There are many small or boutique wineries in Napa spread across the valleys and mountains, but often harder to find than the major wineries, like Robert Mondavi Winery, Beaulieu Vineyards, ZD Wines and Inglenook. Those are well-known, heavily-visited and don’t require an appointment. But where does one go to find the lesser-known, exclusive and up-and-coming wineries? And then there’s that Napa traffic.
This is where Ma(i)sonry fills a void. The beautifully restored hewn-stone building began life in 1904 as the Charles Rovegno House. In the 1970s it became the Burgundy House Inn which closed its doors in 2007. Current proprietor/curator, Michael Polenske, envisioned it as something else as the very name chosen suggests.
Mai.son.ry [mey-suh-n-ree] – noun: A setting in which people come to be inspired by all things aesthetic.
That meant restoring the building while upgrading its non-historical elements to accommodate an art gallery with sculptures, paintings and architectural touches and spacious gardens to celebrate all things aesthetic. To complement that setting all that was needed were fine wines representing the art of the winemaker.
Located at 711 Washington Street, in Yountville, just off highway 29, this quiet spot away from the frenetic pace of Napa Valley evokes simpler times when contemplation did not mean trying to see how many wineries one could fit into an afternoon, but rather savoring wines chosen to complement one’s palate.
Select wines of over 20 producers are available for tasting. Wine flights range from $25 to $45 depending on the value of wines chosen. The fee is waived for wine purchases of $200 or more. A wine consultant assists each group in deciding which wines would be of most interest and then gathers them for the tasting.
Tasting can be done in the elegant rooms and galleries or out in the gardens. Large groups can also be handled and, of course, reservations are required. Private events and weddings are a specialty of the house.
Michael Polenske also owns Blackbird Vineyards and his winemaker, Aaron Pott, crafts the Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley wines as well as his own Pott Wines. These are three of the featured wine series offered for tasting from the wine collective members. Where else could one compare a Husic Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon from Michael Hirby with a Juslyn Vineyards Spring Mountain Cab from Craig MacLean?
Imagine entering the building and after receiving a warm greeting, being led to a cozy room with comfortable chairs and sofa while a wine consultant asks questions to determine what kind of wine each guest would like to try. Do you like Pinot Noir, Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon, for example? If one suggested Cabernet Sauvignon, then do you prefer valley, mountain or wines from a particular AVA (American Viticultural Area) to sample?
Imagine instead creeping along at 5 miles an hour on highway 29 toward St Helena, hoping to get in a tasting at Beringer before closing, only to find no parking places and long lines at the tasting counter. So uncivilized! How does one focus on the aesthetics of wine if a sharp elbow to the ribs reminds one they are only one of many supplicants wishing for just a taste of that Howell Mountain Cab? Join the civilized wine lovers at Ma(i)sonry instead where art, wine and quiet conversation are right at home.