In this video interview, I talk with Ehler’s Estate winemaker Laura Diaz. We discuss her career, her viticultural and winemaking practices, and taste through some of Ehler’s newest releases. Laura provides insight into what makes this piece of Napa Valley so special in terms of terroir, history, and the loving family behind the wine brand.
If you have follow up questions for Laura, please leave them in the comments below and we’ll get answers for you in a follow up article.
For more information about Ehlers Estate, their wines, and to purchase wine directly or make an appointment for an in-person or virtual tasting, please visit the Ehlers Estate website.
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Educational posts are in no way intended as official WSET study materials. I am not an official WSET educator nor do I work for a WSET Approved Program Provider. Study at your own risk. Read the full disclaimer.
**Please note: all reviews and opinions are my own and are not associated with any of my places of business. I will always state when a wine has been sent as a sample for review. Sending samples for review on my personal website in no way guarantees coverage in any other media outlet I may be currently associated with.**
Here’s my weekly roundup of wine and food—and this week travel—news. Though not all articles included are about the pandemic, I have to admit that, regardless of what’s on this list, the biggest news going into this weekend is certainly how the COVID pandemic continues to affect our lives.
This week is Thanksgiving in the US. I implore you, whatever you decide to do—be safe, take care of yourself, take care of your families and friends, take care of your fellow humans.
Here comes the fun part of every regional focus—the tasting. As always, make sure to read through the Rhone Valley Overview, Northern Rhone, and Southern Rhone articles before jumping in here. It’ll help put all the tasting and technical notes into perspective.
Larger and more spread out than the Northern Rhone, there’s no denying that we’re going to cover a good bit of detail here. With its varied terroir, the Southern Rhone comes with a larger variety of grapes grown and wine produced—good news if you want a diversified tasting experience. Indeed, most wines here are blends—red, white, and rosé, though red undeniably dominates. And, as The Oxford Companion to Wine (Fourth Edition) notes, though some winemakers do experiment with Syrah (the dominant grape of the Northern Rhone), here in the south, it’s far too warm for the grape to “ripen gracefully.” Thus, it is Grenache—at over double the planting—that is the Southern Rhone‘s most planted red wine grape.
Welcome to the Northern Rhone. If you’ve not yet read through the Rhone Overview, please do so as there are quite a few key terms—not to mention grape varieties—you’ll want to learn before moving forward.
Here we’re diving into the Northern Rhone. Located further inland and away from the influence of the Mediterranean, it has an overall continental climate. Winters are cold, summers are warm, and rain falls predominantly in the autumn and winter months.
It’s noted that the Mistral wind, which flows throughout the Rhone Valley, both north and south, is a bit more fierce in these parts due to the fact that the valley is quite narrow and sandwiched between steep slopes, acting like a funnel for the cold wind current. The good news is that this decreases fungal disease pressure as well as reduces vine vigor and, thus, yields, resulting in the highly concentrated red wines for which the Northern Rhone is most famous. The bad news is that the Northern Rhone‘s claim-to-fame grape, Syrah, is quite susceptible to wind, so you’ll find most of these vines tied to poles for extra protection.
INTERESTING GEOGRAPHICAL NOTE: the distance between the most northern and most southern vineyards of the Northern Rhone is about 40 miles, which means there is a bit better ripening in the warmer, southern regions.
Of course, just like almost anywhere else, the best vineyards are those located on the steep, here often terraced, slopes overlooking the Rhone River. The altitude and aspect increase sunlight exposure, influence (like light reflection and heat retention) from the river water and better drainage. But this also means that most vineyards are worked by hand—a contributing factor to the overall pricey prices of the wines produced. “Their produce is aimed in the main at the fine wine connoisseur rather than at the mass market.” (The Oxford Companion to Wine [4th Edition])