Monday, July 15, 2013

Ehler's Estate, May 14, 2013

Winery - 7 / Wines - 6
Range:  1 to 9 (9 is best, 5 is average)
Authentic old stone building, paintings from local artists.  Cabernet, Cab Franc, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc, reservations requested.
www.ehlersestate.com

This trip exposed me to two treasures of stone-based architecture and construction.  Having just visited the newly renovated stone building occupied by Ma(i)sonry in Yountville, I now visit the historically preserved stone building at Ehler’s Estate in Saint Helena.  While there are a number of similarities between the two buildings, the big differences are that the Ehler’s Estate building started off its life as part of a vineyard operation, and that the modifications made over the decades to accommodate the structural dynamics of the building are more evident here – I noticed reworked beams supporting the walls and ceilings, whereas the Ma(i)sonry building preserved only the stone walls and original roof.  I first learned of Ehler’s Estate while shopping half-bottles at Whole Foods and found their 2004 vintage on the shelf.  I decided I would buy a bottle and later headed up to the winery for a tasting.  By now six years have since lapsed, so I decided to return.  I had forgotten how enchanting the old stonework can be when you first walk into the tasting room.  Much to my surprise, they now require a tasting appointment, so you should call ahead.  (They can often accommodate an appointment on short notice mid-week.)
The beautifully restored Ehler's Estate stone winery  building
Although the exterior of the tasting room building is quite simple in its stone architecture and ideal symmetry, the quality and elegance of its construction resound.  Inside, the same stones form the basis for your viewing experience as the walls are otherwise unfinished.  This is not to say that all you have to look at is four stone walls … the walls are adorned with wine-themed paintings by a talented local artist.  The large tasting room is divided into several tasting areas (think dining-room-table or sofa-loveseat-coffee-table, repeated), each providing a more intimate tasting experience.  As I was alone, I opted to taste at the tasting bar that runs the length of one wall.  A simple, finished concrete floor, like that of Ma(i)sonry, quietly complements the bold stonework on the walls.  Tall, sturdy, redwood timbers throughput the main floor provide structural support for the second floor.  The exposed wood of these supports blends nicely with the d├ęcor, serving to offset each tasting setting.  With less window space, the tasting room at Ehler’s has a dimmer, more romantic light casting across the room.
Inside the tasting room at Ehler's Estate winery
My flight began with the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.  If you like Sauvignon Blanc, then 2012 is your vintage.  All of the 2012 Sauvignon Blancs that I have tasted have had superior quality to other recent vintages.  Next I was served the 2010 Merlot.  They also poured two Cabernet Sauvignons.  The first (a 2010) is named in consideration of the health benefits associated with red wines: One Twenty over Eighty (the normal human blood pressure).  The second (a 2009) is named for the year that the original winery operation was established, namely 1886.  This second wine was my favorite of the flight for its weight and balance.

Based on this experience, I would rate the winery as a 7 and the wines offered as a 6.  This has been consistent as long as I have been visiting Ehler’s Estate.


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