Thursday, June 27, 2013

Jamieson Ranch Vineyards with Reata,Whiplash and Light Horse Wines

Exciting  changes are happening at Jamieson Ranch Vineyards.  The 300 acre vineyard that was previously known as Reata Winery, Valley Gate Vineyards and Kirkland Winery is now known as Jamieson Ranch, although one of their wine labels will continue to be named Reata.  This spectacular winery, formerly a part of General Vallejo's historic Rancho Suscol, is located on Highway 12 on the Napa side of Jameson (rather than "Jamieson") Canyon just across from the Chardonnay Country Club.  Being near Carneros and San Pablo Bay, it has a fairly similar climate that is especially conducive to growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varietals.

Front entrance

There is ample parking in front of the building where you will be greeted by the horse statue named "Whiplash."  Reata, by the way, means lariat in Spanish and there is a western ranch motif throughout the building which is reminiscent of a western mountain lodge. It use to be the home of a large cattle and horse ranch, dating back some 200 years, and there are still some cattle and sheep on the property grazing on cover crops between vineyard rows along with 60,000 resident bees that provide honey combs for the tasting room. The vineyard is organically and biodynamically farmed.  Over 100 of the 300 acres are vineyards.

View of Napa Valley

Jamieson Ranch has a spectacular view of Napa Valley looking out toward Carneros and the southern end of Napa Valley.  Despite the proximity to Highway 12, it is fairly quiet and seems rather secluded.  The winery features three elegant and unique spaces: the Skytop Salon, the Overlook Veranda and the Observation Gallery.  The very spacious (3,000 square feet) tasting room is on the second floor with the offices and a large special event area for entertainment and dining on the third floor.  A large outside lounge area on the wraparound veranda offers sweeping views of the valley.  It is a great place for meetings, private parties and wedding receptions.

Tasting bar

Jamieson Ranch is very food oriented and will be hosting many food and wine events.  In addition to offering food pairings and having a new executive chef, they have an organic culinary garden outside.  A new winemaker, Nori Nakamura, joined them almost a year ago, and a new president (William Leigon), executive chef (Chef Brian) and director of hospitality (Douglas Gibbon) have all joined the Jamieson Ranch ranks in recent months.


In addition to being environmentally and food friendly, Jamieson Ranch Vineyards is also a very community oriented winery.  There are many changes planned, including the creation of a miniature horse stables that will provide therapeutic interactions for autistic children.  This will be under the charitable organization called Light Horse.  They will also issue a line of wines under the Light Horse label. Much thanks to William Leigon for his invitation and warm reception and for Douglas Gibbon who was our impeccable host.


Jamieson Ranch Vineyards is open daily from 10 to 5 without an appointment.  The Barrel Tour and Tasting Barrel may be arranged in advance for $20.  Cheese plates may be ordered with a tasting with prices ranging from $10 to $25.  The tasting fee of $15 is waived with a wine purchase. Varietals include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Viognier, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gringo and Syrah.  Some grapes, such as the Cabernet Sauvignon, are sourced from other vineyards. Many of these wines are very limited production and available exclusively at the winery. Picnics are allowed and it is pet friendly.


Our tasting began with a very lovely Reata 2010 Napa Valley Viognier that sells for $35.  A light gold in color, it had an intense aroma of white peach, honeysuckle and vanilla.  On the palate it was well balanced with refreshing fresh fruit, mostly peach and stone fruits, followed by a medium length but very pleasant dry finish with some minerality.  It is a fairly dry Viognier with a residual sugar of .07% but is remarkably fruity in the best sense of the word.  The temperature during our visit was in the nineties outside and this would be the ideal wine to drink if we were out on the patio, but this Viognier was so delectable that I loved it just as much in the air conditioned tasting room.  It is one our favorite Napa Valley Viogniers and will be added to the list of our favorite wines of Napa Valley.

