Emblazoned on every cork of Brasswood Estate wine is the phrase ‘Wish you were here.’ It’s a sentiment shared by Brasswood’s many fans who too wish they were there, opening their bottle within the expansive and convivial St. Helena campus where the best of food and wine is always within arm’s reach.
When Brasswood first opened, the team’s goal was to create a space in which every guest felt at home. Since 2016, its vineyards, winemaking facility, highly-regarded restaurant, popular bakery, olfactory/visual sensory room, and art gallery have served as a living room of sorts for Napa Valley. A 57-acre living room with 17,000 square feet of wine caves. Enjoyed equally by first-time wine country visitors and locals, and known as the ‘wine and food village of Napa Valley,’ it’s a one-stop Napa shop, offering tastes and glimpses of the best that Northern California wine country has to offer. Brasswood’s concept is simple: celebrate the local bounty by making elegant wines, cooking delicious food, and creating a warm and welcoming space where guests can relax, slow down, and enjoy the finer things in life.
And now, thanks to what was pre-pandemic planning, Brasswood is offering its hospitality virtually, allowing admirers far and wide the opportunity to mix, mingle, swirl and sip with Brasswood co-founder, Marcus Marquez, winemaker Angelina Mondavi, and fellow devotees across the country – from the comfort of their own homes. It might not be quite the same as sitting fireside with friends within the Brasswood quad, but it beats completely foregoing the camaraderie that naturally originates when Brasswood loyalists gather.
“We were headed in this virtual direction even before the shelter-in-place and stay-home orders were implemented in March,” said Marquez. “We wanted to be able to engage with our guests and our allocation members who aren’t always able to come to St. Helena. We’ve always been very active on social media, and taking our wine tastings virtual was pretty natural. It allows us to engage with people across the country; people who wish they were here.”
And many of those people include famous names within the arts, entertainment, and sports industries, each of whom knows that a Brasswood experience is always relaxed and always casual – even when enjoyed virtually. Participants in the Marquez/Mondavi-led Zoom tastings that take place Friday evenings at 5 pm PDT might even be surprised to see a few of those recognizable faces pop up within the sessions.
“These virtual tastings allow me to meet and build relationships with our customers,” said Mondavi, whose career in wine began at the age of 10 when she served as assistant to the lab manager at her family’s Charles Krug Winery. “We laugh and learn together, and often the participants build their own relation- ships. We’ve even known a few who have started dating as a result of this shared virtual time together. During these sessions, I’m an open book; it’s all out there. People can ask me anything, and I hope they do. And I hope they’ll then come to see me at Brasswood when they next visit Napa. My virtual friends are now friends for life.”
Brasswood’s amalgam of food, wine, and culture is the brainchild of Marquez, a restaurant and wine industry veteran, and Stacia Dowdell. The two initially met in 2012 while Marquez was in the process of opening and developing Goose & Gander in St. Helena. The duo envisioned a gathering spot featuring items and experiences that nourish the mind, body, and soul. Their dream of what Brasswood was going to be has exceeded their expectations. Brasswood Bar + Bakery + Kitchen consistently receives rave reviews; the custom crush facility serves as home base for some of the valley’s most esteemed winemakers; the bottle shop attracts those seeking rare wines and liquors and Brasswood’s exceptional wines. The balanced and terroir-driven Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé, Pinot Noir, and Syrah, are made by Mondavi and Dowdell and are highly desired.
“Brasswood Cellars wines are becoming the locals’ go-to for everyday consumption or for sharing with friends and neighbors,” said Marquez. “Our wines so beautifully represent the area and Napa Valley; we are finding more and more people that love wine or even make wine are drinking Brasswood and putting it in their wine rotation. And our easy-access location makes wine pick-up simple and quick. Not only can guests also grab a snack from the bakery or restaurant, they also have ready access to a wine educator every time they step within our campus.”
The campus features multiple tasting venues in which to sample the wines, including a unique sensory room curated by Brasswood’s estate sommelier. Marquez’s and Dowdell’s cultural vision for the property is realized in a gallery that features a rotation of artworks. “Art nourishes the soul,” said Marquez in explaining the addition of the gallery. “At Brasswood, we are passionate about stimulating all of the senses.”
Article By: Fran Miller // Photos By: Mike Larson