Wednesday, April 10, 2013

David Fulton Winery

David Fulton Winery is in northern St. Helena, just down Fulton Lane off Highway 29.  It is actually within walking distance of downtown St. Helena.  There are some other vineyards on Fulton but only one winery open to the public.  This is the oldest continuously owned and operated family vineyard in California, originally planted in 1860 by the great-grandfather of the current owner, Fulton Mather.  It has an interesting history.

Tasting bar

The founder was a blacksmith and inventor who invented a one-horse plow that helped revolutionize vineyard practices.  He and two others found the first of the area's wine associations.  Prior to becoming a winemaker, he owned a saddlery in St. Helena and sold it to purchase the winery.  Initially he made brandy and wine.  The earliest surviving  invoice for the sale of wine was in 1868 and it is unclear if the grapes were grown or sourced.  You may read the detailed history of the winery here:  History

Patio

David Fulton Winery is a member  of the "Winemakers of Fulton Lane," a group of winemakers from the vineyards on Fulton Lane.  David Fulton Winery focuses on making lovely Petite Sirahs but the serve wines from next door vineyards of Jana Winery and Calafia Cellars so there is a wider variety of wines to taste after making an appointment.  David Fulton Winery is 15 acres of dry farmed, head pruned old vines.  The vines are on St. George rootstock with roots going down to an estimated 30 feet.  Only about three to five bottles of Petite Sirah come from each vine, in contrast to the 20 or so that come from some vines in Central Valley.  341 cases of Petite Sirah were produced last year. Keeping with family tradition, the son of the owner is the winemaker.

Winery buliding

As readers of this blog probably know, I am particularly fond of small family wineries that have maintained their connection with the land and nature.  Some of the large corporate wineries do make some good wines.  But I have found that the most unique, individual and interesting wines in Napa Valley come from small wineries where they have not lost contact with being farmers.  David Fulton Winery is one of those authentic wineries where staff are intimately connected with the vineyards and nature. These are how many of the wineries were when I first started visiting Napa Valley Wineries in 1973.

Patio tables

Our first tasting was from a vineyard next door to David Fulton, called Jana Winery.  We started with the 2010 Jana Winery Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc at $22.  322 cases were produced. A pale straw in color, it had a light melon aroma.  On the palate it was a full melon, not the more usual Napa grapefruit or lemon.  It was clean, crisp and dry but not tart, with some minerality and no herbaceousness.  It had a very nice, medium length finish of melon with some lemon.  This SB would be nice as a stand alone or would pair great with chicken.  It is a very nice Sauvignon Blanc for the price.

Barrel room

Our second sample was the 2009 Jana Winery Old Vine Mendocino Riesling at $22.  417 cases were produced.  This is a fairly dry Riesling and quite decent, especially at the price.  It was light straw in color.  The nose was fairly light but pleasant and I got mostly gala apple.  On the palate I got more of a Fuji apple and pear, with slight sweetness, but very well balanced.  The finish was medium length.  This is far better than most California Rieslings and from a winery I had never heard of.  Nicely done.

Vineyard

This was followed by the 2006 Jana Winery Old Vines Napa Valley Zinfandel at $35.  333 cases were produced.  Dark ruby in color, it had a great aroma of black cherry and spices with hints of raspberry and black currant.  Medium plus in body, it was full of fresh fruit, mostly cherry and plum with great, well integrated tannins.  The finish was long with cherry, plum, some chocolate and a touch of licorice.  Highly recommended.

Vineyard from patio


I had never heard of Calafia Cellars either but we tasted their 2007 Calafia Cellars' Napa Valley La Reina next.  125 cases were produced and it sells for $65 a bottle.  This was a Bordeaux style blend that was dark burgundy in color with a distinct and pleasant to the eye purple tone.  I go blackberry, vanilla and sweet oak on the nose.  On the palate it was pleasantly soft but full flavored, with well integrated tannins, medium body plus, with cherry, black currant and hints of cedar.  It had a good finish of mostly chocolate and cherry.  Although it is very drinkable now, it should age well.

Old vines

Our final tasting was their famous PS, in this case the David Fulton Winery 2009 Old Vines Napa Valley Estate Petite Sirah at $45. This saw 75% new French oak and was dark, deep purple in color.  After a very nice aroma of spice and cola I got a smooth but chewy, spicy, black cherry and blackberry on the palate, well structured,  with a long finish of chewy cherry and black pepper.  It is full flavored but not over powering as some PS can be.  Although it is quite drinkable now, it will improve with age.  This is a superior Petite Sirah.  I'm sorry I missed it at the annual PS I Love You event this year, but will be sure to try it next year.  PS I Love You

Old plow

We heartily recommend a visit to David Fulton Winery, not only for the very good wines, but for the authentic, rustic experience that is increasingly rare in Napa Valley.  Service was very friendly and down to earth, and we were even able to meet Fulton Mather and his wife, Dink.  Reservations are required but may easily be made.

Sign


825 Fulton Lane
St. Helena, CA 94574
Phone: (707) 967-0719
Date of visit: April 10, 2013


Neighboring vineyard on Fulton Lane

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