If you are driving north on the Silverado Trail in the Napa Valley it is really easy to drive right past James Cole Estate Winery without noticing it. In fact, that is exactly what I’ve done for many years. I have been up and down this road more times than I can remember and yet for some odd reason I never noticed Judds Hill Winery (which I recently visited) or James Cole. So, after visiting Clos Pegase and Duckhorn Vineyards further north, I stopped in to visit this almost hidden winery. It is located just south of the Stags Leap District and north of Signorello Vineyards but if you blink you’ll drive right by it.
The James Cole Estate Winery is a really small production family-run winery that consists of a fermentation tank room, barrel room, tasting room, and a tiny kitchen / laboratory on the ground floor. The building design is simple and utilitarian - a reinforced concrete structure with a veneer stone face, an intimate trellis covered outdoor terrace at the entrance and a small second floor office loft that overlooks the tasting room with views both through the winery as well as out the large window facing the front vineyards and Silverado Trail.
The winery is named after the couple that owns it, James and his wife Colleen “Cole” Harder who also own Jaden Icewine located in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Canada.
James was born and raised in a rural farming community just outside of Edmonton, Alberta (Canada). In 1992, he graduated with a degree in Economics from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia and started in the wine business (with Vincor International), the day after his college graduation. James’ passion for wine and future career as a wine producer in Canada developed during occasional business trips to the San Francisco Bay Area where he met his future wife, Colleen Cramsie, through a mutual friend.
James then moved to San Francisco to be with Colleen just one year from the day they met and they married exactly a year later in 2000. That same the year James and Colleen purchased their 11-acre property on Silverado Trail where they planted a new home and a new vineyard. If that wasn’t enough, that same year James then started his own company (Nine North Wines) along with Jim Regusci and Jim Gill, producing several wines from various parts of the Napa Valley.
James Cole Estate Winery specializes in single French varietal wines such as Chardonnay Cabernet, Malbec and Petit Verdot as well as Bordeaux and Rhone blends.
The winery has two flights, the first consists of 5 wines for $20 and for an additional $10 you can also taste the James Cole Reserve Collection which consists of three additional wines. Initially I wanted to do the Reserve flight as well but I had already been to two other wineries so even though I was spitting and had taken a lunch break I was feeling “wined out” from palate fatigue – when all wines begin to taste the same. So, hopefully in the near future I’ll return to taste the final three wines.
My first wine was the 2009 James Cole Chardonnay, Napa Valley. A splendid wine, well balanced, great acidity and plenty of fresh stone fruits, apples, apricots, pears, and a hint of vanilla. The only problem is there are many wines like this on the market and readily available for $10-$15 less than their asking price of $38 a bottle.
My second wine was the 2008 James Cole Il Mostro Proprietary Red Wine, Napa Valley. A blend of 87% Petite Sirah and 13% 120 year Old Vine Zinfandel, this is a huge intense deep dark and earthy. Blackberries, chocolate, anise and black pepper dominate this wine that firmly grips your teeth and gums. A really nice wine with great acidity and fine tannins, but a bit steep at $65 a bottle.
My next sample was the 2008 James Cole Petit Verdot, Napa Valley. Bottles of 100% of this varietal are hard to find as PV is usually used as a blending grape. They also tend to be VERY expensive as well. This is an inky dark and massive wine with a full mouth feel of espresso, dark chocolate and pomegranate. Most PV’s I have liked in the past tend to have at least 10% Cabernet Sauvignon in them and I think this is what it needs. It has a firm grip on the teeth and gums, it is somewhat hollow on the back end and has a short finish. A little Cabernet would fill it out and add to the finish. A bit steep at $75 a bottle, but a “must try” if you haven’t trained your brain to recognize this wine.
My fourth wine was the 2008 James Cole Malbec, Napa Valley. This is not your Argentinan style of Malbec, a little more subtle like a French wine. Kind of funky on the nose (in a good way), really earthy with fresh leather, spice, black fruits, a touch of chocolate and a nutty-herbal finish. A really intriguing wine but I couldn’t get past the $75 price tag.
My final wine was the 2008 James Cole Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. An extremely young wine that I’d like to taste again in a few years that delivers a classic Napa Valley profile of black currants, vanilla, anise and a touch of pepper. But there are many more that I’d buy before this one at $75 a bottle.
To see more pictures, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:
Overall, James Cole has really nice wines but they not competitive in their pricing.
For more information or to visit:
James Cole Estate Winery
5014 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558-9749