B Cellars

B Cellars Founders, Jim Borsack and Duffy Keys took a mutual dream of making wine and owning a winery and turned it into what is now one of Napa Valley’s most successful partnerships.  Two years after meeting at a party, Borsack and Duffy took that dream and turned it into reality.  After securing a commitment from Kurt Venge to become their winemaker, in 2003 they launched B Cellars.  The “B’ stands for Brix ( a measure of sugar levels found in grapes) and is aptly suited for the nexus of their winemaking strategy which centers on finding the highest quality grapes and creating unique blends from multiple vineyards.  Today they offer approximately thirty different wines, many of which are sourced from some of Napa Valley’s most prestigious vineyards including Andy Beckstoffers’ coveted ToKalon, Georges III, and Dr. Crane.   Like many winemakers, they started small, sharing space in tasting rooms in Napa and Calistoga. In 2013 they seized the opportunity to acquire the Vintage Oak Horse Ranch, which they transformed into the winery and hospitality center tucked away on Oakville Cross. 

Hidden from view until you pull in front of the property, B Cellars building exteriors are modestly positioned among six acres of young cabernet grapevines and handsome, manicured lawns.  Their 15,000 square foot cave subtly beckons from the butte of the property behind the winery building.     

The Hospitality Center is the convergence point for visitors, and its inviting floor to ceiling glass walls and doorways offer spectacular views of the patios and working gardens once inside.  The open-air working kitchen bustles with activity and the preparation of small bites for the daily pairing menu.   After being presented with an amuse bouche consisting of a canape’ and a splash of wine, guests are escorted to the gardens to survey the current bounties.  The fifteen plus individual beds rotate to accommodate seasonal harvests and include multiple varieties of vegetables, legumes, herbs, microgreens, fruits, and flowers many which are transformed into the pairing menu which awaits at the end of the tour.   Bordering the gardens are fruit orchards, olive trees, bee farms and a fenced enclosure with over sixteen chickens, which donate approximately three dozen eggs per week to the culinary experiences or the staff menu.   

The kitchen operates under the careful direction of on-premise chef de cuisine, Derick Kuntz.  At the helm for over three years, Chef Kuntz meticulously oversees the creation of the “B Bites” menu which he recreates every few weeks to comprise fresh ingredients gathered from the gardens.  The evolving farm to table experience not only demonstrates the versatility of the garden but also complements the diversity of their multi- AVA, multi-varietal winemaking strategy through unique pairings with seasonal harvests.  

Along with the wine and farm to table culinary experiences, guests are offered a tour of the multi-use cave which serves its purpose to support winery production and storage, it is also exquisitely appointed to host guests for barrel sampling, intimate tasting experiences, and large group events.

Jim Borsack and Duffy Keys built B Cellars based on a passion for food and love of wine and set out to ensure their guests have the richest experiences possible.  The combination of progressive seasonal menus paired with innovative winemaking is intended to bring out their wines’ finest attributes.  This strategy, combined with the passionate staff who execute the vision, delivers on that commitment. 


All bookings are facilitated by advance reservations only.





Boeschen Vineyards

A visit to Boeschen Vineyards makes one feel as if they’ve been transported to a lush plantation in the Deep South. Originally built in 1890 for the paramour of a prominent businessman, it was also the home of a Russian Princess, an eclectic State arborist and a myriad of horticulture based businesses, including production walnut and prune orchards, a camelia nursury, a Christmas tree farm, and of course, grapes.  

The subtle entrance off of the north end of Silverado Trail opens up to a long gravel driveway which winds through undulating rows of grapevines.  Guests park in a circular roundabout and are greeted by staff or a family member, (most likley Doug Boeschen) in front of a reconstructed barn and the winery caves.  Doug is the GM and winemaker, and production and vineyard operations are humble, supported by just four employees.   Doug’s parents, Dann and Susan, reside on the property in the original house, which they purchased in 1999.  While the initial strategy was to farm and sell the property’s eleven acres of producing fruit, Doug was the motivational force to transform the business into an operating winery in 2005.  Taking a leap of faith and abandoning his career as a management consultant, Doug immersed himself in the wine business. Through a combination of practical working experience and a degree in viticulture and enology from UC Davis, Doug mastered the fine art of winemaking which is revealed in Boeschen’s exquisite Estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.  Boeschen wines are produced in small lots, with total production ranging between 1000- 1300 cases. 

