Thursday, January 16, 2014

Acacia Vineyard

If you love Chardonnays or Pinot Noirs you will surely want to visit Acacia Vineyard.  Acacia Vineyard is in the heart of Napa Valley's Carneros district only a few miles from San Pablo Bay.  Although not that far from the Napa Sonoma highway (121) or Napa itself, Acacia has the feel of a small, quiet, rural, out of the way winery.  In addition to their wonderful wines, they are noted for their very friendly hospitality and lack of pretentiousness. It seems like the ideal winery for bicycle tour visits. On a clear day, one can enjoy an expansive view of Carneros vineyards, the North Bay and even some of the San Francisco skyline.  Although Acacia Vineyard produces some Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Viognier, they are famous for the two varietals that excel in the cooler Carneros climate, namely Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.

Acacia Vineyard winery

Acacia Vineyard has been producing wines since 1979, and they were among the first wineries in California to produce single vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.  In addition to the 150 acres of vineyard they own in Carneros, (where they have some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines in the country) Acacia Vineyard sources some fruit from other vineyards, mostly from Napa Valley or Sonoma Valley. You might find some of their entry level wines at local stores, but most of their single vineyard wines are very limited production and are available only at the winery.  Because of their license, an appointment is required, but last minute appointments can sometimes be made if they are not busy or have had cancellations.  The tasting fee (currently $15) can be waived with a minimum purchase.  Pours are generous and usually consist of six or more wines.  In addition to the small inside tasting bar, they have an covered outside patio, a covered picnic area and a bocce ball court.

Acacia Vineyard tasting bar

Los Carneros or "Carneros" is an AVA (American Viticultural Area) that received its AVA status in 1983 and was the first wine district to be defined by climate rather than by county or political boundaries.  It is just north of San Pablo Bay and spans both Napa and Sonoma Counties.  Up until the 1970s, Carneros was noted more for its sheep than wine. The climate is quite distinct from the rest of Napa Valley with its morning fog, brisk winds and much cooler maritime temperature.  Most of the Napa Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that you find at wineries in Napa Valley are from grapes that are grown in the Carneros area.  Cabernet Sauvignon, on the other hand, grows much better in the warmer areas up Valley. 

Acacia Vineyard bocce ball court

Acacia Vineyard was originally founded by Mike Richmond and the winemaker Larry Brooks in 1979, before Carneros was even an AVA. Acacia Vineyards became part of the Chalone Winery group in 1986.  In 2004 Acacia Vineyards and the other wineries in the Chalone group became part of Diageo Chateau and Estate Wines.  Since 2005 their winemaker has been Matthew Glynn, a graduate of UC Davis who also studied in Burgundy after receiving the laureate award from the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin Foundation.  Acacia is dedicated to sustainable farming and is involved with the restoration and preservation of 13,000 acres of Carneros wetlands.

Acacia Vineyard entry sign

Originally Acacia Vineyard sourced some of their fruit from other Carneros vineyards but in 1996 they began to expand by purchasing other vineyards near the winery.  With over 150 acres, Acacia now has one of the largest vineyard holdings in the Napa Carneros AVA.  The original founders wanted to produce complex, subtle, single vineyard Pinot Noir back when this varietal was not that popular and thought to grow well only in Burgundy.  Acacia helped put Pinot Noir on the map as a California varietal.  Their wines are frequently given scores 90 points and above with Wine Spectator and others.  At the time of our visit they had 24 different wines available, not including their library wines.  These included nine Chardonnays from different single vineyards, eleven different single vineyard Pinot Noirs, plus a Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose of Pinot Noir and Syrah.  I am not aware of any other winery that offers such an extensive selection of single vineyard Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.  Prices range from $19 to $80, with Chardonnays in the $25 to $45 range and most of the Pinot Noirs in the $49 to $69 range, which is quite reasonable for these varietals in Napa Valley, especially given the quality. Total production from Acacia Vineyard is about 300,000 cases annually.

Acacia Vineyard French oak barrels

Our tasting began with two Chardonnays, both from Sonoma County grapes.  The first pour was the Acacia Vineyard 2011 Russian River Chardonnay at $45.  It went through 100% malolactic conversion and 60% of it was in new French oak. Only 279 cases were produced. After a very pleasant aroma of lemon, melon and apple, I got mostly green apple, lemon, and toasty oak on the palate in a very smooth, full bodied, well balanced presentation.  Finish was medium length.  Quite nice. The second pour was the Acacia Vineyard 2011 Sangiacomo Chardonnay also at $45.  498 cases of this were produced.  This was a bigger, richer, rather creamy, full bodied Chardonnay with a good nose of white peach and pear followed by some lemon, grapefruit, white peach, melon and toasted oak on the palate along with good acid and a very nice balance.  Finish was medium plus length. I slightly preferred this Sangiacomo to the Russian River Chardonnay.

