Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Mansion at Ledson Winery and Vineyards – Sonoma Valley

Having already visited three wineries (on Saturday, October 22nd) even though I was spitting all the wine into a cup I was starting to feel a little palate fatigued. So I took a break for lunch and stopped into a Mexican restaurant a little further north in Santa Rosa called “Su Casa” (Your House). I had a great chicken super burrito with a glass of Sprite which really hit the spot. I then headed back down the Valley of the Moon Trail (Highway 12) for my final tasting of the day at Ledson Winery and Vineyard.

The Ledson Winery and Vineyard’s 16,000 square foot French Normandy estate is located in the heart of Sonoma Valley. Although they refer to it as “The Castle” to me it looks more like a European mansion. Originally designed as the Ledson family home in 1989, once it was built it became clear that it was better suited to be the architectural showpiece for the family winery. Designed entirely by Steve Ledson (whose business creates and builds similar homes for sale ) the mansion features sweeping staircases, marble fireplaces, cathedral-style windows, coffered ceilings, several tasting bars, luxuriously appointed bridal suites and over five miles of ornate wood inlays and mosaics, which were hand cut and installed by Steve’s son, Mike Ledson.

In 1997 the family released their first wine, the 1994 Ledson Estate Merlot and in 1999 after two years of reconstruction, the winery opened its doors to the public. Since then, Ledson wines have received rave reviews from the wine press including 93 points from Wine Spectator Magazine for their 1997 Reserve Carneros Chardonnay.

Ledson Winery offers a broad spectrum of varietal wines including: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Primitivo, Barbera, Malbec, Grenache, Meritage, Rosé, Johannisberg Riesling and Madera Port.

In addition to the 17-acre estate vineyard, Ledson Winery and Vineyards includes 21 acres on Denmark Road in Sonoma, planted to 100+ year Old Vine Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, Syrah and Barbera as well as 5,500 acres in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley where Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Syrah and Riesling will be planted. They also own 11 acres of 100-year-old Zinfandel planted in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley. In the future, Steve hopes to replant to wine grapes thirty-five acres of the 105-acre Kenwood Ranch originally cultivated by his great grandfather, William Cunningham in 1919.

Although they have an extremely large portfolio of wines, Ledson Winery specializes in small varietal lots that reflect the genuine diversity of their select vineyards and appellations. All wines are sold exclusively at the winery in Kenwood, in their online store, and at the Ledson Hotel and Centre du Vin in Sonoma.

Ledson Winery and Vineyard features hand-crafted tasting bars, impeccable grounds with picnic areas shadowed by 100-year old majestic oak trees, and a fully stocked gourmet market that provides an ideal location for an afternoon picnic or a weekend getaway.

After touring the grounds, I ventured into the mansion and bellied up to one of the tasting bars and sampled the following for $15:

With an extremely large portfolio to choose from, it is hard to know where to start and I felt like I would need to come back a few more times to really get a  good grasp of the quality of their wines. But, I’m a big Rhone varietal fan and so I started with my favorite white - the 2010 Sonoma County Viognier. An unmistakable floral aroma that this wine is known for that is followed by tropical fruits and orange peel. On the palate it has a really nice chalky minerality that reminds me of a Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc. A great wine, but a bit steep at $32 a bottle for there are many like it on the market in the $20 - $25 range.

My next wine and first red was the 2008 Russian River Reserve Pinot Noir. HUGE earthy nose with loads of plum, root beer and dried roses and a hint of spice. A really nice wine, but is it worth $60? I don’t think so! If you read all my reviews from this summer that I visited on the Russian River, in Santa Barbara, Carneros, and the Santa Cruz Mountains I’ve tasted a lot of wines of similar quality in the $35 - $45 range.

My third wine was the 2006 Kings Valley Bellisimo. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon  and Merlot from the Bellisimo ranch in Knights Valley. The name “Bellisimo” means “most beautiful” in Italian, and here the strength of Cabernet Sauvignon marries perfectly with the round flesh of Merlot. On the nose I picked up Black currants, damp earth, dark chocolate, blackberries, cherry, pepper and just a hint of vanilla. This wine is big on the nose, but more supple and medium bodied on the palate. A really nice wine, at $60 a bottle there are many like it in the $35 - $45 range on the market.

My fourth wine was the 2007 California Caudalies, a blend of Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. The name in French, “Caudalies” refers to the length of a wine’s finish. This wine is inky dark. On the nose I picked up black cherries, blackberries, pepper and vanilla which was confirmed on the palate where it is delivered with supple but drying teeth gripping tannins and a medium length finish. This was probably the most value priced wine at $36 a bottle.

My fifth table wine was the 2006 Estate Merlot. The nose was a bit tight but as it opened up I picked up black cherries, milk chocolate, red plums and some herbs spice. On the palate this wine has soft finish mid-transition with a hint of minerality on the finish. I’m not the biggest Merlot fan, but this one was nice but at $40 a bottle… there many more on the market like it for under $30.

My final pour was the hedonistic Non-Vintage (NV) Madera Sweet Ida Zinfandel ‘Port Style’ wine. This wine has some serious heat on the nose, followed by hints of maple syrup, dried figs, brown sugar and toasted almonds. It has an extremely long finish and a little of this wine goes a long way as it bathes your entire palate like fine silk. Except for the heat, I really liked this wine but for half the price of $50 a bottle there are many wines like this available from wineries in Lodi, Madera, Amador County and the Sierra Foothills.

Overall, I liked the wines, the customer service was top notch and the winery and grounds are spectacular. If you are visiting this region, Ledson Winery and Vineyards is a “must visit.”

To see more pictures, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

For More information or to visit:

7335 Sonoma Highway 12  
Kenwood, CA 95409
Phone: 1- 707-537-3810


yarra valley wineries said...

What a quaint place...or palace! Any winery with a centerpoint that majestic is sure to give only the finest, most decadent taste! Perfect place to live and savor the goodness of life! Ah, I'm still at awe.

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