When you first meet Claire Weinkauf of Picayune Cellars & Mercantile and she greets you with an enthusiastic “bonjour”, it is immediately clear that she is not a California native. Claire, Picayune’s owner and winemaker, was born in Auvergne, France, and arrived in the Napa Valley after working for vintner Paul Hobbs in Argentina and Sonoma, California. Claire fell in love with California (and her husband, who she met at Hobbs) and in 2011, created Picayune Cellars, a négociant-style winery dedicated to making wines of outstanding quality that are also exceptional values.
Claire’s love of Calistoga is infectious and at Picayune, there is always something special on the calendar to pair with their terrific wine selection. From the mercantile that boasts a collection of textiles and French linens, clothes and jewelry to Friday night music in the courtyard, sipping and sightseeing on a barge trip to France or indulging in a caviar and Picayune Champagne tasting, Claire and her team are constantly creating experiences that bring a certain je ne sais quoi to the community. Always with a corkscrew on hand and an insatiable curiosity to taste new wines, Claire, her husband and two children and dogs love Calistoga for its European feel. “My husband and I picked Calistoga because of the distance to our work and the fact that Calistoga is like a small European village where we can walk everywhere, and is also a town that offers proximity to amazing trails, terrific thermal treatments and a fantastic food and wine scene,” Claire told Visit Calistoga.
Picayune, which means “a little bit” in French, sources their grapes for the wines and produce a wide range of wines including an Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc, rosé, their signature Padlock red blend and most recently launched a private label Champagne. While most grape sources are not revealed, working with vineyards that embrace organic and sustainable practices are a must for Picayune. Concerned with the climate and sustainability, Claire incorporates a variety of practices in the Calistoga tasting room and mercantile; “I am constantly trying to figure how to recycle the large amount of boxes and trash we generate. I plan to install a keg system in the tasting room. We reuse as many boxes as we can for shipping, we post on NextDoor (the community app) whenever we have extra packaging materials that can be reused by other businesses,” Claire shared.
As a busy mom and business owner, Claire does find time to relax and enjoys sipping on a cup of Earl Grey tea or perhaps a coupe of Champagne – if the time of day allows! – and plays with her children and listens to them laugh; “if I’m lucky!” she joked. You might also find Claire at the Charles Schultz Museum in Sonoma, as she is a passionate Snoopy fan and museum patron. And while Claire might not have been born in Calistoga, Calistoga is now home. “Calistoga is my village; I live and breathe the town. I am proud of who we are and what we do at Picayune Cellars.” This is Calistoga and this is Claire Weinkauf of Picayune Cellars and Mercantile.
This is Calistoga is our blog series profiling our members, their stories and life in Calistoga. Check in regularly and follow along.