When charging a tasting fee of $65.00 per person, you’d better have a darn good tasting and tour experience. Thankfully Nickel & Nickel does. Is it worth that steep price? No, it’s not. But at least after my tour I didn’t feel totally ripped off.
This isn’t the friendliest place around, and it isn’t easy to actually secure a reservation. Once we did, we were sent a lengthy e-mail that had a not-so-welcoming tone. Arrive early or you’ll forfeit your tasting fee, but don’t arrive earlier than 5 minutes and don’t you dare be more than 5 minutes late. What? Not the best first impression. Once you arrive at the gate, you have to buzz in and get past the gatekeeper hostess. The hostess on intercom duty wasn’t that friendly on the day of our visit. Call me crazy but when I’m paying $130 for two for the “privilege” to taste YOUR wine, wine that YOU want ME to buy, I expect a little bit of good old fashioned butt kissing. Thankfully once we arrived on the front porch we were welcomed and invited to sit in the parlor.
The tasting experience begins in the living room / reception area of an old house. The creaky wood floors are pretty and the traditional furniture adds to the ambience. A few minutes later, our host came in and started to give our group a brief history of the winery. We were on a tour with two other couples. Our host, Walt, walked us all over the property.
Most winery tours are a dime a dozen but the enthusiasm of our host kept this one from being a total bummer. Walt was simply amazing. His warmth, spirit and passion was well above par; his love for wine contagious! Nickel & Nickel’s wine barrel caves are pretty cool. Don’t forget your camera, there are seemingly endless rows of oak barrels down there. It smells so good and is the show stopper moment of the tour. I’m still annoyed that in order to taste the wines I was forced to take an hour long tour. It was too long and unnecessary.
After the tour we were finally able to sit down in a dining room setting to taste four wines. There was a very informative tasting booklet as well as 3 small slices of cheese to pair with the wines. Oddly enough, there was no instruction as to which cheeses to pair with which wines. The cheese were all much better than the wines. The wines were very disappointing across the board. We only sort of enjoyed one of them, especially for the $100 price point. We aren’t cheap wine drinkers, we regularly buy wine by the case that’s priced anywhere from $85 to $225 per bottle. But these prices seemed astronomically high and the cost did not jibe with the quality or taste. So we did something we hardly ever do: we left without making a purchase.
It wasn’t just the price point either, the wines simply weren’t tasty. I’m no winemaker but when I tasted the wines I reflected back on something Walt mentioned on the tour: none of the wines are blended with grapes from other vineyards; they are truly single vineyard wines. This got me thinking that maybe Nickel & Nickel sacrifices good taste for the bragging rights of saying they never blend and combine vineyards. Sadly, that means their wines and their drinkers suffer.
All in all this was an okay experience. I’m rating it 4 stars solely due to Walt and the deliciousness of the cheeses. Our tour group had two other couples, one of which had a “know it all.” He would NOT…STOP…BLABBING and bragging about the wines he likes, the exclusive wine clubs he belongs to, the price points of his favorite wines, blah blah blah. The other couple looked super uncomfortable by this but we are experienced wine drinkers so we simply tuned the dude out. I didn’t find it to be intimidating or snobby at all, but I do feel like this entire experience is geared towards an older crowd. Your parents and grandparents would probably love this place.
Note: We fully paid for our wine tasting experience at this venue, it was not comped.
If it makes you feel better, I had a much worse experience at one of the “premier” wineries in Napa, that I wanted to go to. The experience unsettled me so much, that the one bottle that I bought, which was their flagship wine, I kept in the cellar for years, just because of the poor customer treatment that I had there, I really had no desire to try the wine, but I did eventually.