Venge Vineyards is in Calistoga, Napa Valley. It is owned by Kirk Venge, whose family emigrated from Denmark four generations ago. Originally in wine and spirits importing, the family became winemakers in the 1960s, when Kirk’s father Nils studied viticulture at the University of California at Davis. By the 1970s Nils was producing wine in the Oakville district of Napa Valley. He started Saddleback Cellars and became one of the valley’s leading winemakers. In 2008 the family sold their physical winery to the Foley Wine Group, although the Venge family kept the rights to the Venge name. Since then Kirk Venge has been producing Venge Vineyards wines in limited quantities. Most are Cabernet Sauvignons that earn high compliments from reviewers.
Calistoga AVA is one of Napa Valley’s newer appellations, having been given appellation status in 2010. It is notable for its volcanic soil, which is unusual in the Napa Valley. Calistoga also experiences the greatest average 24-hour temperature swing of any Napa Valley AVAs, which Calistoga grape growers insist give the grapes time to “cool down” at night, making for better balanced wines. The 1,500 Calistoga vineyard acres are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah and Petite Sirah, along with smaller amounts of other varietals. Calistoga is at the northern end of Napa Valley, northwest of the Diamond District and St. Helena AVAs. Longtime winemaker Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena, which is located in the Calistoga AVA, proposed the creation of the appellation.
Zinfandel is a black-skinned grape, but 85% of the wine produced is made into a rosy “White Zinfandel.” Red Zin is far more complex and bold, while still being light-bodied. It grows in popularity as winemakers continue to experiment with new styles and blends.