Monday, August 26, 2013

Newton Vineyard, June 21, 2013

Winery - 7 / Wines - 7
Range:  1 to 9 (9 is best, 5 is average)
Spectacular views of mountain vineyards.  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay.

For the last few years my friend has been prodding me to fit Newton into one of our tasting trips.  This time the cards lined up to make this all possible.  Because of their mountain-top location, advanced reservations are required.  And plan your time carefully, as they do not accept parties 15 minutes after the appointment time.  Also, allow about 10 minutes to drive from the town of Saint Helena up the slow, winding road to the winery and tasting room.  Once there, be sure to take a moment to take in the higher elevation view of the Saint Helena and Rutherford valley floor down below.  There aren’t many places where you get the combination of altitude and proximity to view the valley as you do from Newton Vineyards, and the view is breath-taking.
The entrance to the Newton Vineyards tasting room
When you arrive at the Newton Vineyards tasting room, you are greeted as soon as you step out of your car.  Part of your visit involves taking in certain vistas, including the winemaker’s office with a control-tower vantage point over the vineyards.  The building has been dressed up by installing a redwood lattice wall the length of the building, with portals for light and visibility and a number of vines and shrubs taking advantage of the trellis work.  Once inside, you quickly learn how the location for the tasting room was chosen – large picture windows in each room frame the mountain-slope vineyards just a few hundred yards/meters away.  The ample light casts a warm, open feeling across the two tasting rooms.  A large double-door separates the two to create two isolated tasting environments.  One salon is set up like a living room, while the salon where I tasted was set up like a dining room.  The hardwood floors provide a richly textured base for the room, with matching window framing.  The walls and ceiling are painted a shade of linen, with one red accent wall to wake you up.  This red color is brought into the room as color accents on furnishings and d├ęcor.  A sturdy trestle table with black leather-upholstered chairs occupies the center of the room, with tasters on one side treated to magnificent views out the picture window.  There is also a fascinating sculpture fashioned from wood planks into a graceful arc that doubles as a display for the recent vintage of wines.
Inside the tasting salon at Newton Vineyards
The tasting is performed as an intimate lecture, with some interactions for questions and comments.  I find this style of presentation is great for a first visit, but on subsequent visits it becomes a little annoying and actually discourages me from making plans to return.  Still, the point of the visit is to taste the wines, and the wines have to compete with the spectacular views for attention.  The good news is that the wines accomplished just that.  We started with the 2010 Knights Valley Chardonnay, followed by the (spectacular) 2010 Merlot, the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, and ended with a high-end Bordeaux-style blend, the 2009 The Puzzle.  While The Puzzle was my favorite, when you factor in the price, the Merlot was the real winner in the lineup.
Functional wooden sculpture at Newton Vineyards tasting room
Based on this experience, I would rate the winery as a 7 and the wines offered as a 7.

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