Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Foley Johnson Winery

Foley Johnson Winery is a small, extremely friendly winery with very good wines that are affordably priced given the quality of the wines.  They are right in the heart of winery row on Highway 29 in Rutherford but are not usually too crowded because of the ordinance that requires them to offer tastings and tours by appointment only. Call them if you are in the area, though, even if you don't have an appointment because they can sometimes accommodate visitors on short notice.

Foley Johnson entry

Foley Family Wines purchased Sawyer Cellars around May of 2012, and the new winery became Foley Johnson Wines named after Bill Foley and his wife Carol Johnson Foley.  Their purchase included the 49 acre property with 40 acres of sustainably farmed, prime Rutherford vineyards and the tasting room on Highway 29 that is in a converted redwood barn built in the 1930's, plus the ten acre nearby Peral Vineyard. Up until 1984 the main ranch had been a plum and walnut orchard. From 1994 to 2012 it was owned by the Sawyer family.

Foley Johnson building

Foley Johnson Wines have maintained the small, friendly, intimate setting that is a refreshing alternative to some of the large, busy wineries in this area of Highway 29. They were also wise enough to keep their wonderful winery host, Candace, who also assisted us when we visited Sawyer Cellars back on April 4, 2012.  Much thanks to Candace and Jeri for such a pleasant visit.  Foley Johnson Wines also wisely retained Brad Warner who had been the winemaker for Sawyer since 1999, having started at Charles Krug in 1967 and then staying at Robert Mondavi Winery for thirty years.  They also utilize the expertise of the well known Consulting Winemaker, David Ramey.  Production is around 6,000 cases per year. 

Foley Johnson patio

Because they are required to provide tastings by appointment only, you may visit a premium quality winery that is right in Rutherford on Highway 29 without having to encounter large crowds, busloads of tourists or long lines.  Foley Johnson Wines is open by appointment from 10AM to 4PM. If you are in the area but don't have an appointment, just call them to see if they have any same day openings. You never know when someone might cancel. Most wineries in Napa County, btw,  are appointment only due to the 1990 Winery Definition Ordinance that restricted new wineries from having tours and tastings open to the public.

Foley Johnson tasting bar

Foley Family Wines began in 1996 and now includes Merus, Kuleto and Altvs in Napa Valley, Chalk Hill near Healdsburg, Sebastiani in Sonoma, Foley Estates in Santa Rita Hills, Lincourt Vineyards in Solvang, Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla Valley, Firestone Vineyard in Santa Ynez Valley, Eos in Paso Robles and two wineries in New Zealand--Vavasour and Clifford Bay.  They also created the Foley Food and Wine Society  This is a family that is seriously devoted to great food and wine.

Foley Johnson fountain

Our tasting began with the Foley Johnson 2011 Estate Sauvignon Blanc at only $24.  ($19.20 if you are a wine club member.)  This is 100% Sauvignon Blanc and only 280 cases were produced.  A pale yellow in color, it began with a good aroma of grapefruit, lime and white peach with some floral notes.  On the palate it was crisp and clean with mostly lemon and grapefruit along with some minerality and  a hint of oak.  The finish was medium to long and very refreshing.  Very nice, especially at this price level.

Foley Johnson gift shop

The second pour was the Foley Johnson 2011 Napa Chardonnay at $38.  It is 100% Chardonnay and only 280 cases were produced.  It had a very good nose of lemon and white peach with some minerality followed by melon and Meyer's lemon on the palate along with some minerality and herbal notes.  It was not at all overly oaked or too buttery but was nicely balanced with plenty of varietal characteristics coming through. Quite enjoyable.

Foley Johnson grape vine light

Third up was the Foley Johnson 2010 Estate Merlot at $42.  Again this is 100% Merlot and a mere 220 cases were produced.  After a light cherry nose I got mostly cherry and blackberry with some vanilla and chewy tannins on the palate.  It is still a young wine that should improve with another year or two of age but is quite drinkable now.

Foley Johnson patio

This was followed by the very nice Foley Johnson 2010 Meritage at $45.  It is 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 2.5% Cabernet Franc and 2.5% Petit Verdot.  818 cases were produced. 35% of it was aged in new French oak for 23 months with the remainder aged in neutral oak. Deep ruby in color, it had a very good nose of black currants, vanilla and oak followed by black currant, cherry and raspberry on the palate with nice soft tannins and very good balance, followed by a pleasant medium plus length finish.  Very pleasant indeed.

Foley Johnson tasting table

My favorite, though, was the Foley Johnson 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon at $75.  It is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and 818 cases were produced.  I confess I am rather partial to Rutherford Cabs.  This one had a very good nose of black currant and blackberry, followed by a deep rich palate of black fruit, mostly black cherry and black currant with a touch of baking spices, good tannins, great balance and a fairly long finish.  An exceptional Cabernet!

Foley Johnson barrel room

With a very friendly, family atmosphere, great customer service, and very good wines that are reasonably priced for the quality, it is easy to recommend a visit to Foley Johnson Wines.  Give them a call even if you don't have an appointment and you might luck out. Better yet, call them ahead of time to make an appointment for a tasting.

Foley Johnson Winery
8350 St. Helena Highway (also known as Highway 29)
Rutherford, CA 94573
Phone: (707) 963-1980
Date of visit: December 3, 2013

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