John Nathaniel. The John Nathaniel Vineyard was completed in 2019. This small production has long been owned and controlled by the winemakers and former owners of Flora Springs Winery, the Comes family. It’s a father (John) and a son (Nat) coming together. Physical Winery is located on John’s property at the end of West Zinfandel Lane (neighbours include Dana Estate and Flora Springs Winery). The wine factory is small, specially built for artisans and houses their small batches of wine production.
The name of the winery was chosen in honour of Otto Comes (son of John and brother of Nath), who tragically died in 2010 far from cancer. The name is taken from the first initials of their three names, John, Otto and Nathaniel.
2020 has been a year of change for the Comes family. Earlier this year they sold the Flora Springs Winery and the 280 hectare vineyard to Daniel and Florence Catiard of France. Sales did not include Flora Springs or The Room brand, Highway 29 Tasting Room, or other family vineyards. The Catiards also own Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte in Bordeaux and several other wine domains, including Château Le Thil, Château Cantelys, Château Beauregard and Château Bastor-Lamontagne. Danielle and Florence are both alpine ski champions and were part of the French Olympic cross-country skiing team. Both have had other careers outside the wine industry, including working in advertising stores and supermarkets. They also own several hotels and spas and a ski chalet.
And in 2020, as part of the sale of the winery, the third generation of the Comes family took over the management of Flora Springs. Among them are Nat and some of his cousins and their families, as well as Sean Garvey, son of Pat and Julie Garvey’s co-founders.
About a month after the property was announced for sale, the Comes family purchased 3,500 square feet of Citizen Fi’s former property on the Napa River in downtown Napa on 1st Street. Originally the intention was to convert this space into a tasting room (not that another tasting room was needed in the centre of Napa) and to name it Lavender Hill Restaurant (after their Carneros vineyard). However, it was later decided to convert the space into Wilford’s Lounge, a Tiki Bar with indoor and outdoor seating with Hawaiian themes to show John Nathaniel’s wines and possibly other family brands, including Trilogy and Soliloquy.
Nat found the inspiration for a Tiki Bar from his friend Michael Cobb, who runs a Tiki Bar on wheels in Solvang, California. The two men met many years ago when Michael worked as a cook, sommelier and restaurant manager in Disneyland. After all, he managed the wines for different rooms at different locations in Disneyland, and it was through his work with different wine brands that he met Nat. Michael also created the popular California Food and Wine Festival, which is held every spring at Disney’s California Adventure.
Michael opened his Tiki Salon in 2017 – a comfortable space with a Tiki Bar on the ground floor and an intimate lounge upstairs dedicated to his own wine brand, Sort This Out Cellars. Several tables are located outside the room. In addition to his own wines, he also offers a selection of Flora Springs wines – and a range of other beverages, including some tropical teaks, which have a supposedly popular public theme, a description called This Drink Will Get You Lei’d. And Michael helped advise and create the original decorations for the Wilford Lounge. One of his friends even made a complex teak design by hand, drawn from an existing tree in the house.
Come back later, we’ll visit this restaurant as soon as it opens (probably early 2021), as well as the physical wine cellar.
Wilford Lounge, Napa.
South side, Wilford’s living room.
On the north side, Wilford’s living room…
High Roller Tiki Lounge, Solvang.
Jon Nathaniel’s wines can be tasted in Flora Springs, The Room Space along Highway 29. This tasting room is certainly distinguished by its breathtakingly curved architecture, somewhat reminiscent of the entrance to the cave – and by its exterior decorations, often with a seasonal theme. Only 5 minutes drive from his estate to the west (John Nathaniel) – visitors of the hall do not need an appointment.
It is one of the few wineries in the valley (and not in one of the towns) with a tasting room in part of the shopping centre. It is certainly one of the most unique architectural tasting rooms in the valley. He’s not easy to miss, and all he’s got is the mysterious name Room. Tell people you’re going downstairs and they’ll wonder what you’re talking about. From the outside, it almost looks like a project for a wine cellar in a mini hall with a corrugated roof (which was to be designed by architect Frank Geary, but was never realized).
It is suspicious that this tasting room was opened at 8.8.8 a.m., which is a successful day in some cultures. The tasting room shares the car park next to Gary’s wine shop and press restaurant. The tastings take place inside a curved wooden bar, outside in a shady courtyard or on the upper floor (recommended for a beautiful view of the west overlooking the vineyards).
2016 Jon Nathanial Honest Bucker is a very unique blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc (from the vineyards at the entrance of the Silver Oak in Oakville), 25% Chardonnay and 25% Malvasia Bianca (a very rare variety rarely used by Napa Valley wineries). The medium golden scents of the glass are undoubtedly tropical and floral with notes of honeycomb, pineapple, apricot and soft floral nuances (honeysuckle). It’s a beautiful bouquet. A first mineral note with a fruity and sweet taste begins and ends in the mouth. Shows a round and soft texture, but well complemented with light fruit and good acidity. Aromas of red apple and some dessert herbs, especially towards the finish. In itself, a wine that is very good to drink is a wine that is easily tolerated.
2018 John Nathaniel Lavender Hill Pinot Noir (100% variety) from a family owned 10 hectare vineyard on Lavender Hill on the Napa hill in the Carneros region. The deep pink reveals light raspberry and red cherry cola scents with a hint of cardamom and mocha herbs further in the background. A little dust as the wine breathes. Very elegant bouquet. Perfectly balanced – its soft, smooth texture allows this wine to glide easily through the palate. Pleasant acidity with aromas of red cherries and raspberries. Leave, with acidity, fruit and a hint of dessert herbs, including cloves.
In 2017 John Nathaniel Bodesius is a characteristic red mix of Malbec, Malbec Verdo and Syrah. The medium ruby red colour offers a fascinating bouquet with aromas of blackberry, violet, dark chocolate and a box of cedar wood. The rich bouquet quickly fills the glass with fragrance. The bouquet suggests a Ripper, who doesn’t go jerky over the threshold. Offers plum and dark berry scents – but with the clarity of acidity. The tannins have a slightly flat and granular texture. Well integrated. Feels good in the mouth. For technical wines there is a term that can be used to describe this wine: Mates!
In 2018. Jon Nathaniel Fabulist consists of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petite Verdot, 3% Malbec and 3% Cabernet Franc. This wine was cold, soaked for a few days and after 18 months of fermentation it was made from 100% French oak, 40% of which was new. Initially there is a note of dust and dried tobacco leaf – it remains when the bouquet opens, but over time more fruits are found. Aromas of sweet berries, dessert herbs and cedar wood are clearly present. The perfection in the mouth is that there are no sharp edges – the finish remains fairly long without any interruption of tannin work. Dark fruity and spicy notes appear on the aftertaste – a little spicy.
2015 John Nathaniel Windfall Vineyard is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard owned by the family in Rutherford (only about 2 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon grow on this estate). All grown organically. It is fermented in French oak barrels as well as in stainless steel tanks. At the age of 21 months in French oak. Deep ruby red colour with aromas of blackberries, plums, cedar and chocolate cake. Not too mature. Gives structure, acidity and depth to the fetus. Delays with dark, grainy and chewy tannins are characterized by a strong and durable adhesion. It’s a reliable offer – a cabin for cabin lovers, if you like. Shows the power and fullness of presence, both in the bouquet and in the air.
While the production of Flora Springs is much larger, John Nathaniel has remained small and generally produces less than 1000 boxes per year. We have also highlighted Flora Springs wine in a separate report on this website – see this report for more information about the Comes family. For more information, to subscribe to their mailing list or to make an appointment, please visit: www.jonnathanielwines.com.
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