Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chateau Boswell and Jacquelynn Winery

Chateau Boswell is a remarkable Napa Valley winery on Silverado Trail near St. Helena, where the utmost importance is placed on attention to detail and perfection of their wines.  The produce only very small lots of premium wines and take extreme measures not to compromise quality.  Although main emphasis is on terroir, or the uniquely individual qualities of very special, site specific vineyards, Chateau Boswell also obviously values the highest quality fruit and goes to great lengths to use only the finest.  Everything about them is quality without compromise. Even their corks are among the highest quality and most expensive that are available and are carefully tested by the winery to minimize "corkage."

Entry sign

Founded in 1979 by Thornton Boswell, under the direction of Andre Tchelistcheff, their first production was a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  In 1997 Susan and RT Boswell expanded the vineyard to hillside organically grown plantings.  Susan also designed their wine caves that are 65 feet below the surface.  The 11,000 square foot cave was designed to be used without any additional energy use. A separate winery, Jacquelynn Wines, began production in 2002, under direction of Josh and Jacquelynn Peeples.  The two labels have the same winemaker, Russell Bevan, but other staff are separate.  There is no "second label"; the wines are of comparable quality and production of both labels are intended to complement each.  In 2007 they were the first certified Napa Green Winery.  As with many smaller wineries, reservations are required.

Gated entry drive

Next to the beautiful stone building, designed by RT Boswell, are the wine caves, with all of the production equipment, fermenting and storage barrels and the tasting room.  Four thousand years ago the area was an obsidian arrowhead manufacturing site and some of this obsidian was used for the floor that leads to the wine cave.  After a very personal and highly informative tour of the wine cave, we were given an overview of  their philosophy and practices while sitting at the lovely tasting room inside the wine cave.

Winery building

Our first tasting was the Jacquelynn 2010 Cuvee Blanc ($45) which is 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Semillon blend.  It is hand sorted, whole cluster pressed with natural yeasts and Sur lies fermentation.  Grapes are from Sonoma County and see 35% French oak.  Production is only 465 cases.  On the nose I got some lovely pineapple and honeysuckle.  Although it had good acid, it was quite smooth and extremely well balanced with tropical fruit, white peach, melon and lime on the palate. This full bodied Sauvignon Blanc blend has a very good mouthfeel and long smooth finish.  It is not as crisp and bright as some Sauvignon Blancs, the Semillon giving it a softer, more sumptuous presentation.

Autumn grape leaves

Lovely setting

Next was the Chateau Boswell 2009 Sebastopol Vineyard Dutton Ranch Russian River Chardonnay ($75).  Again this is hand sorted, whole cluster pressed, native yeast with Sur lies and 60% new French oak.  Only 216 cases were made. This also sees 100% malolatic conversion or malolatic "fermentation," otherwise known as MLF.  (It was pointed out to me some years ago by a winemaker that this is technically not a fermentation but a conversion and I verified this by Internet searches and a discussion with a chemist.)   I don't usually like Chardonnays that have full MLF because they end up too buttery and unbalanced.  I'm not even that keen on using oak with Chardonnay because it is so often overdone.  This is a powerful Chardonnay with great fruit, good acid and a huge, rich, lush mouthfeel so that the malolatic acid and oak are beautifully balanced and compliment the wine.  This is not your typical California Chardonnay.  I don't know how much of this is due to the soil and how much is due to the old vine Wente clone.  This is not a soft Chard, although it certainly is not at all harsh or overly bright.  It is full bodied and intense.  I got peach and some minerality on the nose with concentrated citrus on the palate followed by a long finish.  The balance is spot on. I'm not sure what you would pair this with, however. 

Entry to tasting room

The next wine provided an excellent example of exactly what terroir means.  It is grown in the same area as the Sebastopol Chard. but on higher elevation in different soil.  Both wines were produced identically.  The difference in taste is entirely due to the differences between the two vineyards.  Enter the Chateau Boswell 2009 Russian River Chardonnay "The Voyage" ($75).  This does not have the dense richness of the Sebastopol Chardonnay,  although it is still full bodied.  The nose is earthier with some apple and citrus.  Again it is beautifully balanced but has much more minerality and seems more Burgundian if you will.  This is an ideal restaurant Chardonnay although I'd certainly be willing to drink it very slowly on its own.  It's a wonderful Chardonnay, one of the finest I've had in recent years.  It is a great demonstration of how malolactic acid and oak can supplement the varietal characteristics of a Chardonnany rather than overpower them.

Entry to wine cave

As good as The Voyage Chardonnay was, our next tasting, the Jacquelynn 2010  Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($175) was certain not to be anticlimactic.  This is from the famous vineyard in Oakville and only 200 cases are produced.  It sees 100% new French oak and has 14% Cabernet Franc.  It is 100% free run. After a decent nose and soft but substantial entry, I got a divine mouthfeel of complex flavors of cherry, blackberry and spices with good but extremely well integrated tannins and numerous, complex undertones.  I was reluctant to allow the first sip to go past midpalate, it was so decadently pleasurable.  But when I did, I got a long, wonderfully soft finish.  This is an outstanding Cab.  Although it is a big Cab, it does not have the extremely ripe fruit of some Napa Cabs that offer an intense fruit experience nor is it big as in tannic and bold. It has substantial body and is intense while being extremely well balanced with lots of subtle layers.  It has a lot of texture and is very multidimensional.  I sipped it slowly and didn't want to finish the sample I had. 

Wine cave

So, we have a beautiful setting, gorgeous stone buildings covered in ivy, lovely wine caves, highly personalized assistance, plus exceptional wines, all at one winery.  Do yourself a favor, if you are a serious wine lover; indulge yourself.  Visit Chateau Boswell and Jackqueline Winery if you ever have the opportunity.

Tasting table in wine cave

3468 Silverado Trail North
Saint Helena, CA 94574
Date of visit: November 28, 2010

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