Marston Family Vineyard is a wonderful winery with exceptional wines. Although it is in the Spring Mountain District, it is not off Spring Mountain Road so there is no need to drive up that high winding road. It is easily reached by following White Sulphur Springs Road in St. Helena to the end. Directions are essential, however, as is an appointment and a gate code. You might want to have your camera ready as you drive up there. In addition to several small streams, there are some large redwood trees and many lovely views.
The vineyard has an interesting history that includes Clark Gable spending his honeymoon there. The Marston family purchased the vineyard in 1969 and use to sell their grapes to other wineries but began offering their own first commercial release in 1998. But an interesting history, warm hospitality and lovely setting are only part of the attraction. Marston Family Vineyard makes very limited releases of some outstanding, handcrafted wines.
Their Marston 2010 Albion (96% Sauvignon Blanc and 4% Semillon) is incredible. Only 125 cases were produced. As with French white Bordeauxs, some Semillon is added. I really liked it at the tasting, but was later able to appreciate how great it was after opening a bottle at home. Very much in the French style, this would never be mistaken it for a New Zealand SB, nor does it taste like most Californian SBs It does not have the sometimes overpowering tropical fruit of many Kiwi SBs. Unlike many California SBs, it is not a grapefruit bomb, nor is it lacking integration or balance, with fruit going off in one direction, acid in another with a rather fragmented structure. Instead, it is French in character with a drier presentation, subtlety, finesse, nuance, minerality and exquisite balance. A nice light nose, with melon and some grapefruit on the palate, this strokes the mid palate like ambrosia from heaven. The balance, structure and complexity are truly amazing! This is the one of the finest Sauvignon Blancs I’ve ever tasted. Marston sourced some great fruit and then worked miracles to produce one of the nicest Sauvignon Blancs I have ever had. I really love it!!!
This delightful Sauvignon Blanc was to be followed up by two excellent Cabs. We tried both of their Cabs and each one was wonderful in its own way. The Elizabeth John 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon had a great aroma, with some cherry on the palate. It was lighter than their flagship Cab and ready to drink now. This is definitely not a second label but a very nice Cab that is intended for more immediate gratification without having to be cellared for many years. The Marston 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, (250 cases produced) which is drinkable now but will improve with age, also had a nice aroma but was bigger without being overpowering, offering more complexity on the palate, with cherry, plum and some spice. There were fascinating layers of flavor, all gracefully balanced, with a long finish. This wine has a complexity, style and finesse that place it among the finest Cabs in Napa Valley. The Wine Spectator rated it last summer at a very respectful 92 points and ranked it as one of the “Outstanding 2008 Napa Cabernets.” We would rate it higher than that, but then nearly a year has passed since the WS review and this Cab will improve with age if you can resist drinking it now. (I later tasted a bottle of the Marston 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon and liked it even slightly better than the 2008.)
Tastings at the winery are by appointment only and cost $35 but this can be applied toward purchases. The setting is gorgeous and includes a brief tour an interesting history. The tastings is accompanied by fine cheeses and cold meats with a different glass for each sample. Marston provides an excellent tasting experience and Elizabeth is enthusiastic, devoted and delightfully interesting. The Albion sells for $50, the Elizabeth John for $65 and the current release Cabernet Sauvignon for $100. Library wines are also available for $120. (Robert Parker and others raved about the 2006, so we bought a bottle along with the 2008 and the Elizabeth John.) Marston Family Vineyard is the antithesis of the large commercial wineries with their crowds of tasters pushing in to the stand up bar for a tasting. It is an enchanting place where the love of wine and the devotion and enthusiasm of the Marston family are readily evident. It is one of a handfull of our favorites and I look forward to returning.
3600 White Sulphur Springs Rd
Saint Helena, CA 94574
Saint Helena, CA 94574
Date of Visit: 3/14/2012