“Winemakers are like artists. They know how to create an amazing bottle of wine,” Doug White says, “but they’re not always the best at selling or marketing their wine.”
As the owner and operator of Beyond the Label, a Napa Valley company specializing in personal winery tours, White knows what he’s talking about. For the past several years he’s offered wine connoisseurs from around the world unique access to California’s historic wine-growing region, as well as delectable food and wine off the beaten path.
On one recent tour, he introduced a visiting couple to a vintner working his rows of grapes, then plucked a sample for them. “The clients were surprised by how sweet they were. When the fruit is ripe, they’re like candy,” he says.
A favorite haunt he shares with clients is “Caves” in Soda Canyon. Construction on that winery started only ten years ago, then stalled for a time. “In the early days of Beyond the Label, I’d take my clients in there,” he remembers. “We’d walk through the caves and go to the top of the mountain and taste wine.”
Such idyllic, insider tours of Napa are the cornerstone of Beyond the Label. White sees a big part of his job as correcting misconceptions about the region. “A lot of people don’t realize how small Napa Valley is as a growing region,” he says. Although Napa is a key producer of high-quality wine, it comprises only a fraction of California’s total grape crop annually.
White is especially keen on Napa’s entrepreneurial niche winemakers who operate “virtual wineries,” often without owning vineyards. “They’re passionate about what they do,” White says. “They make amazing wines, source fruit from amazing vineyards, and it’s all hand-crafted, small-production.” Which reminds him of his first word of advice to novice wine drinkers: price doesn’t predict quality.
White’s close relationship with Napa is key to how he guides outsiders into the region’s exceptional and little-seen nooks. Born in St. Helena, he spent many years working in the kinds of venues he now guides tours through. He spent a decade managing high-end restaurants such as Bistro Don Giovanni, Pinot Blanc, and Napa Valley Grille. In addition, for several years he’s been Director of Operations and Public Relations at Vintner’s Collective in Napa, a multi-winery tasting room.
His long history in the region gives him unique perspective on how much it’s changed over the years. Just a child when the Napa tourism industry became a local phenomenon, he still remembers those early tourists and how he “would always would send them a different direction” from whatever landmark they were looking for.
From kid prankster to accomplished tour guide, Doug White knows Napa like the back of his hand, and there’s no better introduction to the region’s world-class food, wine, and landmarks.
Find out more about 429’s official after party following Flavor! Napa Valley’s Opening Night First Taste event on November 19th, co-hosted by Doug White and featuring host and special guest, award winning chef Joseph Humphrey of The Farmer & The Fox. For more information, visit our events page here.