Dapper Far Niente sister winery gets things right with single-vineyard collector-quality Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
A quarter-century ago, Nickel & Nickel founder the late Gil Nickel paid the then heady price of $100,000 an acre for land across St. Helena Highway from the Robert Mondavi Winery. At the time, Nickel, an Oklahoman former guided-missile analyst and nurseryman who was also an avid race-car driver and car collector, joked that he was paying “tomorrow’s price today” to purchase the 42-acre Oakville site he coveted.
Pricewise, “tomorrow” came and went – property in this area goes for several times what it cost Nickel. Real-estate strategy aside, though, the entrepreneur was simply following the principle that had led to success elsewhere in Oakville when he and his wife revived the long-abandoned Far Niente Winery: do whatever it takes to get things right. With its memorable single-vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon lineup, under its current ownership Nickel & Nickel continues to achieve its founder’s goal.
Cabernets and More
All told, the winery produces about a dozen Cabernets, along with Chardonnay, Merlot, and Syrah. Oakville vineyards that include the estate John C. Sullenger Vineyard supply grapes for several of the Cabernets, with the rest from other key Napa Valley subappellations. Some of the vineyards are on the valley floor, while others occupy mountain terrain. Soils vary from volcanic to alluvial.
Tours and Tastings
The winery, anchored by the 1884 Sullenger House, a carefully restored Queen Anne–style dwelling original to this site, offers sit-down tastings with or without a tour that takes in the dapper farmstead’s renovated 1778 barn from New Hampshire and the underground barrel-aging cellar. A recurring theme of all the experiences is the complementary roles soil, climate, rootstock, and clone selection play in producing collector-quality wines. The Cabernets poured illustrate the point very well indeed.
Tip: It’s unlikely you’ll be able to make a same-day appointment to visit this winery. Book a few days ahead at minimum.
Why go: genteel setting; luxury experience; memorable Cabernets.
Nickel & Nickel appears in 10 Foolproof Napa Valley Cabernet Tasting Experiences.
8164 St. Helena Hwy., Oakville 94562
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This story originally appeared online in 2017; it was fact-checked and updated in 2022.