Winery: An historic estate in St. Helena, the manicured vineyards are located where in the mid-1800s some of the first settlers in the valley arrived, and planted vines in adjacent acreage. Planted in the 1960s and founded as Saint Helena Winery in 1994, grapes were initially sold to Quintessa, Opus One and Merus. Under new ownership, the winery now keeps the entire vineyard production for their own releases, creating only 2,000 cases.
Winemakers: Associate Winemaker and Vineyard Manager Lindsey Wallingford works closely with Consulting Winemaker Aaron Pott, the first American to be Head Winemaker of a Classified Bordeaux Chateau, also named “Winemaker to Watch” by Wine Spectator.Pott worked with John Kongsgaard at Newton, was closely mentored by Michel Roland, worked at Chateau Troplong Mondot and Chateau La Tour Figeac, returned to California as Winemaker at St. Clement and then for several years at Quintessa. He consults with Blackbird, Fisher Vineyards, Quixote, 7 Stones, Bello Family among others. Wallingford formerly worked with Screaming Eagle, Bryant Family, Paul Hobbs and Michel Roland. 2012 reflects Pott’s new vision of vineyard management and 2 tons / acre.
Winemaking: The aim is to represent this special site that creates soft, elegant wines with lots of finesse – wines that are more stylistically similar to Stags leap than to mountain neighbors. Saint Helena Winery shares wine collecting customers with Revana, Forman, Vineyard 29, DR Stevens, O’Shaughnessy and Gemstone. Hand-picked and thoroughly hand -sorted (passing by 8-10 people at several winemaking stages) the resulting perfect berries are cold-soaked to extract color, flavors and aromas, then aged two years in French oak. Each vineyard block is fermented separately in 3 ton tanks for 2-4 weeks for tannin elegance, left on lees and racked (into the same barrel) only twice. Pressed very mildly, the juice is moved with gentle gravity flow. Diligence to detail in managing the vineyard vine by vine, extensive grape sorting and managing each barrel for quality, has meant that not one barrel has yet been declassified.
Vineyard: Nestled up against the York Creek and Napa River, the site called “little Haut-Brion” by Aaron Pott is warmer than the rest of St. Helena. Keeping all fruit for their label, the vineyard is farmed for highest fruit quality, not tonnage. 13.5 acres are planted to 3 different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon across three variations of soils, providing a diverse array of fruit profiles, allowing the winery to create two estate Cabernets, each with their own distinct terroir-driven aromas, flavors and textures. Practicing sustainable farming, the year-round vineyard team employs such precision farming that the team knows every vine on the estate. Highly detailed farming includes use of weather stations, vigor-reducing cover-crops, leaf and shade management for each cluster, cluster separation for open space, aggressive fruit-drop, very limited irrigation and picking of 13 acres across 8 days. Yield management results in mid-October harvests ranging from 1.5 to 3 tons per acre depending on soil density. In 2013, only 27 tons came from the entire 13.5 acres.
Chardonnay 2016, Sonoma Mountain New Vintage
Winemaker Notes: “Notes of citrus blossom, crisp yellow apple, fresh nectarine and toasted lemon meringue on the finish. It is bright, crisp, integrated and impeccably balanced.”
Whole-cluster pressed, native yeast fermented, completes malolactic fermentation in once- used French oak barrels and 10% new oak, with sur lie aging and battonage. From the famed Ulises Valdez’ “Scopus” vineyard, at 700 feet elevation, with rocky and volcanic red soils sloping eastward into summer fog for cool nights and mornings. Near Kistler. 350 cases.
Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
91 Points, Robert Parker: “The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate is delicious and, like so many 2012s, is open-knit, full-bodied, round, juicy and hedonistic with loads of blue and black fruits, cedar wood, licorice, graphite and background oak. This full-bodied, sex- pot of a wine can be drunk now or cellared for another 15 or more years.”
Winemaker Notes: “Aromas of plum, fig, bramble, cola , nutmeg; flavors of black currant , cherry, roasted coffee, toffee, black licorice and orange zest.” 100% Cabernet, it was cane pruned to 2 clusters per shoot, yielding only two tons/acre. Aged 22 months in French oak. 700 cases made.
“Sympa” Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 New Release!
*****Ronn Weigand, Restaurant Wine: “Stunning: a concentrated, very ripely flavored, firmly structured, well balanced, and very long and persistent on the finish. It tastes of black cherry, blackberry, cedar, walnut, tobacco and black licorice. 1% Petite Verdot.”
Will benefit from aeration before drinking. Made largely from the famed Phelps Backus Cabernet clone, it is from the driest-farmed part of the site, on a low-vigor ribbon of ancient riverbed. 2 clusters per shoot, under 2 tons per acre, 1% Petite Verdot. “Sympa” (Sympathique), in French means “cool, charming, nice, agreeable, pretty.” 430 cases.
“Sympa” Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 95 Points, RP
95 Points, Robert Parker: “This wine has a dense purple color, a beautiful nose of white flowers, blue and black fruits and charcoal embers followed by a full-bodied, layered mouthfeel with terrific purity, sweet finely grained tannins, low acidity, plenty of glycerin and punch. A compelling effort.”
Will benefit from aeration. Largely Phelps Backus Cabernet clone 450 cases.
“Sympa” Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Library
Winery Notes: “Dense purple color precedes aromas of black cherry, cassis and pomegranate. Lush and structured, with flavors of black plum, currant and notes of toffee and subtle bay leaf.” Phelps/Backus clone.Aged in 100% new French oak with 2% Petite Verdot.