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Round Pond Estate: A Total Napa Valley Experience 

Round Pond Estate: A Total Napa Valley Experience


Stefan Pinto's journey through Napa's off-the-beaten-path wineries continues with Round Pond Estate, where he indulges in more than just wine—there's also food!

Hello my incredibly attractive drunks. You’re going to love this week’s winery because they also serve food!

Since January, we’ve been to six wineries. We’ve tried Sauvignons, Pinots, Cabernets, Bordeaux(ish), even a Chardonnay! We bonded with a buff cygnet at a dinner party, made friends on Facebook, ended complicated relationships—gosh, we even drove a 20-person party bus through treacherous, mountain terrain in the pouring rain! The only thing we didn’t do was eat… oh, and that other thing, but this isn’t the column for that.

That—and wine tasting—can make one hungry (just breathing makes me hungry). What if I told you there is a winery, in the heart of Napa Valley, that not only offers splendid wines, but also has breathtaking views, gorgeous photo-op landscapes, a fully functional farm and food?

There’s more…

This particular winery doesn’t serve just run-of-the-mill food. Here, there is fare that was raised, grown, harvested, fed and eventually prepared on the premises. This is a total treat! Sit down. There’s a dining table. (Do remember, the knife blade always faces the plate and your napkin will be to the left of the fork.)


Spicy Rutherford Dust

Round Pond Estate is located in the Napa Valley town of Rutherford, known as one of the great viticultural regions of the world.150-million years ago, Rutherford used to be a riverbed. Thanks to this geological event, the soil in Rutherford is ideal for wine making, specifically… you guessed it, Cabernets!

Rutherford locals call their spicy soil “Rutherford Dust” and it is this spicy dust that gives Rutherford-grown wines their distinctive character.

A brother and sister team, Miles MacDonnell and Ryan MacDonnell are owners of Round Pond Estate. The name Round Pond is reminiscent of MacDonnell family summers spent camping near Lake Frederick in West Point. For us though, a visit to Round Pond is an event.


A full “farm-to-table” “live like a local” experience, at Round Pond one can sample (or buy) wine from their 360 acres of vines along with food from their five acres of organic gardens. And, in case you’re seeking more, they also offer summertime fun. But I promised you food, so let’s eat:

Goat Cheese Stuffed Figs. Housemade Chip with Caviar. Fried Chicken Deviled Eggs. Avocado and Rock Shrimp Ceviche. Drool. These are just some of the offerings available at Round Pond, as you stare at the person you’re with (or better yet, the Mayacamas Mountains) while sipping a 2013 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon (available in extremely limited quantities).


A Mountain View Tasting

Relax in style on Round Pond’s second-story Terrace Lounge and experience four of Round Pond’s wines paired with their garden inspired appetizers, prepared on site, while enjoying the splendid views of California’s Mayacamas Mountain range. Home to mixed evergreens, the interior chaparral and woodlands habitats, within the Mayacamas is also the world’s largest geothermal field (electricity generated using steam and stored in the Earth) and the range spans three counties: Lake, Sonoma and Mendocino. The Mayacamas extend south into Napa and Sonoma and are high enough to retain snow in the winter (Hey, I Google so you don’t have to).

This Estate Tasting experience costs $50 per person, with a four-person maximum.


Signature Tour

I bet you too longed to be like Meryl and ride off with Clint in that beat up red truck as you both pursue worn-out-old Bridges photography—in the rain. Well, at Round Pond you can do two of those things. The Round Pond 1941 Red Truck will whisk you away for an ultimate peek-behind-the curtain tour on how to make your own luxury farm-to-table cuisine.

A foodie’s Disney, this adventure begins with a tour of the winery and olive groves followed by a guided tasting of their on-the-premise-made estate wines, olive oils and red wine vinegars in Round Pond’s Vinegar Acetaia. It is inside the Acetaia you can sample limited production, straight-from-the-barrel red wine vinegars and olive oils paired with these small culinary treats: Butternut Squash Bruschetta with Homemade Ricotta and Crispy Sage, Smoked Salmon Lollipop, and Roasted Vinegar-Brined Turkey Breast with Cranberry Orange Compote. As with all good things, it ends with scrumptious dessert: Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies with Meyer Lemon Syrup, Blood Orange Chocolate Truffles and Greek Yogurt Cheesecake with Pomegranate Syrup.


