Monday, October 10, 2011
St. Supery Winery: Distinctive Wines & Great Touring
St. Supery Winery and vineyards have an impressive presence along highway 29, the main road through Napa wine country. Owned by the famed Skalli family, the Napa holdings get the same attention to detail and innovation as their Languedoc vineyards. I met Lesley Keffer Russell, the VP of Direct Marketing & Sales at reception and we immediately began talking wine. Her enthusiasm for the winery was quickly evident as we toured the facility before entering the Divine tasting room, which, in fact was divine.
The tour took us past the huge fermentation tanks to sample the Sauvignon Blanc, redolent of rich grapefruit infused juice. This as I later discovered was a key flavor component of their Sauvignon Blanc wines. Still developing, but already showing promise. The next area we entered was where the red wine grapes, primarily Cabernet Sauvignon were being hand sorted. We were briefly met by Emma Swain CEO of St. Supery, and GG, her white Lab. Oh to have a nose as sensitive as a dog’s. I wonder what that would be like?
Coming off a conveyer, the de-stemmed grapes went along another conveyer belt that vibrated to separate the grapes for the hand sorting where seven attendants rejected ones that were not up to St. Supery’s high standards. This is the attention to detail one might find in a high-end boutique winery.
Lesley and assistant winemaker Brooke Langelius, directed us to a barrique topped with four half bottles filled with juice from the aging red wines. This was barrel tasting at its best; big tasting glasses and no spills from a wine thief, which usually makes this process messy. Instead we had elegance. (A wine thief is not someone lurking behind a barrel, but a device to draw off wine from a barrel.)
Divine Tasting Room
When Lesley finally brought us up to the tasting room I was ready sample the finished product. Each place had a tasting mat with Welcome Hammond Party in the center and each glass enclosed in a circle with a wine’s year and grape name. I’ve seen this setup before but not with this bounty of wines to try; four whites and five reds. Near it was a platter of cheese, fruits, nuts and meats, which I resisted until I’d made my first pass of the wines. Since I hadn’t had breakfast yet I call this dedication.
All of the Sauvignon Blanc wines were excellent, in keeping with St. Supery’s reputation with this grape. My favorite, however, was the 2010 Virtú with 51% Semillon and 49% Sauvignon Blanc. A good Semillon is hard to find in California, but if this wine is any guide, I’ll be trying their Semillon next. I also tasted an oak-free Chardonnay (shades of New Zealand Chards!) that would be a good food wine; bright tropical and citrus fruit flavors.
The reds were where I really found a home, however. I drink a lot more reds than whites and the St. Supery Cabs justified their reputation with this grape. I started with the 2007 Rutherford Merlot which reminded me of my favorite Napa versions with dark and red fruit and spices that’ll awaken anyone’s palate.
Cabernet Sauvignon is St. Supery’s other principal grape and the remaining reds all displayed the results of all that hand-sorting and care, not to mention the Napa appellations. The 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon had just 1% Cab Franc, while the 2007 Rutherford Cab sported 16% Merlot. The 2007 Dollarhide Cab was 100% Cab and clearly didn’t need any help to achieve its balance, structure and rich fruit with essences of chocolate and coffee from the 30 months aging.
I only saw a wall-sized picture of the Dollarhide vineyards, but they are huge; 1500 acres with 500 acres under cultivation. The unique microclimate of Dollarhide and the Rutherford location of the winery and its vineyards assures a wide range of choices in grape characteristics for blending wines.
The 2007 Élu is a nearly classic Meritage blend, with a higher percentage of Merlot (22%) than typically used. Having met that Merlot earlier in the tasting, I could understand its inclusion. Darker fruit here, berry and plum and earthy notes of leather and plush tannins.
Check out their well done website for the very extensive listing of wines. Older vintages as old as 2000 are available for purchase, proof of the aging potential of the reds. St. Supery is a must stop on your Napa tour. You’ll find people with a passion for wine and wines that reflect that passion.