Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Porter Family Vineyards

Porter Family Vineyards is a very unique and beautiful winery that provides an amazing tasting experience. While visiting other wineries we kept hearing wonderful things about Porter Family Vineyards but had never been there.  It sounds trite but the phrase "hidden gem" is what immediately came to mind after our visit there.  In addition to a gorgeous setting and view, Porter Family has a lovely wine cave with an extraordinary tasting room, great hospitality, plus wines that are exemplary.  It is one of those rare places that while we were there we simply did not want to leave.  It was just so beautiful and relaxing!  And Tim Porter, the founder's son and one of the owners, was a great host, very down to earth and informative.  We wanted to spend the entire day there, especially after tasting their fantastic wines.

Porter Family Vineyards picnic table view

Porter Family Vineyards was founded by Tom and Beverly Porter.  Tom is originally from Michigan and studied electrical engineering at Michigan Tech.  After spending 27 years with IBM and other companies, Tom and his wife moved to Napa and, in 2005, founded Porter Family Vineyard.  They requested a "slight" alteration in the building permit, obtaining permission to add 17,000 square feet of wine caves, putting the entire winery, except for the crushing platform, underground.  This cave is 515 feet long, about 50 feet underground and has four fermentation bays, four blending tanks capable of 4500 gallons along with two storage bays.  Being an electrical engineer Tom developed one of the most technologically sophisticated wineries in the world with automatic computer controlled systems that even control the punch down machines, a deficit drip irrigation system, etc.  They also utilize sustainable farming methods which includes integrated pest management that utilizes bird perches, bird houses, nesting boxes and an insectary to encourage beneficial predatory insects. They also sponsor the Porter Family Foundation, started in 2003, focusing on donations to education, child well being, medical research, conservation and the humane treatment of animals.

Porter Family tasting room in wine cave

Their vineyard is 20 acres with only 14 planted acres.  The soil is a mixture of clay loam and volcanic soil and it is located about 600 feet above sea level in the Coombsville AVA of Napa Valley.  This area of the Coombsville AVA tends to be cooler in the summer and warmer in the fall and winter than other areas of Napa Valley.  They tend to have a longer hang time for the grapes and a harvest that is several weeks later than down in the Valley.  Only two to three tons of grapes are yielded from each acre. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon, they grow the other red Bordeaux varietals of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot plus Syrah.   Some additional Syrah and their Chardonnay fruit is sourced from nearby vineyards. Total production is about 2,000 cases per year but will increase by next year to 3,000, making Porter Family a very small production family winery, offering handcrafted wines of the highest quality.

Porter Family Vineyards wine cave

We were greeted by Tim Porter and a new staff member, Florencia, who walked with us through the vineyard to the wine cave.  The views along the way were spectacular and the wine tasting room in the cave was amazing.  We had a separate glass for each wine so could go back and forth between them.  Tim and Florencia were great hosts. The setting and entire experience was simply heavenly.  

Porter Family Vineyards view

Our tasting began with the Porter Family 2012 Chardonnay at $45.  This saw a year in French oak with 15% being new oak.  369 cases were produced.  This began with a fairly good nose of apples and lemon.  On the palate it was smooth, rich and buttery with apple, lemon, vanilla and some minerality.  Finish was medium length.  Although not a style I usually care for, it was well done.  If you like a rounder, buttery type Chard you might want to give this one a try. 

Porter Family Vineyards tasting table

The Porter Family 2011 Cave Dwellers Blend was the second pour and it retails at $55.  It is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Syrah and saw 22 months in French oak with 75% being new oak.  313 cases were produced.  My friend and I both really liked this blend which began with a good nose of black cherry and black currant.  On the palate it was full bodied with black cherry, black currant, black pepper, spices and earth notes, along with chewy tannins and good acid.  The finish was long and lingering.  Although great on its own, this should pair really well with many meat, cheese and poultry dishes.  It is also very drinkable now but has enough substance to cellar well.  We both found this wine to be very appealing and had to purchase some.  It was my second favorite wine of those we tasted.

Porter Family Vineyards front gate

Third up was the Porter Family 2010 Sandpiper Red at $49.  This is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot and was in French oak for 22 months with 75% of it being new French oak.  625 cases were produced.  I got a light nose of mostly cherry and plum.  On the palate I got lush cherry with some coffee and chocolate.  Tannins were well integrated and the finish was of medium length.  My friend liked this equally well as the Cave Dwellers Blend and purchased some, but I preferred the Cave Dweller.  The name "sandpiper" is in honor of the fossilized footprints of a sandpiper that were found on the property when the wine caves were being made.  The tiny tracks are about five million years old and a replica of the fossil may be seen on display in the wine cave.

Porter Family Vineyards view

Our fourth pour was the Porter Family 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon at $86.  I never read tasting notes prior to tasting a wine, but when I looked at what was next on the tasting list I noticed the words, "Dark and extracted."  My thoughts were that this was going to be some overripe, extracted, raisin type Cab that was one dimensional, and I would not like it.  But it was not.  I got a good nose of black cherry and blackberry with some cedar and a hint of mint. On the palate it was medium to full bodied with good acid and soft tannins.  I got mostly blackberry, black currant, cedar, cigarbox and mint on the palate, carrying over into the finish which was medium plus in length.  Although perfectly drinkable now, this Cab is one I'd recommend cellaring.  If you have not tried a Coombsville Cab before, this would be a good one to try.  It was my third favorite wine of those we tried.

Porter Family Vineyards whine cave photos

Our final pour was the stunning Porter Family 2008 Syrah at $54.  This saw 14 months in French oak with half of that new oak.  A mere 107 cases were produced.  This is an outstanding Syrah, one of  the finest American Syrah I've had in recent years.  It started out with a great aroma of blackberry, black pepper, and mocha.  On the palate it was lush, ripe and full bodied with more black pepper and exotic spices.  It was beautifully balanced with finely integrated tannins and a great finish.  So many Syrahs are overly fruit forward or fruit bombs, too jammy, too simple, and uninteresting.  This one is sophisticated, complex, interesting and brings out all the best in the Syrah varietal.  It is a fantastic Syrah and gets my highest recommendation!  Try it just to see how wonderful a really great Syrah can be.  Definitely my favorite of the wines we sampled.

Porter Family Vineyards view

Porter Family Vineyards has: 1. A beautiful wine cave.  2. A lovely tasting room.  3. Incredible views.  4. Great hospitality.  5. Outstanding wines.  Any one of these five items alone could warrant a visit.  Having all five of them at one place puts Porter Family Vineyards in the category of a winery that one absolutely must visit.  No wonder we kept hearing such wonderful things about them.  We are so glad we visited.  Much thanks to Tim and Florencia for hosting us at this remarkable winery.

Porter Family Vineyards view

Porter Family Vineyards
1189 Green Valley Rd
Napa, CA 94558
(707) 927-0765
Date of visit: May 27, 2014

Porter Family Vineyards is open by appointment only.  Call them or email them at this site:  Visiting
For tasting rooms that offer some Porter Family wines, check here: Tasting Rooms
Wines may be ordered directly from the winery here: Orders

Porter Family Vineyard grounds
Porter Family Vineyards office
Porter Family Vineyards crushing platform

Porter Family Vineyards view

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