Wine Into Vinegar

They say that wine doesn’t really turn into vinegar because old wine doesn’t taste like vinegar. It merely tastes bad. In 2000, Round Pond began crafting a gourmet red wine vinegar using their own estate-grown grapes (disclaimer: this was my first time trying red wine vinegar). Round Pond crafts their red wine vinegars using something called the Orleans Method.


Named after a small town in France, and dating back to the Middle Ages (or maybe 200 years ago, Google offered up different results), good vintners prefer this slow-aging, French technique. Unlike mass-market brands where aging is usually done in 24-hours, the Orleans Method takes around one to three months. The longer it ages, the better the flavor, ultimately producing the best tasting red wine vinegars.

I didn’t need Google to tell me so. It tastes so and the only way to believe me is to partake in the Round Pond Signature Tour tasting. Look, the people at Round Pond didn’t pay me. Believe me when I say, this is quite possibly one of the most memorable and best things you will do while in Napa, I highly recommend that you indulge in Round Pond’s Signature Tour. And, when you do, make sure to ask for Josh. What a treat this—and Josh—was! Delicious: smart and charming! You’re welcome.


Splash and Dash

It was a long day, and as it subtly turned into night, the rain finally ended. Josh looked at me from across the marble countertop inside the Vinegar Acetalia and asked if I’d like to see a big rock. Would I?! Did I ever!

Round Pond’s olive mill houses a traditional stone mill, incidentally, one of only two olive mills in the region. Although no longer in consistent use, Round Pond’s four gourmet olive oils are crafted from a meticulous selection of hand-harvested olives using pressing methods which combine said stone mill with state-of-the-art technology. Round Pond’s olive oils are “on demand” to ensure the gourmet oils retain that distinctive “farm-to-table” freshness.

Josh ended my tasting with something called a Shrub Mocktail. It contains Round Pond’s Sangiovese Blend and Cabernet-Merlot red wine vinegar, Round Pond’s Meyer Lemon Citrus Syrup and Infused Basil Olive Oil. This is, and shall remain, one of the best things I have ever put into my mouth. (Stop… just. stop.)

To experience a straight-from-the-mill Splash & Dash Tasting, I recommend you call ahead as availability is seasonal, making the experience limited.


Round Pond will go down as one of my most memorable experiences while touring Napa’s off-the-beaten-path wineries. From the beginning, as I drove through Round Pond’s jaw-dropping, bus-stopping, palm-tree-laden road to a goodbye and pathetic attempt at backing up the party bus without causing massive “rich people property damage.”

Here’s a link to Round Pond on the web. There you can make reservations for any of their food and wine tastings and delightful tours. If you do plan on visiting, feel free to let me know! I can’t wait to go back!

Making Good on a Promise

Next week, we visit a Victorian and it is a sight to behold; the incredible Ackerman Heritage House in Napa! That, and we meet Lauren Ackerman, a woman who believed she could, and she did!

Admit it, You Want a Wand

How do you solve a problem like un-aerated wine? Easy. The wine wand from Philip Stein, crafted with Swarovski crystals, will be appreciated by everyone from sommeliers to wine-lovers, and wine connoisseurs to exes. Aerates your wine in minutes for a soft, mellow flavor. It’s travel size, too! Now, you can (finally) take your wand everywhere you want to go. Just click the link once.

Come back next week, my pretties!

And in the meantime, catch up on my first six stops: Tres Sabores, CheckerboardRaymondBlackbirdTom Eddy, and Elizabeth Spencer.

About the Author

Stefan Pinto is a male model and photographer. In 2007, he spent one week on expedition with National Geographic in Oaxaca, Mexico. His work has been published in Maxim, Forbes, Out Magazine and The Advocate. He may or may not show up in the season finale of Bosch Season 2, airing March 11th! Find him on Facebook or follow him on Instagram.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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