Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Priest Ranch Wines

Located on the main street in downtown Yountville, Priest Ranch Wines is well worth a visit. Priest Ranch wines are made by Somerston Wine Company who also make Highflyer and Somerston wines.  We last reviewed Somerston Wine Company in November of 2011 when we visited their tasting room in downtown Yountville.  Several weeks ago we received an email informing us that: "We have renamed our tasting room, and are focusing our efforts in Yountville on building the Priest Ranch brand...We now exclusively feature Priest Ranch wines in our tasting room, which are sourced from the Somerston Estate." Because of this change and the length of time since our last visit, we decided to drop in on them.  Much thanks to our excellent host, Eric, who was very friendly and extremely knowledgable.

Priest Ranch Wines building

Priest Ranch (Soda Valley), located up on the eastern mountainside of Napa Valley, was originally part of the 8,500 acre Ranch Catacula that was granted by the Mexican government in 1844. The estate was settled in 1849 by Joshua James Priest and his wife Sarah whose family retained the property for over a century until it was sold in 1963.  In 2006 the 638 acre ranch became part of Somerston Estate along with the contiguous 990 acre Elder Valley Ranch (Lynch Vineyards).  Some of the fruit from Priest Ranch is also sourced to other premium Napa Valley wineries.

Priest Ranch Wines tasting room

The tasting room located on the south end of Washington Street in Yountville, has street parking and a small parking lot in the back. They offer two regular tasting options, priced at $25 and $30 and waive a tasting fee with a six bottle purchase.  An Artisanal Cheese Plate and Chocolate Plate are also available each for $15 and a private wine tasting may be arranged for $45.  Although Highflyer and Somerston wines are still available for purchase, only tastings of Priest Ranch wines are now offered at the Yountville tasting room. They are open without an appointment seven days a week from 11 AM to 7 PM. For current information on prices and visiting hours please see their tasting room webpage at Priest Ranch Wines
Priest Ranch Wines tasting room area

Our tasting began with the Priest Ranch 2012 Grenache Blanc at $22.  90% of it was aged in stainless steel and 10% in neutral French oak, and 934 cases were produced. This is a white grape varietal that is different than the red wine grape "Grenache" which originated in Spain. Grenache Blanc is thought to be a mutation from the Grenache grape and is found mostly in the French Rhone Valley and northeastern Spain.  In France it is often blended with Roussanne.  In California Grenache Blanc is grown mostly between Santa Barbara and Paso Robles.  I know of no other winery in Napa Valley that grows or produces it.  Priest Ranch makes one of the finest Grenache Blancs in California.  On the nose I got mostly white peach and melon aromas.  On the palate it was round, soft, smooth, very easy to drink, not at all flabby, with mostly white peach and some pear.  Finish was medium length. I would not call the acid "bright" but it had enough to be well balanced.  It was very pleasant and different tasting than most other white wines so you should certainly try it. Quite likeable.

Priest Ranch Wines tasting table

Our second pour was the Priest Ranch 2012 Sauvignon Blanc at $26.  70% of it was aged in stainless steel and 30% in neutral French oak with 1016 cases produced.  It started out with a good nose of tropical fruits.  On the palate it was very round and smooth with more tropical fruit.  I did not get the lively acid or crisp refreshingness that I look for in a Sauvignon Blanc. It was our least favorite of the wines we tasted, but if you like a rounder, fruit forward type of Sauvignon Blanc with less acid, then you might enjoy this one.

Priest Ranch Wines entrance

Next up was the Priest Ranch 2011 Zinfandel at $40.  I got aromas of raspberry and red cherry.  On the palate it was lighter bodied than many Zins but certainly not thin.  It was nicely balanced with well integrated tannins and smooth with some spiciness.  Fruit wise I got more cherry and some raspberry.  Finish was medium length and very pleasant. If you like a Zin that has more finesse than some Zins, with great balance and fine tannins, one that does not need to be pared with food to be enjoyed, you should really like this Zin.  It is certainly not rustic or high octane.  A very pleasant, easy to drink Zin that most people should like, even those who usually prefer white wines. 

Priest Ranch Wines tasting area

The Priest Ranch 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at $48 was our next pour.  It was aged for 22 months in French oak with 35% of it in new oak.  2,462 cases were produced.  We were informed that it is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petite Verdot. I got a good nose of mostly black cherry and black currant with hints of mocha.  On the palate it was full bodied with good, well integrated tannins and more black cherry with blackberry and some chocolate.  Finish was medium plus in length.  Be sure to give it some air after opening it. It should cellar nicely.  We both liked this Cab and thought it was a good Cab for the price.

Priest Ranch Wines tasting table

The fifth pour was the Priest Ranch 2010 Petite Sirah at $40.  We both thought this was an exceptionally good Petite Sirah.  My friend bought several bottles of it.  It was very dark in color with aromas of dark cherry with hints of pepper and spices.  On the palate it was full bodied, very well balanced, with integrated tannins and sumptuous black cherry and blackberry along with some pepper.  I love Petite Sirahs and often attend the annual Petite Sirah tasting festival (called PS I Love You.)  This 2010 Priest Ranch Petite Sirah is a real standout!

Priest Ranch Wines patio

Our sixth pour was the Priest Ranch 2008 Coachgun at $75. This is a blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot and 10% Petite Verdot.  Half of it was aged in new French oak and the other half in once used French oak.  Only 200 cases were produced.  It had a nice aroma of black cherry and black currant with hints of cigar box and some floral notes.  On the palate it was full bodied, well balanced, smooth and decadent with great mouth feel.  Although lush and ripe, it was also layered and complex. Tannins were flexible and very well integrated.  Finish was medium plus in length and quite pleasant.  Very approachable now, this Bordeaux blend should cellar extremely well.  It is definitely worth the $75 and was our favorite of the wines we tasted.  Very highly recommended!

Priest Ranch Wines back patio

Our final tasting was the Priest Ranch 2010 Brut Rose at $38.  This is made from Syrah grapes and was barrel aged in stainless steel and neutral French oak for 12 months and saw no malolactic conversion.  Only 300 cases were produced.  This was crisp and refreshing with layers of strawberry and raspberries. Acidity was well balanced and bubbles were tight. Well worth the asking price. Very nice.

Priest Ranch Wines
Lady Banks Rose

Priest Ranch is well worth visiting.  It is open to the public without an appointment.  There is usually plenty of easy access parking.  They have a very interesting and unusual white wine, their Grenache Blanc, plus some very good reds, including an excellent Petite Sirah and an exceptionally good Cabernet Sauvignon blend.  Prices are very reasonable and even better if you join their wine club.

Priest Ranch Wines

Priest Ranch Wines
6488 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
(707) 967-8414
Date of this visit: April 16, 2014
Date previous visit and review: November 16, 2011

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