For such a storied wine region, Napa Valley can be surprisingly modest about its older wines. Wineries like Charles Krug have operated since the mid-1800s, with time off for Prohibition. But older vintages don’t command the astronomical sums cult new releases do, and California wine has never been considered terrifically age-worthy.
Leslie Rudd aims to change that. The entrepreneur and philanthropist owns two Napa wineries—Rudd Estate and Edge Hill—as well as Dean & Deluca and Distillery No. 209. Last year, at his St. Helena restaurant Press, he hired two sommeliers, Kelli White and Scott Brenner (from the New York restaurants Veritas and Aureole, respectively) and put them in charge of building the most extensive library of vintage Napa wines anywhere. Now containing 10,000 bottles and counting, the cellar itself is a climate-controlled space, adjacent to the restaurant, designed by Napa architect Howard Backen. It was here that Rudd hosted a rare gathering of winemaking legends last month. From Cathy Corison to the Mondavis, dozens came with favorite wines to pour and donations for the new cellar. As the night proved, not only can Napa wines age well, but also, in a region known for power, older vintages often show welcome restraint. Click through for nine highlights.