St. Helena offers an embarrassment of riches when it comes to food and wine. It is home to the famed Culinary Institute of America – the professional birthplace of dozens of talented chefs who went on to culinary fame and fortune. It is the appellation equivalent of Miss Universe pageant, with beauties everywhere you look. Appellation St. Helena is a thriving viticultural community that reaches from the heart of the valley floor to a 400 foot elevation. It boasts an extensive diversity of geographic and climatic conditions and is planted with a wide variety of grapes. It’s fifty plus vintner members redefined the standards of excellence once set by Charles Krug.
Here are an exemplary ten.
Jim Barbour, legendary vineyard manager to many of Napa’s premier wineries, produces his own wine as well. The grapes for his estate wine are sourced from a low-yielding, dry farmed vineyard, planted with bud wood from the Grace Family Vineyard. Celia Welch (whose clients include Scarecrow, Keever, Kelly Fleming, Lindstrom, etc.) is the winemaker. She crafts wines are that distinct, elegant, and plain stunning.
A cult since its inception, Bryant Family wine is as exclusive as it is extraordinary. Don Bryant’s vision of greatness involved such notable wine personalities as Michael Rolland, David Abreu, and his one-time winemaker, Helen Turley. A slew of famous winemakers followed; this elusive, mailing-list-only brand remains huge among the cognoscenti.
Founder Don Long had hoped to create family legacy when he acquired 1000 acres on then little known, Pritchard Hill. In the 1970s, his son, David Arthur Long, began planting vines on the property. Twenty-five years of stellar winemaking at one of Napa Valley’s premier sites has earned the David Arthur brand national acclaim and extensive critical praise.
Don Stephens, attorney and private equity guru, acquired a stunning hillside estate in 1996 and planted it predominantly with Cabernet. Winemaker Michael Hirby who joined DR Stephens in 2010 crafts delicious wines of character and authenticity. The offerings, which are highly allocated, are featured in a limited number of top restaurants. Their elusive Chardonnay, most of which is rumored to have disappeared into Don’s private cellar, is a must try
Back in 1974, a construction company owner with a love of Burgundy, Joe Phelps, built a winery which became synonymous with all things great about Napa Valley. Now a forty year old phenomena, the flagship Insignia blend is widely regarded as one of the wine world’s greatest achievements. If there was a Napa Wine Hall of Fame, Joe and his legacy would surely occupy a prominent spot alongside Robert Mondavi, Joe Heitz, and André Tchelistcheff.
One of Napa’s most sought-after consulting winemakers, Philippe Melka also produces his own wine. His highly regarded wines earn stellar reviews every vintage, regardless of what nature delivers. Sourced from a variety of sites within Napa Valley, his Metisse, Mekerra, Majestique, and CJ blends represent Philippe’s vision of what the diverse vineyards of Napa Valley can deliver.
Named after the ancient Roman poet who wrote about transformation and transcendence, Ovid Estate wines are a perfect blend of ancient technique and modern technology. Planted with classic Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, the estate wines are made by Austin Peterson, along with the consulting winemaker Andy Ericsson. Their ever changing red blends tell a powerful tale of integrity and finesse. They offer a wide spectrum of aromas; a kaleidoscope of flavors and sensations.
The parcel of land lying above the fog zone on majestic Spring Mountain, now known as Vineyard 7 & 8, was acquired in 1999 by the Steffens family. It was planted by the industry veterans David Abreu and Rick Forman predominantly with Cabernet with some Chardonnay. Martha McLellan and Wesley Steffens collaborate to make wines of purity and distinction. Mind-boggling attention to detail, micro fermentations, rigorous yield control, and hand sorting contribute to the magic made in the cellar. Wine
Located on Napa’s famed Hwy 29, Vineyard 29’s story begins in 1989 when Tom Paine and Teresa Norton came to Napa Valley to retire and instead found themselves in the middle of planting and tending a vineyard. The brand was acquired in 2000 by Chuck and Anne McMinn. The McMinns built a state-of-the-art gravity flow winery and caves filled with the finest equipment and hired Philippe Melka to make the wine. Minimal intervention, labor intensive techniques, and the latest modern technology ensures wines of maximum integrity and intense varietal character.
Spottswoode was established by Mrs. Albert Spotts in 1910 and acquired by Mary and Jack Novak in 1972. Spottswoode’s first Cabernet Sauvignon was released in 1982. Today the historic vineyard is known for its Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, wines of impeccable balance, refinement, and integrity. Winemaker Aron Weinkauf is in charge of the estate’s meticulously farmed twenty four blocks. He remains faithful to the Novak’s pursuit of perfection in every vintage.Wine