going on behind the scenes:

Oh, that photo above? That’s no big deal, we were just helping out. You’ll be able to taste our work in 2012 when this Cabernet Sauvignon is released.

In addition to learning about the production side of things, we also toured the facility, did tastings, and got to see some more of the behind-the-scenes world at Fleury Winery. Most guests at the winery will spend a portion of their time in the room below, the barrel room, where you get the chance to sit with the vintner, taste different kinds of wines–really a hands-on experience…

The Barrel Room

The barrel room is, as you might have guessed, filled with barrels. But this is no ordinary storage facility. Throughout the room there are tasting areas, so those white, lit tents you see behind Chao on the right? Those open up into the intimate settings you see in the photo below.

You’ll also notice paintings in several of the photos above–these are just a few examples of the colorful, modern-leaning works created by none other than Brian’s son.

The Cottage

As if the rest of the winery wasn’t enough to make you all mildly jealous, take a look at the cottage where we stayed. The shot on the left gives you a pretty good idea of the view we woke up to each morning. Not too shabby.

Outside at Fleury Winery

All of these photos pretty much speak for themselves. The overall message: this place is spectacular.




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