“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”
Henry David Thoreau

Au Paradis

Every year the Michael family spends some time on this land; one cherished tradition is a summer campout atop Mount Saint Helena—a chance to watch meteors streak across the velvet black country skies and wake to fresh air and distant birdsong. One such morning, Mylo, then the youngest grandchild, looked out over the Knight’s Valley at first light, the morning fog blanketing the valley below like a massive cloud bank and asked, “Are we in heaven?” Visitors to the Peter Michael Winery may ask themselves the same question. A visit is truly a feast for the senses, and an unparalleled journey through the multifaceted magic behind every bottle.

The wine, the Valley’s unique appellation, the story written in every bottle is a complex alchemy. It is this soil, yes, but it is also this weather, these hands that tend the vines, this fog and these slopes rising precipitously above it, and this precious moment when it all comes together. Every sense becomes part of the story—most of all, a sense of wonder.

Fifteen wines and four varietals are crafted from three estates, each with its own distinctive place.

A forest of Douglas fir and redwoods stands tall at the entry to the estate.

Le Son du Silence

The first thing you notice arriving at the winery is the stillness, the peaceful quiet broken only by birdsong, from the surrounding forest to the gentle splashing of a nearby creek. The Michael family has valued conservation over commerce since the estate’s founding in 1982, their philosophy being that good wine requires an overarching love and respect for the land itself. This is a quiet stewardship, a view to the future that Sir Peter has expressed as “100 × 100”: 100 percent family ownership, to be handed down from generation to generation for 100 years.

Personal hosts await at the schoolhouse, reminiscent of the historic town of Kellogg.

Meander through the woods, where art resides with nature.

Endless vistas, framed by manzanita groves, captivate the eye.

Les Sens du Climat

At the lowest elevation lies Les Pavots. The winery’s most extensive planting, this vineyard is dedicated to the Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes that thrive in warmer, sheltered areas reminiscent of Bordeaux, the promise of French grapes nurtured
in the California sun.

Every turn in the steep road that winds up to the mountain’s peak is a new revelation, not the least of which are the vines clinging to this 40 percent slope—unusually challenging to cultivate, yet worth every effort. As the road climbs some 1,500 feet to the peak 2,000 feet above sea level, a visitor will feel the temperature drop notably. This cooler zone yields a uniquely powerful, mineral-redolent Chardonnay, the hardy grapes rising above the valley’s characteristic fog.

Climbing in elevation, the mountainside vineyards offer up-close views of meticulous viticulture rooted in ancient soils.

Le Fête Visuel

Sir Peter’s six-year search for the right property ended on the day some forty years ago that he stood on the steep, rocky slopes of Mount Saint Helena, the property laid out before him. “When I looked at the creek, looked at the mountain, listened to the noise of the birds,” he recalls, “I thought . . . this is the most extraordinary place on earth.”

A concerted effort to return the long-neglected land to its natural state has guided the family’s efforts as deeply as the quest to create world-class wines. Thousands of native trees now flank the vineyards; American kestrels and red-tailed hawks wheel overhead while deer rest peacefully in the shade. The sharp-eyed may catch the flash of a steelhead in Kellogg Creek and, in the long grass, a native bobcat or maybe even a mountain lion on the prowl.

Fire, too, is part of the natural order here, and while it has altered the landscape over the years, the family has risen to the challenge of adapting and conserving this precious environment.

“Thousands of native trees now flank the vineyards; American kestrels and red-tailed hawks wheel overhead while deer rest peacefully in the shade.”

Le Parfum de L’Histoire

Close your eyes and breathe deeply. The air here bears a subtle character, the sweet scent from lush flowers and notes of sage and lavender evoking the French countryside. Beneath it all, almost imperceptible at first, is the mineral tang of the soil that underlies this whole endeavor. The earth is its own kind of perfect, so chalky with volcanic rhyolite that workers return from the vineyards with their boots coated in a fine white dust. Millions of years ago these mountains were volcanoes, this valley an inland lake. Time marches on, but the soil remembers.

Following the 2,000-foot descent from the vineyards, arrive at the inviting winery and gardens of the Calvin Holmes Suite.

Le Goût Somptueux

The guest’s journey culminates here, the story’s denouement, the moment when it all comes together. With each vintage and each varietal, the complex interplay of factors that make up terroir enchant much more than the sense of taste. A tasting begins with an appreciation of the bouquet, the wine’s unique aroma, and the visual impact of an unusually vibrant, almost green-toned Chardonnay with a bouquet redolent of a perfectly poured Burgundy. This is all part of the experience along with the mouthfeel, the complexity of the flavors, and the aftertaste all woven into one magical experience, creating a deeper understanding of the wine’s place in the realm of the senses.

