Editor’s note: Those who choose to travel are strongly encouraged to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19 and take personal comfort levels and health conditions into consideration before departure.
Denise Adams says people ask every day if she plans on expanding Adamvs, the estate she and her husband, Stephen, bought in California’s Napa Valley in 2008. Her answer? “We can’t say no fast enough.”
Only 10 vineyard blocks sit on the massive, 80-acre Howell Mountain property, and they intend to keep it that way. “We love the handwork we can do,” she told Travel + Leisure of the biodynamic, organic farming that produces their top-quality, small-batch wines. “It’s more labor-intensive to farm the way we do, it’s more expensive, but you get better wine.”
The grounds have more than 10 different soil types, Denise says, offering a unique level of variation. And although the Adamses had prior experience producing wine at their two vineyards in Bordeaux, they quickly learned that the northern California terroir comes with its own challenges.
Touring the property with Denise in early 2020, before COVID-19 was a thought, weather and natural disasters were the main threats on her mind. “You’re at the mercy of Mother Nature completely. You can’t predict,” she said. “If I’m not worrying about earthquakes and fire here, I’m worrying about frost and hail [in France].”
But the same way the team bounced back from a 2017 vintage tainted by smoke with an abundant 2018 harvest, they managed to make it through a global pandemic and threatening fires this year. Now, the wines, which were previously only available to a limited number of allocation list members who had to visit in person to get on the list — and patrons at a few select Napa-area restaurants such as The French Laundry — are more accessible than ever before.
The sprawling estate has always been an ideal setting for outdoor wine tastings, and, like before COVID, is accepting guests by appointment only. This allows the staff to pay special attention to every guest — and to get to know them and their tastes before they arrive — for an experience that feels ultra-exclusive, but not elitist.
Tastings include a tour of the vineyard, meeting the farm animals (Buttercup, the friendly donkey, is a highlight, along with chickens and sheep), and a cheese and charcuterie board created with fresh, local ingredients by estate culinary director Elisabeth Russell for $150 per person. You might even meet Rob Keller of Napa Valley Bee Co., who enthusiastically tends to the property’s honey bee colony. The flagship wine is a vibrant cabernet sauvignon, though the sauvignon blanc — a white wine aged like a red — might be the biggest head-turner. Wines range in price from $85 to $350 a bottle.
For those who can’t travel to California right now, Adamvs is sending wines home in a handcrafted wooden box, along with seasonal recipe pairings and a selection of delicious treats such as their often waitlisted cabernet sauvignon jam, apple butter, lavender shortbread, a mulled spice mix, and more. The team is hosting private virtual tastings as well.
While we could all use an at-home treat as we head into fall of a difficult year, let the box inspire a future trip to Adamvs. As many travel plans continue to be put on hold, we may not even realize how much we miss the in-person experiences and connections we make while visiting a new place — and the almost all-women team at Adamvs warmly welcomes guests with wine knowledge, local tips, and great conversation. The Adamses took time to carefully handpick staff members who are as dedicated to hospitality as they are to winemaking, and it shows. That’s part of the reason the membership program is full of loyal customers who come from all over the world to visit year after year.
After all, as Denise says, “When you leave here, the relationship just begins.”
Nina Ruggiero is Travel + Leisure’s deputy digital editor. A New Yorker living in Los Angeles, she’s happiest on a beach, a cobblestone street, or in a hotel bathtub with a view. Find her on Instagram at @ninamarienyc.
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