Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Summers Estate Wines Revisited

Summers Estate Wines,  just off Highway 128 a few miles north of the town of Calistoga, is a delightful, friendly, unpretentious family winery that we visit often and highly recommend! They have some very reasonably priced premium wines and, as of this date, you may taste five of them for only $15. They are also in the Napa Neighbor Program, and you should inquire about tasting fee waivers with minimum purchases.  They are open to the public without an appointment but special tastings and tours may be arranged by appointment.

Summers Estate Wines entry sign
Summers Estate Wines tasting building

Some wine lovers seem to attend less to those wineries north of Calistoga, but this is a mistake.  Calistoga wineries offer some wonderful wines, often at comparatively reasonable prices at small wineries that are often not as crowded as many Napa Valley wineries.  They are noted more for their Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and other red wines that do well with more heat, but some of these wineries source Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and other varietals from Carneros and cooler districts of Napa Valley or from Sonoma Valley.  Summers Estate Wines is one of our favorite wineries in Calistoga and well worth a visit.  In fact, on warmer days (usually May-October) it would make good sense to start tasting in Calistoga and work your way down Napa Valley so that you end up in Carneros toward the end of the day when the temperatures rise.

Summers Estate Wines vineyard

The story Summers Estate Wines began in 1987 when Jim and Beth Summers purchased 28 acres of vineyard in Knights Valley which is located 8.6 miles northwest of Calistoga, slightly into Sonoma County. They initially sold all of their grapes to other wineries until a larger than usual production in 1993 allowed them to produce their first Summers Ranch Merlot. In 1996 they expanded by purchasing San Pietra Vara, a winery and tasting room north of Calistoga near Highway 128 and Tubbs Lane, thus adding 25 acres.  This Napa Valley vineyard is called Villa Andriana Vineyard, named after Jim's daughter, with the property itself named Summers Estate Wines.  22 acres of Zinfandel, Charbono and Cabernet Sauvignon are grown there, with the Zin vines being over forty years old.  In addition to the winery and tasting room, they have a bocce ball court, picnic area and entertainment center.  Their vineyard manager and winemaker over the past 18 years has been Ignacio Blancas who also replanted most of their vineyards.

Summers Estate Wines tasting bar

Our last review of Summers was March 4, 2011.  Of course we have visited them since then.  During that visit we loved the Summers 2007 Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon at $70. Some of this wonderful Cab is still available at the winery.  We were also very fond of the Summers 2008 Charbono and the Summers 2008 Zinfandel.  I noted that the wines were very reasonably priced for Napa Valley premium wines.

Summers Estate Wines fireplace

During our visit this time we were able to watch in the distance the "Old Faithful Geyser of California" spouting off, with the Summer's vineyards and mustard in the foreground.  Calistoga wineries tend to be more rural and unpretentious, reminiscent of Napa Valley thirty or forty years ago, and Summers epitomizes such wineries.  We always enjoy our visits and owe our thanks this time to Melissa who was our friendly, helpful, down to earth, and informative host.

Summers Estate Wines tasting table

The first tasting was the Summers Estate 2012 Stuhlmuller Reserve Chardonnay at $32.  This was awarded 92 points by the reputable Steve Heimoff of Wine Enthusiast.  The grapes were grown at the famous Stuhlmuller Vineyards in Alexander Valley near Russian River in Sonoma Valley.  It is 100% Chardonnay and was aged for eight months in French oak, with 40% of this new oak.  It received about 30% malolactic conversion.  690 cases were produced.  It had an excellent aroma of apple, pear and lemon with mineral notes.  On the palate it was smooth and well balanced with apple, pear and tropical fruits.  It was somewhat soft and buttery, but not excessively so by any means.  Finish was medium length and soft with some lingering pineapple and lemon cream.  If you find some Chards too rich and buttery and others a bit too acidic and austere, this one might be exactly what you are looking for. You can drink this by itself or pair it with lobster, scallops, cream sauces, soft cheeses or any number of dishes. A very good Chardonnay at an excellent price!

Summers Estate vineyard view

The second pour was their well known Charbono, the Summers Estate 2011 Villa Andriana Vineyard Charbono at $32. Charbono is a full bodied Italian red varietal that is uncommon in Napa Valley.  (Only 80 acres of it are planted in all of California.)  This one is 100% Charbono and was aged for 18 months in half American oak and half French oak with 50% being new oak.  1,500 cases were produced.  It was a lovely light purple in color with a good, pleasantly aroma of fresh cherries and toasted oak.  On the palate I got blackberry and cherry with firm tannins, bright acid and a medium length finish.  It is perfectly drinkable now but should continue to improve with age.  We always like their Charbono, and it sells out quickly so we always purchase some when it is in stock.

Summers Estate Wines patio

Next was the Summers Estate 2010 Knights Valley Reserve Merlot at $34.  This is 88% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Syrah and was aged for twenty months in French oak with 50% new oak.  800 cases were produced.  After a good aroma of cherry and raspberry I got cherry, plum, cranberry and spices with good structure and a long finish.  It was nicely balanced with a rich texture, firm tannins and a layered and interesting presentation.  Very nice.

Summers Estate Wines tasting room

The fourth pour was the Summers Estate 2010 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at $38.  This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and was aged for 19 months in French oak, 60% of this being new oak.  2,000 cases were produced.  A lovely garnet in color, it began with a good aroma of raspberries and cracked pepper.  On the palate I got mostly black cherry and blackberry with very interesting baking spices and black pepper, with a full mouthfeel and a medium length finish.  Very nice, especially at this price point.

Summers Estate Wines vineyard

Our favorite, though, was next, the Summers Estate 2010 Calistoga Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon at $59.  Steve Heimoff of Wine Enthusiast gave this 92 points.  This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and was aged 22 months in French oak with 60% of this new oak  500 cases were produced. It was deep ruby to purple in color and had a good nose of blackberries, black currant and toasted oak.  On the palate it was very full bodied with bold but balanced tannins, blackberry, black currant, mocha and toasted oak.  Finish was medium length.  A Napa Valley Cabernet of this quality usually sells for more.  This Cab should age very nicely and become even more interesting over the years.  Exceptionally nice and highly recommended!

Summers Estate outdoor patio

We did not try the Summer's Zinfandel this time but have always liked theirs.  I later noticed they had a Summers Estate 2007 Checkmate Bordeaux Style Blend that was awarded 94 points by the Wine Enthusiast.  I have not tasted this but imagine it is exceptional.  I can strongly recommend the above 2010 Reserve Cab and their 2007 Diamond Mountain Cab, the later still available at $70 and outstanding.  And of course you must try the Charbono.  A very pleasant surprise this time was their 2012 Stuhlmuller Reserve Chardonnay which should not be overlooked.  We highly recommend that you visit Summers Estate Winery. Be sure to also check out their wine club for some excellent premium wine bargains.
Summers Estate vineyard

1171 Tubbs Ln
Calistoga, CA 94515
(707) 942-5508
Date of revisit:  March 4, 2014
Date of last review: November 23, 2011 Previous review

Current information regarding visits and fees:  Current visiting information

Summers Estate bocce ball court
Summers Estate Wines wine labels
Summers Estate Wines entrance to bocce ball court
Summers Estate courtyard
Summers Estate Wines art work

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