If I could go back in time and visit just one winery, I’d take myself back to the late 1800s when Bernard Ehlers’ curiosity of winemaking led him to purchase a small, dying vineyard located in Napa Valley’s much-admired St. Helena appellation. He eventually went on to replant his newly-acquired 10-acre vineyard, including an olive grove that still flourishes today, all the while completing construction of the stone barn, still standing, and enjoyed by many as the current wine tasting room. His wife continued to run the winery long after his death.
A century later, another husband and wife team saw the potential of the landscape. As French entrepreneurs and philanthropists, Jean and Sylviane Leducq began acquiring individual local vineyards as they came up for sale and replanted the most fitting clones and rootstock, with the help of renowned enologist, Jacques Boissenot. Over several decades Jean and Sylviane were able to create balanced and structured Bordeaux style wines, which they shared a passion and love for. By the turn of the century they had shaped an adjoining 42-acre estate, including the release of the very first vintage from the Leducqs’ new Ehlers Estate.
Ehlers Estate is 100% organic. The vineyard crew believes in nurturing the vines, letting nature do its thing, allowing the numerous soil types and microclimates to work their magic. No chemical herbisides, pesticides or synthetic fertilizers are used on the vineyards. Being located at the Napa Valley’s narrowest point, between the Mayacamas Mountains to the west and the Vaca Mountains to the east, creates a microclimate, allowing constant airflow through the vineyard, bringing fog in the morning, burning out in the afternoon and clear blue skies midday. Not only that, the Ehlers Estate benefits from the unique Old World layout that is very rare in California. Divided into five main blocks and 25 sub-blocks, adjacent to the historic Ehlers estate stone barn. Eleven of these blocks (25 acres) are dedicated to six different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyard also features seven sub-blocks of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Petit Verdot.
And the wines? Well, they’re exceptional. Full-bodied red wines and a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc captivated my palate. The ‘Portrait’ Red Blend and Cabernet Franc were two favorites. Both unique in their own way. Notable earthiness, spice and dark fruits, with cassis and vanilla sneaking in. The Sauvignon Blanc is definitely worth tasting. The guava and pineapple jumped out initially for me, including light citrus notes. Bright acidity, this will be a perfect pick to kick back with on the patio this summer.
Next time you schedule a trip to St. Helena and want a full experience, make a tasting appointment with Ehlers Estate. The quaint tasting room in the historic stone barn will welcome you with all the warm and fuzzies, a perfect setting to enjoy some outstanding wines. Cheers!