Acacia Vineyard grounds

The Pinot Noirs were up next.  The first three tended to be more terroir driven than fruit driven but all had some pleasant toasted oaked and tended to be more black fruit oriented than many Carneros Pinots that tend to be more strawberry and red cherry like.  Terroir oriented Pinots strive more for subtlety and complexity rather than the simple, lushness of ripe fruit. Our Pinot pours began with the Acacia Vineyard 2010 L'histoire Profonde Pinot Noir at $69.  Only 249 cases were produced.  It started with a soft but lingering aroma of plum and raspberry.  On the palate I got cherry, plum, good tannins and some smokiness and earth notes in a pleasantly textured, smooth wine that had a medium plus length finish.  This was an interesting Pinot that I'd like to get to know better.  It was followed by the Acacia Vineyard 2011 Sangiacomo Pinot Noir at $69.  After a soft aroma of mostly cherry, I got black cherry, toasted oak, some minerality and a medium long finish.  I thought it was still somewhat young and needed more time but was still quite decent.  I'd like to try it again in another year or two.  The third Pinot we tasted was the Acacia Vineyard 2009 Redding Ranch Pinot Noir.  Production was 342 cases.  This is from grapes sourced from Marin County.  A light nose was followed by wild blackberries, cherry and earthy notes.  Finish was medium length.  Of the first three Pinots, I preferred the L'histoire Profonde.

Acacia outdoor covered lounge

If you like Pinots with lusher fruit, rather than the leaner, more restrained, terroir oriented style, you would probably prefer the Acacia Vineyard 2010 Lone Tree Barrel Select Pinot Noir (200 cases released, $69) or the Acacia Vineyard 2011 Winery Lake Estate Pinot Noir at $49.  These were our sixth and seventh pours.  The Lone Tree is from the vineyard with the single Acacia tree, after which the winery is named.  It was more fruit driven than the earlier Pinots.  Soft aromas of black cherry and blackberry gave way to well balanced black cherry and blackberry on the palate, along with good tannins and some very pleasant toasted oak, baking spices and a hint of forest floor.  Finish was medium plus length and very appealing.  This was my favorite of the Pinots we tasted and my friend also really liked it.  The Winery Lake was also nice with some red as well as black fruit, some toasted oak and a medium length finish.  I think the Winery Lake, although very drinkable, is still somewhat young, but my friend seemed to like it as well as the Lone Tree and purchased both.  All five Pinots were more subtle and restrained than some California Pinots, with the first three being leaner and not as immediately seductive as the later two.  I had heard much praise for Acacia's St. Clair and Beckstoffer Pinot Noirs but these was not tasted.  Many thanks to Kristen Peck for arranging our lovely visit, tour and tasting.

Acacia Vineyard enclosed picnic area

Many visitors seem to think of Napa Valley wineries as being located from North Napa up to Calistoga and seem to overlook Carneros.  Local wine lovers know that on a hot summer day, Carneros is the place to be if you want to taste wines and keep cool.  It is also the place to visit if you love Pinot Noirs or Chardonnays.  Acacia Vineyard is one of our oldest and most classic Napa Valley Carneros wineries and should not be missed.

Acacia Vineyard
2750 Las Amigas Rd
Napa, CA 94559
(707)226-9991 or (877)226-1700, extension 2
Date of visit: January 16, 2014

Because of their license they are open to the public only by appointment, but they can sometimes accommodate last minute appointments so be sure to call them if you are in the area. 

"Hours: Standard Hours of Operations (please call regarding holiday schedules) Mondays through Saturdays 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sunday Hours 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m."

Benefits of Club Membership include a 20% discount on all regularly priced wines, availability of special limited selections, exclusive deals, access to library wines, complimentary tastings for up to three guests, invitations to special events, access to new vintages as soon as they are available and complimentary tastings at their sister properties of Beaulieu Vineyards, Provenance Vineyards, Rosenblum Cellars and Sterling Cellars.

Acacia Vineyard entrance

Acacia Vineyard view during drought
       Acacia Vineyard winery building

Acacia Vineyard poster

Acacia Vineyard tasting menu

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.