“The guest’s journey culminates here, the story’s denouement, the moment when it all comes together.”

A selection of wines are carefully prepared and served. Raise a glass, and for a moment, close your eyes once more. It’s all here—the hills, the seasons, the individual vineyards each named for an aspect of the whole: Belle Côte, the beautiful slope; La Carrière, the quarry.

“Peter Michael Winery welcomes guests by appointment only. 800-354-4459 or pm@petermichaelwinery.com.”

L’Expérience

The Peter Michael Winery’s tours and tastings are offered only by appointment. For more information about available times, please contact our private member-support team.

Since 2017, a $100 tasting fee has been collected, with 100 percent of proceeds donated to disaster relief. Peter Michael Winery is grateful to our guests, who have contributed to donating nearly $250,000.

While the winery itself is in a secluded spot, the surrounding Sonoma and Napa Valleys offer plentiful accommodations and other amenities for visitors to
the region.

Nathalie Vaché

Hospitality & Wine Education Manager

Born in Bordeaux, France, Nathalie grew up drinking fine wine with her dad. In 1996, she decided to move to the United States and begin her journey into the wine industry as a sommelier. After a few long winters working at acclaimed Boston restaurants, Nathalie realized how much she missed being around vineyards, so she moved to Napa, California, in 2004. She transitioned to the wine hospitality world and quickly discovered her passion for creating fun and memorable guest experiences in the wine country. For the past eight years, she has shared her knowledge of wine and appreciation of place while hosting guests at the Peter Michael Winery Knights Valley Estate. When not at the winery, Nathalie spends her time with her daughter and husband. She loves the outdoors and cooking for her friends.

Spencer Dubuque

Brand Ambassador

Growing up in Vermont, Spencer was “bitten by the wine bug” while cooking at a French Sous Vide restaurant during college. Since moving to Napa Valley in 1998, two days after graduating from the University of Vermont, wine has become a passion of Spencer’s, and he feels fortunate to have made it his career. To expand on his knowledge of food and wine, Spencer enjoys traveling to experience international cuisine and cultures. While travel, food, and wine have become his life, he appreciates time at home with his Australian shepherd, Sunday.

Peter Kay

Peter arrived in Napa Valley as a young teenager when his father took a position in the wine business. An interest in French language and wine led him to France, first as a cellar intern in Burgundy and later as a student at the University of Bordeaux. After graduating from college, Peter pursued a career in hotels and restaurants. His experience as a buyer led him to the winery side of the industry, where Peter has worked for over two decades, joining the Peter Michael Winery team in 2006. In his free time, “PK” is an avid cyclist. He lives in Calistoga, California, with his wife,
Terry, and their standard poodle, Gus.

Michelle Monhoff

A native of Denver, Colorado, Michelle grew up appreciating the surrounding mountains and nature. While in school, Michelle decided to make the move to California and stumbled upon the natural beauty of Calistoga. Now home for the past thirty-two years, she is proud to have raised her two daughters, Lexi and Sadie, in this quaint community along with her other pride and joy, two long-haired dachshunds, Bowie and Sid. After an early career in the spa industry, Michelle joined the Peter Michael Winery team in 2008 and discovered her newfound passion for food and wine.

Jeff Ehrlich

A biologist by training, Jeff obtained his PhD in environmental medicine and worked in the corporate world as a toxicologist, concentrating on projects involving solar power, vitamin-enhanced food products, and carbon fiber-based products. Originally from Chicago, Jeff made a significant career shift when he moved to Napa Valley in 2000 and began working as a tasting room host. In 2010, Jeff joined the Peter Michael Winery team and now oversees consumer relations and wine releases. As an avid guitar player, music is a true passion, but working with wine has aligned him with his ultimate calling of enjoying people, food, and wine.

Morgan Melkonian

Morgan’s passion for wine began at Boston University, where she studied hospitality administration. Following graduation, she was awarded the Kopf Family Wine Fellowship, which led her on a three-month excursion through California, Italy, and France, studying and working at prestigious wineries as well as acclaimed Michelin-starred restaurants. Upon her return, she continued her career in Napa before returning to Boston in 2006 to become a certified sommelier with the
Court of Master Sommeliers. In 2010, Morgan was offered a position at Peter Michael Winery and moved with her family to California. Now back in the Boston area, Morgan, her husband, Matt, and daughter, Scotlyn, enjoy skiing, sailing, and golf.

Jason Edwards

Following graduation from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Jason joined the wine industry while living in California’s Central Coast. In 2013, he and his family moved to San Francisco before settling in the bucolic town of Petaluma. Along with their passion for wine and food, they enjoy spending time outdoors and traveling to explore and experience new places and diverse cultures. In 2020, Jason was excited to become the latest member of the Peter Michael Winery team.