(Note: Sawyer Cellars is now known as Foley Johnson Winery.) With very good wine and friendly staff, Sawyer Cellars is a family winery that produces small amounts of premium wine. It is located along Highway 29 in Rutherford and is part of the land where George Yount planted grapes over 160 years ago. The property was replanted in 1984 and purchased by the Sawyer family in 1994. The vineyard extends back to the Napa River and is planted mostly with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, although they also grow some Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc. Total production is only 6,400 cases, and all of their wines are estate grown and bottled. They sell off about 40% of the grapes they grow. A tasting is $10. The tour and tasting is $25. Reservations are required but easily made. Our host, Candace, was very friendly and informative.
Our tasting began with the 2010 Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($32). It had a pleasant aroma with a dry, well-balanced, refreshing presentation and a nice finish. This was followed by the 2007 Estate Merlot ($39) that began with a very pronounced and pleasant cherry nose with bright cherry on the palate. This is bigger and more interesting than mamu Merlots. Only 625 cases were produced. Next was the 2007 Bradford Meritage ($46). This is 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. It is aged for 24 months on French oak. I got a light nose with mostly blackberry on the palate and a little spice on the finish. It was quite nice.
Our favorite of the current release wines was the Sawyer 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($49) that is 100% Cab and spent 24 months in French oak. It had a nice nose of black cherry with a touch of cinnamon followed by a smooth, layered, cherry-like palate that was well balanced, somewhat chewy, with good, integrated tannins. The Wine Enthusiast gave this 92 points. It was very good and extremely drinkable, although it was even better with some air. We purchased several bottles. We also sampled some 2004 Estate Library Reserve that sells for $110. This was a big wine with a lot of complexity and bold but balanced tannins. I liked it better than my friend did, but it probably would have opened up better with more air. We enjoyed all the wines that we sampled and enthusiastically recommend a visit to Sawyer Cellars.
Addendum 9/19/2012: I have since tasted two bottles of the 07 Cab. It does need some air, but is a very solid Cab and well worth trying.
Rutherford, CA 94573
Date of visit: 4/4/2012