Casa Nuestra is a kid-friendly winery located off the main strip in Napa and is well worth the 10-15 minute drive from the other wineries to visit.
Upon arrival, the first thing you’ll notice is the Adirondack style chairs set beneath tall, shady trees. Beyond this relaxing scene are two friendly goats, calmly awaiting the arrival of new winery guests and friends. The goats, by the way, were originally brought to the winery for the purpose of organic weed control, but quickly discovered that luscious grape clusters (even if unripe and green), were much tastier than any weed, so they now play the roles of winery greeters instead.
The goats are extremely cute and a great draw for children. However, once in the tasting room, you’ll quickly discover the variety of unique wines Casa Nuestra has to offer for adult visitors as well. I especially enjoyed their dry Rose which actually had a buttery finish, the Two Goats Blend (a house blend), and their 2011 Tinto, a field blend.
Below is an entertaining interview that I conducted with Robyn, a winery staff member, after my visit.
- What are the goat’s names?
The goats are named Elvis and Colonel Parker. Elvis is the distinguished looking one.
- If the goats don’t work well for weed control, what does?
For weed control we employ cultivation measures – namely a french plow and tilling. We are on the wait list for some Southdown Baby Doll Sheep, a miniature sheep varietal that can’t reach the grapevines.
- Other wineries claim to use goats for weed control, what is your guess as to what’s really going on:
a. wineries are lying – goats will eat un-ripened grapes over tasteless weeds any day
b. the wineries haven’t figured out the goats mischief yet and are likely still blaming the birds and squirrels for low grape yields
I’m not sure which other wineries claim to use goats for weed control but my guess is that all goat varietals, with the exception of miniatures, are too tall for weed management in a vineyard. Even miniatures stand on their back legs to reach delectable grapevines. But, if a winery claims to be using goats for weed control, they are likely managing weeds when the grapevines are dormant – say over the winter and early spring. It would be a good way to get rid of pesky perennial weeds and maybe even a way to control the spread of bermuda grass. When grapevines are dormant they are leafless, so there is no incentive for goats to nibble on them. It would be impossible to mistake goat grazing for bird and squirrel damage. The goats take too large of a bite.
- Another blog mentioned that you encourage guests to feed the goats – is this true?
We don’t encourage guests to feed the goats but most people try to give them people food. Our last two goats enjoyed burritos immensely and, when the oldest was in hospice care, the owner made him lasagna, which is all he would eat. But Elvis and Col Parker don’t seem to enjoy people food and won’t take an orange or a carrot. Alfalfa pellets and cubes are their preferred food. This is supplemented with a good quality hay and a pasture mix that we grow in their field.
- This other blog also mentioned tasting by appointment only – is this true?
Yes, we do operate our tasting room by appointment, although generally during the week an appointment is not necessary.
- Regarding your field blend wine (here’s the serious question), are the same ratio of (11) grape varietals all blended together at time of harvest every year, or does the winemaker adjust proportions before or during harvest, depending on the individual varietal flavors for that season?
As for the field blend question (the other questions seemed fairly serious to me), depending on the weather and other growing conditions, the vineyard delivers variable quantities of each of the grapes grown in the block. Some do better in a warmer year, others yield more in a more moderate year. We blend together these grapes in whatever proportion Mother Nature provides. There is no manipulation of the individual quantities. Sometimes we will use some of the field blend wine to “spice up” our Two Goats table wine, so not quite all of the wine we make from the field blend block gets labeled as Tinto.
Visit Casa Nuestra Winery and Vineyards to taste Tinto and visit the goats for yourself!
3451 Silverado Trail North
Saint Helena, CA