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A long strange trip to the Terraces

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The Terraces is tucked behind a nook in a dell just off Silverado Trail. Soon after we're buzzed through the gate, it's clear this is no chichi, "the terraces at [fill-in-the-blank]" sort of joint. It's something a little different.

Up at the winery, director of hospitality Monica Jones introduces us to co-owner Sharon Crull. Stirring a pot of sauce, Crull explains she's just helping out the winery chef at the moment.

We sink into sofas on the deck while Sharon pours a crisp 2013 Chenin Blanc, yesterday's underdog white that's all the rage now as a light, starter wine. But the reason for this Chenin, Crull says, is that Terraces lost the Rutherford source of their favorite aromatic white, Riesling. And now I am perking up. Really? And then what happened?

They missed it, so they found a Carneros source in 2013. Out comes a bottle of 2013 Napa Valley Riesling ($30), tropical like ripe Sauvignon Blanc, and just as dry, but elegant with that Riesling acidity. Timm Crull joins us for a taste of the 2009. Oxidized, Timm says, chucking the rest of his pour over the railing. But I like the honey and raisin aromatics—and I like that they're keeping the faith.

A couple from Wisconsin joins the group, and we board an all-terrain vehicle for a tour with Sharon while Timm gets back to his pots and pans. Turns out, he's the winery chef. "I live for food," Timm exclaims at one point in the afternoon, adding with a blend of understatement and foodie bravado, "The wine stuff, it's a beverage—but I live for food."

Highlights of the tour include the stone walls of the property's original 1885 "ghost winery," restored block by block, and a balsamic tasting in the stone acetaia, from a series of hobbit-sized barrels imported from Italy. The Crulls are also avid bee keepers, and grow a small cider apple orchard.

Then we sit down to langoustine pasta and smoked tri-tip, 2013 Chardonnay ($30), 2012 Petite Sirah ($38) and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($60). The wines are lush and polished, no rough edges here, while the wide-ranging conversation may have surprised the Wisconsinites. Lunch by Timm is not part of the everyday package here, but if you find yourself supping at First Camp in Black Rock City, where Timm has cheffed for several years, you're in for some good eats. I do believe these are the first Napa Valley winery owners I've met who'd rather talk about the Playa than terroir.

The Terraces, 1450 Silverado Trail, Rutherford. Daily by appointment only, 10am–4pm. Tasting only, $25; tour and tasting, $45. 707.963.1707.

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