Wine tasting experiences begin in the cave, which deserves an article of its’ own.  Designed by Dann Boeschen, it is 100% operationally contained and sustained. The underground space used to harvest and store wine and the hospitality and administrative offices fully operate inside.  Several walls have been carved open to reveal the natural layering of the volcanic ash and obsidian rock soil formations which make these acres perfect for growing Cabernet.   

The garden tour begins from the cave on a second level walkout which overlooks the magical garden artistry of Master Gardener, Susan Boeschen.  The grounds are choreographed to recreate a garden from the property’s historical legacy, including the oldest known metal framed greenhouse and species preserved from their original plantings.   One of the most astonishing flora is a Lady Banks Rose bush, which is estimated to be 120-150 years old.  Undisturbed and left to its wiles, its branches wind around trees and expand to lengths of 70 feet wide and just as many feet high.  At full bloom, it boasts thousands of white roses and is a magnificent sight to behold. 
Susan is a rose lover and started her master garden with hundreds of white roses to adorn the ground for her daughter’s wedding.  Over the years the rose garden has evolved to showcase as many as 70 different varietals and over 250 roses which are carefully tended to in geometric plots and also draped elegantly among clematis around the gardens’ pathway arches. As visitors stroll into the center of the gardens, they can relax on the benches to enjoy the lull of the English fountain and savor a splash of wine.    Susan has nurtured many of the original and eclectic plantings which have grown to great scale over the years, most noteworthy of which is a 90’ high magnolia tree, which reaches full bloom every summer.  Susan’s ultimate design strategy is to ensure something of fragrance is in bloom at all times, but optimum viewing occurs between March and May.

Boeschen Vineyard is truly a special place.  It’s quiet dignity and rich background offer anyone who appreciates elegant Estate wines, magnificent gardens, and a step back in time a welcome sojourn from the fast pace of everyday life.  

Due to limited production, Wine Tastings at Boeschen are offered by appointment only, with priority bookings reserved for wine club members.  While access is limited, Boeschen is expanding its membership opportunities in 2018.  To inquire, info@boeschenvineyards.com



Tres Sabores

Tucked away in the western hills off of Whitehall Lane, one can escape the busy pace of Highway 29 to discover the enchanting charm of Tres Sabores. The thirty-five-acre property is planted with thirteen acres of vineyards, ten of which produce award-winning zinfandel and the remaining a combination of Cabernet, Petite Verdot, and Petite Syrah. Tres Sabores means “three flavors” and signifies the types of tastes found in wine related to the terroir, the artisan, and the varietal. Purchased in 1987, owner Julie Johnson pioneered organic farming practices and became the first certified organic winery in 1991.  After producing grapes for Frogs Leap, in 1999, Julie hired three consulting winemakers, Rudy Zuidema, Ken Bernards and Karen Culler to make zinfandel from three separate vineyards.  Over the years she became engrossed in the art of winemaking and the micro biological inner workings of the terroir. She learned the natural ecosystem of the land, plants, insects, soils, and other living creatures contributed greatly to the character of the grapes. In 2003, leveraging her hands-on learning experiences and a self-sustaining farming model, Julie took over the reins as winemaker and launched her own label.

A visit to Tres Sabores is much more than a wine tasting experience. As you pull onto the property, five unabashed sheep, part of the “guest relations committee”, take a break from their grazing ritual to conduct a full inspection of your vehicle.  Soon Boozy-Rouge and Cava, the winery Golden Retrievers show up on the scene to officially welcome you in. Centered on intriguing the senses through tastes and aromas, Tres Sabores creates immersion experiences designed to bring people closer to the land.   The walking tours, often hosted by Julie herself, include a stop in the operating winery, a visit to the caves, a stroll through the vineyards and an intriguing demonstration of biodynamics among the infusion gardens.  

Over forty olive trees and a cultivar of two hundred plus pomegranate trees have been producing fruit for over a hundred years and are harvested for Tres Sabores estate olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The immersion gardens are strategically planted throughout the property to assure efficiency of a natural eco-system.  Seasonal harvests include vegetables, herbs, legumes, fruits and flowers and a menagerie of cover crop plantings which shore up operations by providing nourishment to the vineyards and preventing erosion of the soil. Sunflowers and other seed producing flowers and plants are grown to provide food for the twenty working guinea hens and chickens, who are bobbing nearby, anxious to make your acquaintance.   

