Napa Valley’s Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Have you ever been to Napa Valley? Bristol Bar & Grille Master Sommelier Scott Harper shares the secrets of the Robert Sinskey Vineyards:

It has been about 10 years since I first visited the Robert Sinskey Winery. I had briefly met Robert Sinskey (son) in Louisville a few months earlier and squeezed in an unannounced visit to his winery on a very busy trip to Napa Valley. For my second visit in March of 2007 there would be no hurry! On this occasion we learned much more about the winery and its wines. Unfortunately we were unable to see Robert on this trip, but the very knowledgeable Eric Sothern showed my friend Brett Davis and I around and told us all about the winery.

The History

Located in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley Bob Sinskey, MD (father) planted his first 15 acres in Carneros in 1982. Selling the grapes to Acacia winery was part of his retirement plans. In 1985, Acacia sold to Chalone and as a result in 1986 Robert Sinskey crushed his first grapes for his own wine. He made plans to build his own winery off the Silverado Trail in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. Bob Sinskey, MD (father) created the “Sinskey modified J loop intra-ocular lens.” This new invention for an artificial human lens, transformed cataract eye surgery and kept the good Doctor very busy. Dr. Sinskey talked to his son Rob about helping him with the winery; Rob was to spend six months helping his father, creating a marketing and distribution plan for Robert Sinskey Vineyards (RSV). He fell in love with the vineyards and wine and is still there running the winery for the last 20 years.

The Winery

In 1988 the winery and caves were opened and Sinskeys vineyards were in excess of 100 acres. Today the winery makes about 25,000 cases of organic wine from about 150 acres of vineyards most of which are in the moderately cool growing region of Carneros, and in Stags Leap District, California. They do not buy grapes all their wines are grown, produced and bottled by RSV.

The Organic Farming

Organic farming is a natural way of farming, growing grapes without the use of herbicides, fungicides and pesticides, fighting the same problems that you would use chemicals for naturally. Two examples would be birds and free-range chicken that will eat the natural vineyard pest. And on our trip we saw the natural lawn mower, sheep, munching away between the vines managing the cover crops between the rows of vines, these are just small examples of how organic wine growing works. Organic wine growing is about high quality naturally farmed grapes that reflect a sense of were they are made, this is what the French call Terroir. RSV is the second largest farmer of Organic grapes in Napa Valley. After all you can only make great wine with great grapes. RSV is working its way to becoming Biodynamic.  Biodynamic is an enhanced method of organic farming that looks at the interrelation of all the organism of an individual vineyard in relation to rhythms of nature. Less than 1% of the world’s vineyards are Biodynamic with France leading the way with the most. It suffices to say that, this kind of intensive care of the vineyard and the land makes great wine!

The Wine

Wine for RSV is a natural accompaniment for food and what better way to show your wines than with food. Go to the tasting room of RSV, and you will see what I believe is the only tasting room in Napa with a kitchen. Sure lots of wineries have kitchens but this one is in the tasting room. An open kitchen right next to the tasting bar. What an absolute treat to be able to try their wine with food. The winery chef makes an assortment of delicious dishes to accompany the RSV wines. This surely is a result of Rob Sinskey marring an accomplished chef Maria Helm Sinskey who is the Culinary Director for the estate.


Some California wine is about being big, rich, ultra extracted, and low in acidity these are built for big scores from wine critics. RSV wines are the antithesis of this. They are wines that are balanced, elegant with ample natural acidity. Their wine strikes a balance between old world elegance and new world freshness of fruit. These are balanced wines.


Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Pinot Blanc, Los Carneros 2005

This is a medium-bodied dry wine that is quite balanced, crisp and is brimming with fresh juicy, melon, pear, apple and citrus flavors. Citrus blossom and minerals pervade the palate and nose. An excellent companion to fresh fish on the grill possibly seasoned with fennel!

Abraxas Vin de Terroir , Los Carneros 2005 “Scintilla Vineyard”

Delicious Alsatian-style blend of 37% Pinot Blanc, 26% Riesling 19% Pinot Gris & 18% Gewurztraminer.

Abraxas is the Egyptian god of 365 days.

Honey suckle and lemon blossom support the peach, apricot, tangerine and lemon zest flavors in this dry, crisp medium-bodied white wine. Try with seared sea scallops with saffron rice.

Pinot Noir, Los Carneros 2005

Supple, silky texture envelops roses, strawberries and red cherries, hints of earth, oak and baking spice. Dry medium-bodied with a satiny texture and low tannins. Splendid with grilled yellow fin tuna with shitake mushroom and Pinot Noir sauce.

Merlot Los Carneros 2003

A Merlot with purpose, this is one of the best Merlot from California. Dry and full-bodied with flavors of plums, raspberries, vanilla, oak and fresh cut herbs. It has a velvety texture and is drinking very well at 4 years of age. Try with roasted pork loin with fine herbs and Merlot jus.

Vineyard Reserve, Napa Valley 2002 “RSV Proprietary Red”

Flavorful Saint Emilion-style blend of 46% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 19% Cabernet Franc.

This wine is dry and full-bodied with the flavors of plum, black currant, cherries, smoke, vanilla, cocoa and oak all in a supple texture. Steaks on the grill or slow roasted meats would make a delicious food and wine pairing with this wine.