VGS Chateau Potelle

Michelin-star bites elevate outstanding wines at Napa Valley winery’s St. Helena cottage.

Most Napa Valley wineries pairing wines and food serve tasty enough morsels, but the ones served at Jean-Noel Fourmeaux’s St. Helena cottage come from the kitchen of downtown Napa’s Michelin-star La Toque restaurant. Chef Ken Frank’s specialty is creating combinations that illustrate the subtle ways food elevates already outstanding wines and the reverse. With his Chateau Potelle offerings, Frank accomplishes both missions in miniature.

Whimsical decor at VGS Chateau Potelle.

Mountain Fruit

Chateau Potelle makes Sauvignon Blanc, a Mt. Veeder Chardonnay, and Inevitable, a white blend that varies but often includes Chardonnay and Viognier (for 2020, also Marsanne). The focus, though, is reds, among them Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon from Mt. Veeder, a Zinfandel from Sonoma County’s Moon Mountain (just west of Mt. Veeder), and the intriguing 50/50 Cuvée, half of whose grapes come from “a favorite cousin” in Fourmeaux’s native Bordeaux. For all his wines, Fourmeaux favors grapes grown at higher elevations because the cooler temperatures result in a slower ripening pace that in turn yields more concentrated flavors.

Four perennial favorites, from left: Chardonnay, Potelle Two Bordeaux-style red blend, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon, all or mostly from mountain fruit.

Festive Indoors or Out

Contemporary art decorates the white-walled rooms in the indoor space at Chateau Potelle decorated with contemporary art. Playful touches like the colorful replica French hot-air balloons suspended from the ceiling keep the mood festive. Some tastings take place under a Moroccan open tent surrounded partially by crepe myrtles that bloom a bright pink in summer (lead photo).

Wall art in center colorfully evokes winegrowing tools of yore.

VG…What?

When he’s not checking out vineyards or working in his winery—or traveling to France to the real Chateau Potelle, a medieval castle his family has owned for centuries—Fourmeaux often shows up at his tasting room. Impish but not to a fault, he takes joy in upending expectations, starting with the initials that form part of his winery’s name. An irreverent play on the way the French designate categories of wine, they stand for what this small operation delivers on all levels: very good sh*t.

Why go: whimsical sensibility; Cabernets from mountain fruit; small bites that elevate the wines and vice versa

Info

1200 Dowdell Ln., St. Helena 94574

Itinerary

VGS Chateau Potelle appears in 3 St. Helena Wineries with a Personal Touch.

More Napa Valley Itineraries

Downtown Napa in a Day
48 Perfect Hours in Calistoga
10 Foolproof Napa Valley Cabernet Tasting Experiences
3 Historic Napa Valley Wineries Day Trip
2 Splendid Days in Walkable Yountville

This story originally appeared online in 2017; it was fact-checked and updated in 2021.

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