.Wine Tasting Room of the Week

Flora Springs Winery

Situated next door to Dean & Deluca with a Frank Gehry–designed extravaganza under construction at Hall Winery down the road, Flora Springs knew it had to make a bid to get noticed when one of its distributors said he’d driven by without ever seeing the tasting room. This month, the 30-year-old family winery got the jump on its neighbor with a flamboyant renovation of the formerly nondescript building that’s hard to miss.

Bringing the hills to the highway with its design, the new landmark, opened Aug. 8, resembles a New Mexico adobe that has been melted by a nuclear sun and is clinging to a geotectonic eruption. At the recent grand opening, guests were ushered by white-suited gentlemen through oversized glass doors to the cavelike entrance. Within, black-clad, devil-horned vixens greeted guests with a refreshing glass of Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc, while DJ music throbbed and go-go dancers gyrated in a windowed booth.

The high-tech windows of, yes, the “Temptation Cave” can be made electronically opaque for private food and wine pairings. At the bar, newspaper cones full of spiced popcorn accompanied the light, firm and dry Sangiovese-based 2007 Rosato ($14). In the background, archeologists seem to have revealed a collection of Flora Springs magnums perfectly ensconced in the limestone strata.

“Welcome to heaven,” identical young blondes clad in angelic, silky white chimed to guests on their way upstairs to the veranda. Heaven may be a place where nothing ever happens, but the view sure is fantastic. Here, they poured the 2002 “25th Anniversary” Cabernet Sauvignon ($300 magnum), a lean, elegant claret (if there are any high-alcohol fruit bombs, they’d surely be poured in hell).

The upstairs/downstairs bit was just a fun party theme; the real story is expressed in the impossibly undulating, exposed wooden beams and waving forms throughout. Meant to evoke the hills of the Flora Springs estate, the theme also mirrors ocean waves (family matriarch Flora grew up in Hawaii) and the flowing-haired woman on the iconic label. A retirement project turned three-generation wine dynasty, the estate now covers 650 acres throughout Napa Valley.

As the band set up, one family member, clearly nurturing the presumptive fourth generation on the way, noted that she received a few dirty looks for having her little half glass of wine. Hey, how are wine dynasties made, anyway? For inspiration, look to namesake Flora herself, who at 96 was in attendance, and reportedly enjoys a glass of Merlot a day.

Speaking of family wineries, over 400 will pour at Family Winemakers of California’s 18th annual tasting this Sunday at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center. The organization advocates for the wine industry’s little guys (10,000 cases or less).

Flora Spring Winery, 677 S. St. Helena Hwy., St. Helena. Open daily, 10am–5pm. Tasting fees, $15–$25. 707.967.8032. Family Winemakers of California Tasting 2008, Fort Mason Center. Sunday, Aug. 24, 2–6pm; $45–$55. 415.345.7575. [ http://www.familywinemakers.org ]www.familywinemakers.org.

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