Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Peju Province Winery Revisited

Peju is one of Napa's loveliest wineries, and I have been their many time.  My last visit to was 3/28/10 so I thought it was time for a revisit. During my last visit they mentioned having a fairly new winemaker.  I seem to recall some of her wines were just then being released. This would be Sara Fowler, who joined them in 2006.  Peju is located on Highway 29 between Oakville and Rutherford and was founded by Tony and Huerta Peju in 1982.  Their two daughters are no also actively involved.  Peju expanded from 30 acres in 1982 to 380 acres in 2009. The two main vineyards are Rutherford H.B. Vineyard and Persephone Vineyard in Pope Valley

Winery building

Peju is open to the public without appointments.  Because of its location and popularity it can be very busy during the summer, especially on weekends.  Even when visited during this peak time, however, Peju is still very accommodating and efficient because they have a number of tasting bars and can bring visitors through for tastings in small groups.

Front entrance

In addition to the famous rather surrealistically pruned sycamores that  line the lane to the winery, Peju is well known for its lovely architecture, beautiful gardens and grounds with art work and fountains, and an interesting changing art exhibit on the second floor.  Every three months the art work changes and features three to four new artists. 


Tom, our host, was exceptionally pleasant and helpful.  During the many times I've visited Peju, staff have always been very welcoming and friendly.  There is a $20 tasting fee but it is very generously waived with a $35 wine purchase.  Peju is also in the Napa Neighbor Program, so discounts are available to persons with a local ID.

Our tasting began with the Peju 2011 Sauvignon Blanc ($22).  This one a Gold Medal in 2012 at the Riverside International Competition.  After some lemon on the nose I got some intense but balanced fruit on the palate, mostly grapefruit and melon and then a decent finish.  It has good acid and is fairly dry but seemed somewhat green.  This is not one of your light, sweetish, insipid Sauvignon Blancs, however. 

Tasting bar

The Peju 2009 Zinfandel was next at $30.  This is 82% Zinfandel, 16% Cabernet sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot and is aged in American oak. This had an amazing nose of cherry with a hint of spruce.  Although we recently attended the Zinfandel Festival where I tasted around 50 Zins, I do not recall any that had this much aroma.  It had red fruit on the palate with some delicious black pepper and a long finish.  I bought a bottle to try at home and found it very pleasant.

Another tasting bar

Up next was the Peju 2008 Merlot at $35.  After a light nose, this had more substance and structure than some Merlots but was still easy on the palate.  I got mostly red cherry with some chocolate, fairly dry for a Merlot, with good well integrated tannins and a fairly long finish of dark chocolate and cherry.  It is a pleasant, easy to drink Merlot that has more going on than many Merlots. It should pair well with food. If you like Cabs you will probably like it.  I bought a bottle to share with some friends.  Of the regular tastings I liked this one the best followed by the Syrah.

Gift shop

This was followed by the Peju 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon at $50.  I got a black cherry and cigar box nose followed by mostly well-balanced red cherry on the palate and a medium length finish.  This is still young.

The Peju 2009 Syrah at $32 came after this. It had a light aroma and was fruit forward but not jammy on the palate with good integrated tannins and some pleasant pepper, followed by a soft finish. Nice for the price and we purchased some.

Gift shop

We were also offered two tastings that were not on the regular tasting line up and both of these were in another league. I really loved the Peju 2002 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon at $150.  After some cherry, spice and cigar box on the nose, I encountered one of the silkiest Cabs I've had in recent years.  Although it is supple and smooth, I think "silky" is the most accurate term.  It is beautifully balanced with blackberry and cherry and soft tannins followed by a very long finish.  I would need to spend more time with this wine to determine the level of complexity it offers.  Although it was over ten years old, it still had good fruit.  I think it is at its optimum age-wise.

Tasting room

Last time we visited three years ago, my favorite Peju wine was a Cabernet Franc.  It was not on their regular tasting menu and I do not recall the year, but I remember it being exceptional.  It might very well have been the Peju 2006 Reserve Cabernet Franc ($115) that we tasted at this visit.  This is an amazing wine and one of the finest Cabernet Francs I've had in recent years.  It is 84% Cabernet Franc and 16% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is deep purple in color with some plum and vanilla on the nose. On the palate it is very complex with cherry, herbaceousness, pepper, forest floor and layers of interesting flavors.  It is full bodied but pretty dry, with great structure and balance. As with most really exceptional wines, it has a long finish.  This is Cab Franc at its best and a real credit to Peju.  I'd rate it a 94.

Art work

Peju is a winery you will not want to miss.  Their wines are quite good for the price and their 2006 Cabernet Franc is among the finest in Napa Valley. Peju is so lovely both inside and out, that even those who don't drink wine should enjoy a visit.  Whether you like art, architecture, gardens, sculpture or nature, you will find much to view and many photo opportunities.  Below are some additional photos.

8466 St. Helena Hwy.
Rutherford, CA 94573
Date of visit: February 26, 2013

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