It’s easy to miss the discreet entrance of The Napa Valley Reserve, located adjacent to the entrance to Meadowood in St. Helena, as it is so nicely blended into the surrounding vines and olive trees.

Established by Bill Harlan in 2000, the Napa Valley Reserve encompasses 80 acres—with 60 acres in vine, and the remainder comprising of beautifully designed community spaces that include club buildings, social areas, gardens, and orchards. The facility was conceptualized by Harlan in partnership with esteemed Napa Architect Howard Bracken and the entire facility has been thoughtfully designed to incorporate practical spaces for the vineyards and cellars, with community and entertaining space that is integrated into the landscape.

We are greeted by Philip and Carol Norfleet, who have managed the private, members-only vineyard and winery for nearly two decades are part of the history and magic of the Reserve. Touring the famed estate with Carol (the consummate host with a rolodex of Napa’s most iconic vineyard owners and culinary superstars), she explains Harlan’s original vision for The Reserve was to provide a form of wine education for Meadowood guests. Since its inception in 2000, it has evolved into a private club where its 650 members can meet and connect over a shared passion for wine. The prerequisite ‘test’ for becoming a member? You must be someone that Harlan and members of The Reserve family would personally want to share a bottle of wine with.

Wine produced on the estate is reserved for members who are able to experience winemaking by personally blending, bottling, and even labeling their own private vintages made from the estate’s “super blends” prepared by The Napa Valley Reserve winemakers.

Under the supervision of Sarah Bray, Associate Director of Wine Education at the Learning Center, I spend the morning blending our own cuvée. I discover a newfound appreciation for the complexity of winemaking and particularly how such tiny adjustments of even one to two percent in the blending process can considerably change the wine’s taste, texture, and nose.

As a member of Napa Valley Reserve, you also get to select and create your own wine label, it is fun to look through the label book to see the creativity and designs of the members. The team at Napa Valley Reserve very kindly created my own private label on a 2014 vintage.

After being treated to a fabulous wine-paired lunch with Philip and Carol (where Philip and I regale each other with stories over our shared passion for cars and wine), we say our goodbyes. As I return home from the serene setting of the Reserve, I can’t help but wonder if over my lunch with the Norfleets whether I passed The Napa Valley Reserve “test”.

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Photographs by James Henderson