Our Journey to Au Revoir

My husband Steve and I started visiting wineries in the Napa Valley in 1981. Back then, when you visited a winery, there was a good chance that you would be greeted by the winemaker or vineyard owner in the “tasting room.” The tasting room was usually just big enough to handle a few people at a time, often standing at a small, cramped bar. We loved those adventures. You were close to the people who knew their wine and were enthusiastic about sharing it with you. We still have some of the wine glasses given away as mementos of those visits. Napa Valley was just coming into its own.

For years, we were weekend visitors, falling in love with the land, the people, and the wine. As our interest in wine grew, we took trips abroad to major wine regions where you are still greeted by the winery owner. We walked vineyards, tasted wines, and ate local food. We enjoyed the company of people whose lives are intrinsically tied to their land and town or village, and whose wines are an expression of place, people, and culture—shared with family and friends alongside daily meals.

I wanted those experiences to be my life, not just in brief episodes, but always. Now, it is. We live on a vineyard in a canyon outside Calistoga, surrounded by vines, wildlife, and rugged terrain. I have come to love it beyond belief. It is intense in many ways. Will it rain this year? Maybe too much, maybe not enough. Will there be a freeze at exactly the wrong time? Thankfully, we haven’t experienced that…yet. Will there be a heat spike just before harvest? Ditto. Will turkeys decide that our fruit tastes delicious just before harvest? Will a hungry bear sneak into the vineyard? Experienced that too. I know there will be more to come, but I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

Living among vines means that I live viticulture. I’ve watched the seasons come and go and the vines change with them. I’ve learned what it means to farm grapes for amazing winemakers, who have generously shared their knowledge with me. I’ve joined early morning harvests, plucked MOG—material other than grapes—from bins, made breakfast for the crew, followed our grapes to the wineries, and watched as they were crushed, fermented, and made into wine. 

Our vineyard manager, Jim Munk, has been an exceptional tutor. He believes in the power of place—that you learn about a vineyard by carefully observing the vines, spending early mornings or late afternoons walking the rows, sensing the weather, gauging the response of the vines to changing conditions. He is generous with his time. Lacking a formal education in viticulture, I’ve had to learn the science myself. I spend my evenings poring over books, articles and websites–about agriculture, wine, and the wine business. I’ve attended classes at both UC Davis and Santa Rosa Junior College. I’ve joined professional organizations like the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, the Mount Veeder Appellation Council, attended seminars, met and worked with extraordinary wine professionals as a member of the Board of the Calistoga Winegrowers, and shared information with my colleagues in the vitwomen’s listserv, a network with well over 150 women in the wine and viticulture professions. With an active research scientist, Jennifer Rohrs, on our team as viticulturist, I now get informed by cutting edge research in grapevine physiology. All this keeps me very busy—and makes me happy.

Several years into our new life, the inevitable happened—Steve and I decided that we would make our own batch of Cabernet Sauvignon from a block or two of newly planted vines. With a small amount of fruit too young to sell, what else could we do? Through that experience, we learned about the highs and lows of winemaking. I can’t tell you how many times, certain that something went wrong, I wanted to let the wine flow out of the barrel and into the creek. But with the encouragement of experienced winemaker friends, I held back and gave the wine time. A red wine can take years to develop. Its ups and downs are amazing. But what fun it is now to drink! Like the old winemakers we met in Europe, we love our own “local” wine and enjoy sharing it with friends at meals. We didn’t make much, but enough to convince us that winemaking would be our next adventure.  We didn’t know exactly when that would happen, just that it would.

Several years went by, we loved living here but we began to see an acceleration to a trend in the Valley. Large corporations and investment groups were moving in and taking over iconic winery properties and old family vineyards. My concern about this trend led me to try, on a small scale, to reverse a small bit of it. I began to look for a small vineyard that would complement our Palisades Vineyard. But this new (for us) vineyard would have to be different—not on the valley floor, but rather in a mountainous cool region of the valley. So, several years after buying our first vineyard in Calistoga, we purchased a beautiful old hillside vineyard on rugged Mount Veeder. We named our new vineyard “Veeder Ridge” and our first wines are made from the old vines we found there.

So now, here we are. It is our turn to share the generosity and knowledge so many have shared with us. Enjoy our Au Revoir Wines and join us on this new journey

— Felicia Woytak, Proprietor, Au Revoir Wines

Our Vineyard Team

Proprietors Felicia Woytak and Steven Rasmussen

Felicia Woytak and Steven Rasmussen

PROPRIETORS, Au Revoir Wines

Felicia and Steve live on Palisades Vineyard in Calistoga, in a canyon nestled below the iconic Palisades. They have evolved from wine enthusiasts to grape growers to amateur winemakers and now to proprietors of Au Revoir Wines. In 2019 they purchased Veeder Ridge Vineyard and have embarked on the complete redevelopment and replanting of this extraordinary Mount Veeder site.

Vineyard Manager Jim Munk

Jim Munk

Vineyard Manager

Jim is a Napa native who has been farming wine grapes since he was 15 years old. He learned the craft of viticulture under Louis Martini working on the historic Monte Rosso vineyard. After a long career managing and developing vineyards for numerous world class wineries, in 2009 Jim founded A Cut Above Viticultural Service, a boutique family-run vineyard management company with a mission to produce exceptional wine grapes for the crafting of exceptional wines.

Jennifer Rohrs, Ph.D.

Viticulturist

Jennifer brings her research background in plant pathology and physiology to her work. Since 2013 she has worked at wineries, vineyard management companies and consulting firms. She now manages Vine Ecology, her own consulting company. Jennifer has a Research Associate appointment with the Univ. of Calif. Cooperative Extension investigating tools that grape growers can use for virus detection. She is passionate about bringing science and new technology to our vineyards.

Juan Luis Vigil

Ranch Manager

Juan Luis has lived in Napa Valley since the age of 13 and comes from a family with deep roots in the Calistoga community. He has worked in landscaping, construction, farming and hospitality. After many years at the Calistoga Ranch, he joined the team at Palisades Vineyard and Veeder Ridge in 2020. Now he looks after the non-farming aspects of ranch management for Historic Vines, the parent company of Au Revoir Wines.