Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Zahtila Vineyards and Laura Michael Wines

Zahtila Vineyards is a small, family owned winery just outside Calistoga and is owned by Laura Zahtila whose first production was in 1999.  They produce about 1800 cases of Laura Michael Wines per year from sourced grapes and have received numerous awards over the years.  Emphasis is on small quantities of hand crafted wines, which they source from other vineyards in Napa and Sonoma Counties. (Note: Sometime after our visit we noticed that Zahtila Vineyards added "Laura Michael Wines" to its name so this was added to the name on our blog on June 26, 2014.)

Zahtila entry sign

Zahtila is a very friendly winery.  As we left their parking lot we were greeted by their super friendly black lab, Rocki (Raquel Zahtila-Swanton), who treated us like long lost friends.  Then Michael came out to welcome us and walk us in to the tasting room. Laura Zahtila, the owner, took over next as our tasting host.  This is not your huge corporate winery with rushed, impersonal staff.  I love small, friendly, family wineries like Zahtila, and encourage others to visit such wineries and to purchase their wines to help keep this tradition going. 

Zahtila greeter dog

All of the offered tastings at Zahtila were red wines, so please don't go there expecting white wines or some of the sweet tourist wines that are offered at other wineries.  They do make a Chardonnay, but it was sold out and not on the tasting list. Zahtila focuses on two varietals-Cabernet Sauvignons and Zinfandels. An appointment is required but can usually be obtained on short notice.  One party called for an appointment while we were there and were encouraged to come right in.  It was the day after New Years and very slow everywhere.

Zahtila grounds

Our tasting began with the Zahilta 2008 Dry Creek Zinfandel "Mayo Family Vineyards" at $33 (405 cases).  This is from older vines (62 years old) and is fruit forward with some American oak.  I didn't get a lot of nose on it but the finish was good.  It was enjoyable, but we both preferred the Zahilta 2008 Oat Hill Estate Zinfandel at $45 (220 cases).  These vines are 28 years old.  the wine had a nice nose followed by a sumptuous mouthfeel of black cherry and vanilla.  It is very drinkable now.  I was curious to know if it would be offered at ZAP or the annual Zinfandel Festival, but it will not be so you will have to visit the winery or track down a bottle to try this.  Next up was the Zahilta 2008 Calistoga Cabernet Sauvignon at $52 (658 cases).  This is from grapes sourced from the Barlow Vineyard, about two miles south of Zahtila.  I got some dark red fruit on the nose, almost candied in its richness, with delightfully ripe blackberry and some cherry on the palate.  Although it is a full bodied Cab it is very drinkable now, with nicely integrated tannins.  Along with the Oat Hill Zin, it was my favorite of the wines we tasted.  We also sampled some Zahilta 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at $45 (698 cases).  Some of the grapes are from Howell Mountain and some from the Valley floor.  It sees 30% new French oak.  It was a nice Cab and it had an especially long finish, but I preferred the Barlow Vineyard sourced Cab.

Zahtila patio

We were referred to Zahtila by Sheila Rios the co-owner at Rios Wine Company that is just down the road in down town Calistoga.  It is refreshing to visit a small community of family owned wineries where owners know and respect each other while readily recommending each others wines.  You can help support these small, friendly, family wineries by visiting them and trying their wines which are invariably not only good, but very reasonably priced.  Next time you are near Calistoga, stop by and try the wines at Zahtila.

Zahtila tasting room
Addendum February 13, 2013: Zahilta 2008 Oat Hill Estate Zinfandel Tasting notes:  Dark ruby-purple in color with a blueberry and vanilla nose.  More blueberry with some ripe black cherry, vanilla, sweet cream and nutmeg on the palate.  Medium to full bodied with good structure. Chewy but rather soft tannins balanced with pleasantly forward somewhat sweet fruit. Very full flavored with some sweetness but no excessive alcohol or anything over the top with this one. Moderately long finish of sweet ripe blueberries with a hint of dustiness.  We liked this wine at the winery but did not really appreciate its fine qualities until later opening a bottle.  This has more blueberry than any Zin I can recall tasting and is quite unique in its presentation.  This wine should age well but is very drinkable now.  Reminiscent of eating freshly picked, fully ripened, wild blueberries with sweat cream.

Zahtila Vineyards
2250 Lake County Hwy
Calistoga, CA 94515
Date of visit: January 2, 2012

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.