Thursday, May 22, 2014

Saintsbury Winery

We really loved our visit to Saintsbury Winery! Saintsbury is a small, intimate and friendly winery with some great wines, especially their Pinot Noirs. Our wonderfully relaxed tasting experience was among the most enjoyable we have experienced.  When we first arrived we were warmly and graciously welcomed by their Hospitality Manager, Georgia, who showed us where our tasting table would be out on their lovely garden patio.  She also introduced us to our host, Emily, who was amazing--very friendly and informative, providing us with exactly the background information we needed as we enjoyed each pour while cheerfully answering any questions we had.  All three of us kept commenting on the lovely outdoor patio garden setting and the perfect presentation and timing of exceptional wines.  This was hospitality at its finest!

Saintsbury Winery garden patio tasting

Saintsbury is a small winery in the Carneros AVA of Napa Valley that is justly famous for their great Pinot Noirs.  The winery is named after George Saintsbury, an English professor who wrote the book Notes on a Cellar.  Saintsbury Winery was founded in 1981 by Richard Ward and David Graves who had met in 1977 during their graduate studies in enology at UC Davis.  After working at several different wineries, they decided to produce their own wine and focused initially on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Their first wines were produced using space at Pine Ridge Winery.  In 1983 their winery facility was built, and in 1986 their first estate vineyard of 13 acres was planted.  In 1992 their third estate vineyard, the famous Brown Ranch Vineyard, was planted with 23 acres of Pinot Noir and 8 acres of Chardonnay.  In addition to growing their own estate grapes, Saintsbury sources grapes from other vineyards, mostly in Carneros. Total production for the winery is about 30,000 cases per year.  The current winemaker is Chris Kajani.

Saintsbury Winery building

Saintsbury has received many accolades and awards.  In 1993 Robert Parker referred to their 1990 Reserve Pinot Noir as, "unquestionably one of the finest Pinot Noirs I have tasted from California."  In 1997 Wine Spectator declared their 1995 Reserve Chardonnay the winner from the top California Chardonnay and white French Burgundy wines they tasted.  In 2003 the Wall Street Journal called Saintsbury, America's "most consistent producer of Pinot Noir."  In 2004 their Pinot Noir was named the "Most Popular Pinot Noir in Wine & Spirits Magazine's Annual Restaurant Poll." If you like Pinot Noirs you really must visit Saintsbury, but don't overlook their excellent white wines. 

Saintsbury Winery building and garden patio

We always appreciate wineries that are environmentally responsible, and Saintsbury was one of the first wineries to obtain the Napa Green Farm certification.  They believe in sustainable farming which includes composting, organic fertilizers, cover cropping, native plant insectaries, bird boxes, recycling and integrated pest management. Plus they have nearly 7,000 square feet of solar panels.

Saintsbury Winery garden patio

Our first pour was the Saintsbury 2013 Anderson Valley Pinot Gris at $28.  Pinot Gris is the French name for Pinot Grigio.  In Italy it is always known as Pinot Grigio, but it goes by either name in the U.S. Usually the Italian style is lighter than the richer French style, but both tend to be crisp, refreshing and citrus like, often with slightly lower alcohol content. According to the Napa Valley Vintners Association, there are about 25 wineries in Napa Valley that produce this varietal.  This wine, which had a very lovely label, is available exclusively at the winery and is the first year of release for Saintsbury.  The grapes were sourced from Donnelly Creek Vineyard in Sonoma Valley near Boonville. It started with a very good, aromatic nose of lemon with some melon and floral overtones. On the palate it was light, lively, crisp and refreshing with great balance and mostly lemon with some tropical fruits.  It would be the perfect wine to enjoy by the poolside on a hot day.

Saintsbury Winery garden

Next up was the Saintsbury 2012 Sangiacomo Chardonnay Dijon 809 at $41.  This started with a good aroma of lemon and green apple.  On the palate I got good crispness with pleasantly rounded edges, good balance and not too much butter. It was mostly lemon and Granny Smith apple with some vanilla, the vanilla being even more pronounced on the finish which was medium plus in length.  Quite nice.

Saintsbury Winery building

Our third pour was the Saintsbury 2013 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir at $20.  I must confess that I usually do not like American rose or blush wines.  Most are simply too sweet and unbalanced.  The drier versions often are insipid and nondescript.  There are some very good and interesting French roses, but I rarely purchase these.  The only Napa Valley rose type wine I liked previously was the lovely Cuvaison Vin Gris of Pinot Noir.  I found this Saintsbury to also be very enjoyable as did my two friends.  In addition to the lovely color, this one had a good nose of strawberry with floral notes.  On the palate it was crisp and refreshing with good acid and nice fruit, mostly strawberry.  This is a much better balanced and far more interesting rose than you will typically encounter.  It even had a decent finish with strawberry and some pepper.  One of my friends, who hates roses with a passion, commented, "Now. I really like this rose."  It is a delightful wine that can be enjoyed anytime but especially while sitting outside on warm summer days.  We enthusiastically recommend it! 

Saintsbury Winery indoor tasting table

Fourth up was the Saintsbury 2010 Lee Vineyard Pinot Noir at $54.  It had a very good nose of red berries with some spice.  On the palate I got a lush presentation of strawberry with some red cherry along with good acid and some spiciness.  Finish was medium length with strawberry and a touch of pepper.  A very pleasant Pinot that is ready to drink now.

Saintsbury Winery building entrance

The Saintsbury 2010 Toyon Farm Pinot Noir at $54 followed.  This had a wonderfully intense aroma of mostly red cherry with hints of strawberry.  It was medium bodied for a Pinot Noir with mostly red cherry, good tannins and some very pleasant earthiness.  On mid palate I got some distinct and very pleasant crimini mushroom that carried over into the finish.  The finish itself was medium plus to long in length.  This Pinot is very drinkable now, and one of my friends even preferred it slightly to the wonderful Brown Ranch Pinot Noir that we tasted next.

Saintsbury Winery inside building

The Saintsbury 2010 Brown Ranch Pinot Noir at $72 was the final tasting and was my favorite of the day.  This release saw ten months on French oak with 30% of this new oak. 683 cases were produced. It began with an amazing aroma of ripe red cherry with hints of brown sugar and mushroom.  On the palate I got deep, dark, red, ripe fruits, mostly cherry with some strawberry. It was very smooth, lush and fairly full bodied (for a Pinot Noir), but there was still a delicacy and complexity to this Pinot with underlying hints of cedar, thyme, coffee and sweet tobacco leaves.  It had good structure and substance while not being too fruit forward or overly ripe. This Pinot should age beautifully but is very drinkable now.  It is one of the finest Carneros Pinots I've ever tasted.  A wonderful Pinot Noir. If you love great red French Burgundies or top Russian River Pinot Noirs and have yet to warm up to Carneros Pinots, give this one a try.  Very highly recommended!!!

Saintsbury Winery painting

If you are fond of Pinot Noirs, you will certainly want to visit Saintsbury but don't forget their Chardonnay and lovely Pinot Gris.  The outdoor garden patio setting is very relaxing and beautiful and the hospitality is fantastic.  We hope you enjoy your visit there as much as we did ours.  Much thanks to Georgia and Emily.

Saintsbury Winery patio

1500 Los Carneros Ave
Napa, CA 94559
Phone number (707) 252-0592
Date of visit: May 22, 2014

Saintsbury is open by appointment.  Please call them or visit their web page for an appointment or additional information: Visiting Saintsbury

Saintsbury Winery painting

No comments:

Post a Comment

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