Etude was established back in the 1980s and is located on Cuttings Wharf Road in the Carneros District. An appointment is not necessary. Regular tastings are $15 for six wines and reserve tastings are $25, but they are also in the Napa Neighbor Program.
Although Etude is best known for their Carneros estate Pinot Noir and their Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from sourced grapes, they do have three white wines that should not be overlooked. The 2010 Etude Chardonnay at $32 sees no malolactic conversion. It has a very nice nose and is rather fruit driven with soft melon. It is more round than brisk. The 2011 Pinot Gris ($26) is even softer with an aroma of honeysuckle and a palate of peach. Their 2010 Pinot Blanc ($28) with a light nose, is also softer than the more acidic and sometimes austere Alsatian version. It was nice, though, with some peach on the palate and good balance. I really like Pinot Blancs and applaud Etude for offering this interesting varietal which is not often encountered in Napa Valley.
Half of Etude’s production is their Pinot Noir and it is obvious why this is so. We had the Etude 2009 Carneros Estate Pinot Noir that sells for $42 and it was a very nice Pinot. After a light cherry nose, it is followed by a well-balanced palate that has good tannins and acid and a lovely mouth feel with a long finish. Also quite good was their 2008 Etude Estate Grown GBR blend of 83% Merlot and 17% Malbec that sells for $60. After a very nice aroma this well-balanced wine offered a palate of mostly black cherry. The Carneros District does not afford enough summer heat for Cabernet Sauvignon, so Etude sources fruit from up-valley for their Cab. The 2007 Etude 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon at $85 is very nice, a classic premium Napa Valley Cab. It is fruit rather than terroir driven, although it is obviously from Napa Valley. With a rich, lush mouthfeel it is more ripe blackberry than cherry on the palate with lovely tannins. It is very drinkable now but should age well. Along with the Pinot Noir, this was our favorite of the tasting. (They also have a reserve or Heirloom Pinot Noir for $90 but this was not offered to us, so I can't comment on it.)
We visited Etude on a rather hot day, but it was much cooler in Carneros than up-valley. There is ample parking but be sure to follow the signs and do not exit the same way you drove in. It is one way through the parking lot. Service was very friendly. We recommend that you visit Etude winery, but if you are unable to do so, you might want to consider trying their Pinot Noir. Their Cab is also very good, but at $85 it has a lot of competition in Napa Valley.
Addendum August 28, 2012: I had a bottle of the Etude 2008 Carneros Pinot Noir which is a lovely ruby color with an aroma of black cherries. On entry, it burst forth with plenty of strawberry like fruit, followed by red, slightly tart, cherry with some cedar and spices, good body, and integrated tannins. The finish was medium length but interesting with some herbs and smoke. Initially it was a bit hot, but this improved with some air and a slight chill. Be sure to have this at cellar temperature, not room temperature and to give it some time to breathe and integrate. Robert Parker gave this one 91 points. It is one of the better Carneros Pinots I’ve tasted, although the 2009 Etude Pinot Noir that we sampled at the winery was as good or better. I'm definitely going to be trying more Etude Pinots in the future and really need to taste their reserve Pinot next time I visit.
1250 Cuttings Wharf Road
Napa, CA 94599
(Carneros District, just off Highway 121)
Date of Visit: August 15, 2012