It’s not just the flavor of the wine that sets Smith Devereux and Amizetta wineries in Napa County apart. Their approach to the consumer are polar opposite.
Both are essentially micro-wineries based on the small quantity they produce—between 2,000 and 4,000 cases at Smith Devereux and about 5,000 cases at Amizetta.
Ian Devereux, one of the owners of the Oak Knoll area winery, said, “I would rather make less money per sale and make more sales.”
At Amizetta, located outside of St. Helena 900 feet above the valley floor with a spectacular view of Lake Hennessey and the surrounding area, the owners are creating a high-priced experience to attract those with a wallet that is fatter than mine.
Both rely on direct to consumer sales, not restaurants or stores to sell their wine.
Smith Devereux doesn’t have a tasting room. Still, Devereux will host people at one of the locations where he leases the land, thus providing an intimate outdoor experience for guests. (He can’t charge for tastings because he doesn’t have the appropriate license.)
Amizetta charges $75 or $100 per person for a tasting. (We were told both prices, so not sure which is correct. It was free for the three of us because it was included with our condo rental.) Tom, who took care of us, shared the family’s story, gave us a sample from a barrel in the wine cave, let us enjoy the incredible view, and explained all of the construction taking place is in large part to cater to wine club members.
I have a hard time paying for any wine tasting because I came of drinking age when it was free to wine taste. Yes, I understand why wineries are charging—but $75 or more? No thanks. Sure, if I had bought three bottles, the tasting fee would have been waved at Amizetta, but when a so-so bottle of Chardonnay costs $60, there is no way I am ever going to meet the three bottle minimum.
The great thing about the Napa area is there are so many wineries with so many different flavors and experiences.
What I was left with after these two experiences is Devereux cares about his community, is focused on raising funds for charities, wants his wines to be approachable to more than those who buy wine by the case, he cares about the land and the finished product, as well as the people drinking his wine.
At Amizetta, it seemed to be all about money—making it. I don’t begrudge people wanting to make a buck, I do, too. I was left with the feeling the price to taste, price per bottle and upgrades were all about the desire to have enough cash to pay for the three owners (who bought it from their parents) as well as their collective 11 children. It didn’t feel like the emphasis was on the wine. This came through in what I tasted, the stories that were shared, and the ultimate experience.
I bought a few bottles at Smith Devereux, none at Amizetta—though my two friends bought bottles at both.
The experiences were totally different. Both enjoyable. But I’d only recommend Smith Devereux—because the experience felt authentic and the wines were much better.
Thanks for sharing. I agree the tasting pricing is way too much especially if not purchasing.
I’ve been enjoying Amador /Plymouth wines for many years with free to up to $10 tastings. Mostly smaller run family vineyards.
Rombauer bought out Renwood in Amador a few years ago. Tasting by reservation only and is $25.
Sounds like Devereux was an amazing place and guy. Thanks for the article!