Culinary garden

The second pour was the Reata 2010 Napa Valley Chardonnay at $35.  11,500 cases were produced. We were told that it saw 80% malolactic conversion.  (It had some buttered toast character, but the acid balances it nicely.)  It did not see any new French oak but was in two to five year oak.  I do not like over oaking in a Chardonnay, and this one was not.  It had a pale straw color and, for a Chardonnay, a rather intense nose of peach, pineapple and some minerality.  On the palate it was white peach, pineapple and some minerality, with more tropical fruit than your usual Chardonnay but was balanced with good acid. It was not as dry as many Chardonnays.  Finish was medium length.  A decent Chard that will appeal to those who like a softer style Chardonnay.

Third in line was the Reata 2012 Carneros Rose of Pinot Noir at $24.  I must confess that neither of us are fond of most roses.  I do like some French ones and found one Portuguese one I liked for its aroma, but even when American roses are not excessively sweet, they are almost invariably uninteresting.  This Rose had a nice fruity nose and decent acid to balance the sweetness.  It was drier than most American roses.  Do try it if you like roses.

Our fourth sample was the Reata 2011 "Aurelius" California White Blend at $24.  It is mostly Gew├╝rztraminer with an undisclosed percentage of Chardonnay, a rather unusual blend. It was a pale gold in color with a good floral Gewurtztraminer nose.  On the palate I got peaches, lychees, mangos and some spice.  Although it is considered off dry (Residual sugar is 2.04%), a fair amount sweetness came through, although it was balanced with good acid and fruit.  This was not as dry as some Alsatian Gew├╝rztraminers (which are sometimes blended with various percentages of Pinot Blanc, Riesling, and/or Pinot Gris.) Finish was medium length and pleasantly floral and fruity.  This is an interesting wine and is great by itself but has the structure and dryness to pair with some food. Easy to recommend.

Entertainment room

We moved into red wines with the Reata 2011 Napa/Sonoma Pinot Noir at $30.  This is from grapes from both Napa and Sonoma Counties.  30% of it was in new French oak for 14 months.  Production was 5,995 cases.  A light purple in color, it had a very good aroma for a Pinot.  I got mostly raspberry.  On the palate it was very well balanced with refreshing bright red fruit, mostly cherry and strawberry.  Soft tannins were beautifully integrated.  It is still young so the fresh fruit is prominent, but this Pinot has enough structure to age well for the next few years.  I must confess that it is so pleasant to drink right now, that I'd have a difficult time putting any away.  One of the better Pinots we have encountered at a very good price point.  You might find more complexity and lushness in a Pinot at two or three times the price, but you could also pay much more and obtain something not nearly as appealing. It is great alone but will pair very well with many dishes.  It will go on our list of our favorite wines. Highly recommended and a good buy at this price.

Our final pour was the Reata 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at $45.  Very deep in color it had a very good aroma of black cherries and spices.  On the palate I got cherry and plum with good tannins and a medium body.  Finish was moderate length.  This is not a powerful Cab and is not one I would cellar, but it is very drinkable now either by itself or with food.  Recommended for its great aroma and easy drinkability. 


Jamieson Ranch Vineyards is a winery you really should visit.  We especially recommend the Viognier and Pinot Noir, the two varietals we thought were the most outstanding.  We also had a delicious cheese plate (see photos) to accompany our tasting and highly recommend it.  In addition to very good wines, Jamieson Ranch has lovely views and a beautiful setting.  If you have not visited them, you really should.  Also, consider them if you have any special events or are interested in one of their exciting wine and food pairings.  It looks like many interesting events will be offered at Jamieson Ranch so I plan to keep them on my radar.  We hope to return fairly soon and look forward to tasting wines by the new winemaker, Nori Nakamura.

Cheese plate

Jamieson Ranch Vineyards
1 Kirkland Ranch Road
Napa, CA  94558

(707) 254-8673(707) 254-8673
Date of visit: June 27, 2013
Jamieson Ranch Vineyards is open daily from 10 to 5 without an appointment. They might be closed on certain holidays, so you might want to call ahead to make sure they are open when you want to visit.

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