The Latest Winery in Stunning Knights Valley
For almost four decades, there has been only one winery in Knights Valley, the pastoral strip of heaven that sits at the base of Mount Saint Helena and ties Sonoma County and Napa County together. There are only 30 growers in the entire valley that contains 2,000 acres of vineyards, but most of the region is ranchland. And that’s how the residents like it.
Two brothers and a friend started Knights Bridge Winery in 2006—brothers Jim and Essel Bailey and family friend Tom Costin. Working tirelessly for ten years, the owners collaborated with permitting officials and local neighbors to gain approval to build a winery on site. After negotiations and concessions (such as a limit of 13 guests per day), Knights Bridge has finally won the right to open its winery in the Knights Valley.
The residents were rightfully concerned about preserving Knights Valley’s peaceful and untouched character, and the Knights Bridge owners wanted the same thing. Each side compromised, and now the winery is operational, albeit limited to less than 4,000 guests per year. Laura Kirk Lee, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, shared, “Through this process, our neighbors have become friends and partners in the effort to preserve the bucolic nature of Knights Valley.”
There is a silver lining to the long wait for approval. The additional time allowed innovative design ideas to evolve. The result is an almost-hidden-from-view structure that appears to be a small glass barn above ground, albeit one that contains an extensive winery underground, including wine caves. Entering directly through the state-of-the-art production facility, guests follow the same route that grapes go through at the winery, past the concrete eggs, through the barrel room, to a round room housing the complete collection of Knights Bridge wine spanning 15 vintages.“We will be accessing our deep library for special tastings,” Kirk Lee added.
Architects designed the 400 square foot, modern, light-filled tasting salon using the most glass possible to give the feel of being in the vineyard. “The architects call it a ‘light well,’” Kirk Lee explained. Typical tastings include five wines served with local cheese, charcuterie, and small bites. Beyond the tasting salon and courtyard, a tunnel leads guests into the vineyard before arriving at a lookout point. This journey’s culmination gives a panorama of the vineyard right in the middle of the Linville Cabernet Sauvignon block.
In keeping with the rules of the “neighborhood,” the winery is unseen from the road, making it uber-private and exclusive, and tastings are by appointment only. With fewer guests, Knights Bridge hosts can give more time and customization to the visitors.Kirk Lee gave a few examples. “Do they want to see the new plantings or taste from the barrel or tank? We can do that. Meet Director of Winemaking Douglas Danielak and the winemaking team? They are probably in the winery. With Jim and his wife Kelley living on the property, guests may even get lucky and meet the owners as they pass by.”
Story By: Layne Randolph
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