Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ladera Vineyards, November 25, 2013

Winery - 5 / Wines - 7
Range:  1 to 9 (9 is best, 5 is average)
Historic mountain-top stone winery building.  Cabernets and Sauvignon Blanc.

It had been a long while since my last trek up Howell Mountain (about four years) so I decided it was time to return.  I decided to visit two wineries on the mountain to make the drive up worthwhile.  I started out at Ladera Vineyards to take in the beauty of their historic stone winery operations building.  First completed in the 1880’s, a lot of thought went into its design.  (For example, each floor has direct access to the outdoors and much of the wine flow is drawn by gravity.)  The estate is set back away from White Cottage Road (which is a couple of miles off the main road up Howell Mountain), giving the winery a very peaceful feeling, ideal for enjoying a tasting flight in the warmth of the outdoor sun.  As a navigation note, the main road up Howell Mountain is Deer Park Road.  Unless you are visiting a winery actually located on Howell Mountain Road, you should avoid this longer, twisty route up the mountain.
The historic winery building at Ladera Vineyards
When you visit Ladera Vineyards in pleasant weather (such as today), you will be served your wine flight outdoors at one of their patio tables.  From your table you look across a pasture and out to the rolling hillsides planted mostly with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.  Inside the old stone building the air is a bit cool to enjoy your flight comfortably and there is no place to sit.  When it is raining, you will be served indoors.  The stone building was restored around 2000, and the contrast between the 130 year old stone and the gleaming new fermentation tanks is remarkable.  Adding to this contrast are the stainless steel grates used for each of the upper floors of the winery building, allowing more light from above to reach the bottom floor.  Because you are able to see through the floors, you get a better sense of the sheer size of the winemaking infrastructure, more so than at most other operations in the valley.
The contrast of modern fermenting tanks against the old stone walls at Ladera Vineyards
I had come to Ladera Vineyards to enjoy their Cabernets.  But, our tasting flight started off with the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc which impressed me so that I ended up buying a bottle.  Next I was poured the 2011 Pillow Road Pinot Noir (from the Russian River) which could not hold a candle to the Sauvignon Blanc.  The tasting wrapped up with three 2010 Cabernet Sauvignons: the Stile Block, the High Plateau, and the Howell Mountain Reserve.  Of the Cabernets, the Howell Mountain Reserve was my favorite, but I enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc most of all.  This wine shows just how consistently good the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc wines have turned out in Napa Valley.

Based on this experience, I would rate the winery as a 5 and the wines offered as a 7.  This is consistent with my previous visit.

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