Oh Stony Hill — another winery to cross off my bucket list! The original Stony Hill Vineyard, located in Napa’s Spring Mountain AVA, was purchased by Fred and Eleanor McCrea back in the early 1940s. The first vines were planted in 1948 and by 1954 the couple already had a reputation for crafting fine Napa wines. When Fred passed in the late 1970s, assistant winemaker Mike Chelini took the winemaking reigns, and he’s held on tight to those ropes for over 40 years now. The bulk of the business remains in the family, with Fred and Eleanor’s son and daughter-in-law, Peter and Willinda, running the day-to-day operations and with their daughter, Sarah, taking over as president as of 2011.
According to the winery, Fred and Eleanor loved the white wines of Burgundy and would have loved to have planted their entire vineyard to Chardonnay. Well, they didn’t plant the whole vineyard to Chardonnay. But I can say that Fred and Eleanor would be proud that their family does great honor to the fruit that founding couple held in such high esteem.
I’m always curious when wineries who’s main focus are heartier red wines produce a white varietal. Ladera, who’s primarily known for their Cabernet Sauvignon, recently purchased acreage in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley — known for top quality Pinot Noir and — yes — Chardonnay. Sourcing fruit from the right region is one thing, knowing how to do that produce justice is another. And Ladera does, indeed, do the Chardonnay grape proud…
This is another story about an iconic winery that I’ve always wanted to taste and finally have. Ladera Vineyards is the passion project of Pat and Anne Stotesbery who purchased their first Napa acreage atop Mount Veeder in 1996 with the intention of becoming grape growers and sellers. They replanted their hillside vineyard, which was predominantly planted to Chardonnay, to Cabernet Sauvignon, focusing on the grape they knew thrived best in this area — and a grape they loved. As these stories often go, the Stotesburys were so pleased with what they were producing, they began making their own wines, eventually establishing their own line under the Ladera label. Today Ladera Vineyards has a prestigious reputation for crafting some of Napa’s best Cabernet. But their most recent experiments have taken them to the vineyards of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley where they now grow and produce some of that regions strongest grapes — Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Abariño? Yes, please! That’s kind of my attitude every time I see the Spanish white wine on the menu. Indeed, every time I do see it on a menu, it is a wine hailing from the motherland. So when I opened up my delivery from Eighty Four wines (a side project by Elias Fernandez and Doug Shafer of Shafer Vineyards — read more about the Eighty Four Wines project here) and saw an Albariño from one of the most esteemed Napa-based producers, I was delighted, excited, and suddenly quite thirsty…
Napa Valley Malbec. Yes, that’s right. Malbec that is grown and produced in Napa Valley. Is this new to you? It’s new to me — and a welcome new addition to my wine portfolio it is. And who better than to introduce this unique 100% varietal wine than the esteemed team from Shafer Vineyards — Elias Fernandez, winemaker for Shafer Vineyards, Doug Shafer, owner and proprietor. Eighty Four wines is a side project of the two longtime friends who’ve been working together since 1984.
The first few years were challenging – experimenting, working long hours, learning from our mistakes, pushing ourselves to make the best wines we could. They were exciting years. This wine represents two friends going full circle – making wine together, trying new things, doing what we love. That’s the spirit of Eighty Four. – Elias Fernandez & Doug Shafer