Wednesday, June 19, 2013

August Briggs Winery

August Briggs Winery is a small employee owned winery located on the main street in downtown Calistoga. August Joe Briggs, who goes by his middle name, began producing wine under the August Briggs label in 1995.  In 2003 he built a winery on Silverado Trail where they remained until a few years ago when the winery was sold to another producer, and they moved the August Briggs tasting room to the current location.  The label is now owned by Joe's nephew (and primary winemaker) plus three other partners who were all long time employees. The owners themselves also run the tasting room so that the person pouring your wine is most likely one of the owners.  Much thanks to Lisa, one of the owners, for hosting us.


The winery is open to the public without reservations.  Tastings for five wines is only $5 and this is waived for any wine purchase.  Most of the wines are priced at under $40.  A parking lot is next to the tasting room and spaces are reserved for visitors, so parking is not an issue.

Tasting bar

August Briggs sources grapes from various vineyards in Napa and Sonoma counties and has no vineyards of its own.  These include Pinot Noirs from Russian River and from Carneros, as well as the unusual varietals Charbono and Pinot Meunier plus Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay and Zinfandel.   

Gift shop

Our tasting began with the August Briggs 2011 Leveroni Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay that sells for $32.  It is a mix of Wente and Robert Young clones, with this being their fifteenth vintage.  30% of it saw new French oak for six months, and the rest was in two to three year old French barrels.  It received 50% malolactic conversion.  Only 335 cases were produced.  It was a sparkling light straw in color with a nice nose of melon, lemon and vanilla.  On the palate it was very smooth, rather rich and somewhat buttery but well balanced with mostly lemon, melon, pear and a touch of toasted oak.  Finish was pleasant and medium length. A decent Chard at the price.

The second pour was the August Briggs 2010 Russian River Pinot Noir at $38.  It saw 30% new French oak for 9 months, and 345 cases were produced.  After a light cherry aroma I got mostly rather lush cherry, strawberry and vanilla on the palate.  Pleasantly fruity with good body, very nicely interlaced tannins and a good medium length plus finish, this is a Pinot that would be hard not to like.  Both of us liked it a lot.  I later shared a bottle at dinner with two friends and both of them raved about it.  A very good Pinot for the price.

Third up was the August Briggs 2010 Carneros Pinot Noir at $40.  25% of it saw new French oak for 9 months and 197 cases were produced.  After a light nose I got bright red cherry on the palate with a medium length finish.  This Pinot is still young and should improve with time. We both preferred the Russian River Pinot, although the two are quite different.  This one from Carneros still needs some time to mature.

Only 96 cases of the lovely August Briggs 2010 Page Nord Napa Valley Syrah were produced.  It sells for $32 and it the ninth vintage from the Page-Nord Vineyard near Yountville.  40% of it was in new French oak for 16 months.  A beautiful deep purple in color, this is one to hold up to the light to admire.  The fairly light aroma was mostly blackberry.  On the palate it was full bodied with ripe blackberry, lots of spice and some toast.  It was rich without being too fruit forward and had very nice balance and structure.  The finish was long and quite pleasant.  It is very drinkable now but should age well. Both of us liked this as much as we did the Russian River Pinot and highly recommend it!

Lovely label

Next up was the August Briggs 2009 Monte Rosso Vineyard Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at $55, on sale for $45.  259 cases were produced. Monte Rosso is a famous vineyard in the Mayacamas Mountains, 1,000 feet above the Sonoma Valley floor that is noted for its rich red volcanic soil and very flavorful wines.  Deep in color with cherry and vanilla on the nose, this has red cherry, plums and mostly red fruit on the palate with very good tannins and excellent structure.  A very nice Cab that is quite drinkable now, this also has the structure to age well. 

Our final tasting was the August Briggs 2010 Calistoga Napa Valley Petite Sirah at $38.  30% of it saw new American oak for 16 months and 206 cases were produced.  It was deep ruby and purple in color with a blackberry aroma.  On the palate it was rich ripe blackberries with some toast and an especially pleasant long finish.  It is not overly tannic as some Petite Sirahs can be and should have a very wide appeal.  Quite nice and easy to recommend.

Club member tasting bar

Although we liked all the wines at August Briggs, the Russian River Pinot and the Syrah were our favorites.  It would have been interesting to taste the Charbono because the only other Napa Valley Charbono I remember tasting recently is the one from Summers Winery, also in Calistoga.  August Briggs should be complemented for their very affordable tasting fee that is waived with any purchase, making it essentially a complimentary tasting.  They are also a small, friendly, employee owned winery where you will not find crowded busloads of tourists.  The winery is easy to find, has ample parking and makes very nice wines that are well worth tasting or purchasing, so a visit is highly recommended next time you are in Calistoga.  It is especially worth visiting if you like Pinot Noirs.

1307 Lincoln Ave
Calistoga, CA 94515
(707) 942-4912
Date of visit: June 19, 2013

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree more about the pinots. My girlfriend loves the Russian River while I favor the Carneros but even the Dijon Clone is delicious. Very friendly as you stated. We ended up joining and make our way to Calistoga occasionally to pickup our order or just have a taste. There's another room next door called Rios which has excellent cabs although its can be tough to catch them open.


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