Depending on the season, whatever may be in bloom is fodder to pick, smell and taste as you amble through the gardens.  Popular sensory combinations are tomato and basil, persimmons & pineapple sage, mints and fruits from the orchard.  At the end of the garden tour, guests are seated on a sunny patio or in the olive grove to relax and enjoy tasting the winery’s current vintages.  One of Julie’s most popular labels is “Por Que No?” (“Why Not”) which is comprised of Zinfandel grapes blended from all three vineyards.  Julie’s winemaking style is elegant and composition fresh, clean and bright, “just like the food she likes to eat.” Wine tastings are often accompanied by a garden culinary surprise de jour, like pomegranate brownies, fresh bread with pomegranate balsamic vinegar and olive oil, or cheese with fresh honey. Picnicking club members are often comfortable  hanging about enjoying a sunny afternoon.  

With less than 4000 cases produced, Tres Sabores’ small, family operation is truly a hidden gem. Off the beaten path and nestled among the vineyards, Julie takes pride in the fact that Tres Sabores homey, casual experience is not only educational but also relaxing and approachable, just like her wines.

      Winery hours: 7 days a week from 10- 4 pm.  Tours and tastings scheduled by appointment only. 





Wheeler Farms

For an authentic Napa Valley winery & agricultural experience, one need not look farther than Bart & Daphne Araujo’s newest venture– Wheeler Farms.  When the Araujo’s acquired the 11.5-acre parcel in 2014, it was the last of what was originally deeded as a 2000-acre Carne Humana Spanish land grant.  Initially purchased by Charles Wheeler in 1869, the property maintains a rich history in agriculture. Over the years, much of the acreage has been sold off, but while they were its’ stewards, the Wheeler family grew apples, prunes, walnuts, and grapes which they harvested into wine or brandy in a stone winery at Zinfandel Station.  Like the Wheeler family, the Araujo’s also share a rich legacy as Napa Valley pioneers and are best known for their success building the Calistoga Eisele Vineyards into Araujo Estate Winery, where they achieved worldwide recognition for producing 5-star cult wines.

When Bart & Daphne acquired Wheeler Farms, they wished to create a new legacy with a state of the art custom crush facility, winery, and hospitality center where like-minded winemakers could collaborate in a setting that honored Napa Valley’s agricultural roots. Since they opened, they have launched their new label, Wheeler Farms Wine, and have partnered with some of Napa Valley’s top wine producers, including Arrow & Branch, TOR, Vice Versa, Booth Bella Oaks, Evinco and Accendo Cellars.  The Araujo’s also felt it was important to preserve the historical nature of the Wheeler Farms property through the architecture and landscape.

In addition to planting seven acres of new grapevines and eighty olive trees, they contracted Ron Lusko Associates to design a sustainable garden with an agricultural eco-system that could be optimized in its entirety.  With personal touches by Daphne Araujo, the half-acre plot contains twelve 20’ long raised beds, each with a unique theme. Plantings rotate with seasonal vegetables and fruits, which may include tomatoes, beets, peppers, melons, corn, radishes, root vegetables and specialty herbs. At the end of the rows dwarf orchards, and various types of fruit trees produce citrus, apples and stone fruits. The bedding area opens up to a temperature controlled chicken coop (with 35 new baby chickens) two bee-hives and a greenhouse which is used to cultivate microgreens.  According to Elisabeth Russell, who heads up the culinary and garden program, the garden tasting experiences will vary based on seasonality and daily gathered harvests. 

A typical experience will begin with a walk through the gardens with a freshly mixed “mocktail” created from fresh fruits or vegetables, and then a visit to the greenhouse and chicken coop to enjoy small bites prepared that day in the Hospitality center’s open-air kitchen. After taking a tour of the state of the art 10,000 square foot production facility, guests are invited back to the Hospitality House to sample a curated selection of premium wines either relaxing indoors or outside on the patio enjoying spectacular views of Mt. St. Helena.

Wheeler Farms offers visitors a unique farm to bottle experience that incorporates a portfolio of fine wines created by ultra-premium winemakers with an opportunity to take part in an authentic agricultural experience reminiscent of a time when Napa Valley wasn’t all vineyards. 

      Tours and Tastings are available by appointment:  info@wheelerfarmswine.com

Contributor: Laura Larson – 
Founder, Virtual Vines DTC Consulting Services  

Virtual Vines provides DTC sales and marketing services & training focused on relationship selling and the intrinsic value of building connections with customers.  In this series, we focus on wineries that are connecting with customers through memorable guest experiences.