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New on the market:
Napa Valley's Round Pond Premium Red Wine Vinegar From Rutherford Estate

By Jonathan Platt

If it isn't time consuming enough to choose a bottle of wine these days, when even supermarket shelves overflow with the variety of labels that used to be the prerogative of wine boutiques, Round Pond, maker of olive oils, is coming out with a line of vinegars from Cabernet and Merlot grapes grown on the MacDonnell family estate in Rutherford and aged for up to a year in French oak barrels.

"Round Pond Vinegars are much like a fine wine with a multitude of complex, dense flavors," explained Ryan MacDonnell, founder and owner of Round Pond Olive Oils, about the hand-blended line of vinegars.

"The vinegar line is something we have been developing over a long period of time and has truly been a labor of love," said MacDonnell, who consulted with chef, author and aceto balsamico expert Paul Bertolli of Oliveto restaurant. "Our goal was to create a new category for red wine vinegar - one that would be on par with the famous Italian balsamicos but in the style of red wine vinegar."

"The first priority for our vinegar was the quality of the ingredients," continued MacDonnell whose family estate is situated in Rutherford on one of the finest pieces of land in Napa Valley, famous for producing world-class red wines.

Round Pond's Red Wine Vinegars are produced with the craftsmanship and state-of-the-art technology that applies to reserve wines. For weeks prior to picking, the Round Pond team walks the vineyards and probes grapes for the correct balance of sugar, tannin, and acid. The grapes are then harvested by hand and brought immediately to the cellar for crushing and elaboration according to the Orleans Method.

The Orleans Method of vinegar making, which derives its name from the French town where the process originated, began as a rare artisan technique nearly 200 years ago: the vinegar is aged in French oak barrels, much like a fine wine, creating a multitude of complex, dense flavors and a higher quality vinegar.

Round Pond vinegar-making takes anywhere from eight to twelve months and is much more complex and time consuming than the conventional, cost-effective method used by most producers (which takes about 24 hours).

Bottled only in small lots, each bottle bears a lot number to identify the bottling date. The red wine vinegars age in French oak until demand requires the next bottling ensuring vinegars that are vibrant and intense.

To complement their vinegars, Round Pond currently produces four award-winning olive oils, each celebrated for its rich flavor: Premium Italian, Spanish Varietal, Blood Orange and Meyer Lemon.

Round Pond is open to the public for tours, providing a close-up view of the orchards Round Pond and of the frantoio, or olive mill, one of only two in the Napa Valley, where guests receive an explanation of Round Pond's meticulous, handcrafted process of extracting olive oil. The visit also includes a sensory evaluation of the olive oil, a tasting with fresh estate-grown vegetables and a discussion of the oil's culinary uses. Advance reservations are required and tickets for the tours are $20 each. Web site at

The new line of red wine vinegar offers two distinct blends: Merlot & Cabernet blend and Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Petit Verdot blend, each of which will be sold in 200 ml. bottles at a suggested retail price of $18.

* Round Pond Cabernet & Merlot Red Wine Vinegar displays the same elegance as the wines that make Napa Valley famous. This vinegar demonstrates nuances of dark fruit and finishes dry. The small amount of residual sugar that remains in this vinegar brings the acidity into perfect balance while oak barrel aging lends robust flavors.

* Round Pond Sangiovese, Nebbiolo & Petit Verdot Red Wine Vinegar exhibits intense aromatics and a rich, velvety texture. Dark and caramel-like, there is a slightly sweet edge from the small amount of residual sugar that remains to balance out the vinegar's natural acidity.

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