From a wine country photographer’s point of view, the ideal shot this time of year is that of a gnarly old vine surrounded by wild mustard flowers with clear blue skies in the back ground. This past weekend I struck gold at Casa Nuestra Winery and Vineyards as they have a 1.4 acre mustard flower laden vineyard with 50+ year old Chenin Blanc head pruned vines which were planted sometime around 1961. And, after a couple days of rain during the week, the weather was absolutely perfect!
Casa Nuestra (which means "Our House") was founded by the Kirkham family in 1979. The winery and the general profile of their wines is sort of “old school.” In fact, the décor of the tasting room is done in a 1950’s -1960’s rock-n-roll motif and they play music from the era.
They produce about 2,000 cases a year including Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, as well as a dry Chenin Blanc, White Riesling, Petite Sirah, Charbono, French Colombard, and Rosado. They also produce a dry rose and two proprietary field blend red wines called Tinto. One is from their Oakville hillside vineyard which they acquired 1956. The other is from their vines in St. Helena which was planted in 1994 and is derived from cuttings from the original Oakville vineyard. These flag ship wines are labeled “Tinto St. Helena” and the one from the original Oakville vineyard is labeled “Tinto Classico.” All of the other grapes to produce Casa Nuestra’s wines are grown in the 22 acre St. Helena vineyard, some which were planted prior to 1960 and their farm is completely organic.
While visiting I sampled the following wines:
My first sample was the 2011 Dry Chenin Blanc, St. Helena Estate Vineyard. There is very little of this grape grown in California and most that I have tried tend to be fruity, soft and off-dry. This one is radically different. On the nose I picked up hints of melon, citrus, lemon, and apricots with some tropical fruit on the tail end. On the palate this wine is light bodied, razor sharp with crisp acidity (medium ++), it is slightly tart, and has a prolonged finish. I really loved this wine and brought one home, it sells for $30 a bottle.
My second pour was the 2011 Riesling, St. Helena Estate Vineyard. I was surprised to find Riesling being grown in St. Helena as it tends to be a cool climate grape and grown closer to the coast. But apparently they have found a cooler region of the valley against the hills. This wine displays aromas of apples, pineapples, pears, and a touch of honey. On the palate it is off-dry (1.5 R/S), medium bodied with only a hint of sweetness and it still maintains sufficient acidity. A nice wine for $24 a bottle.
The third wine I tasted was the 2008 Merlot, St. Helena Estate Vineyard. This wine is ruby red and it stains the glass when swirled. It has a big beautiful nose with pronounced aromas of plums, cherries, cocoa, a just hint of mint and black licorice. On the palate it has soft supple tannins, medium acidity and a medium length finish. The bouquet of this wine is more dramatic and has a bigger impact on the senses that it does on the palate. A nice wine for $38 a bottle.
The fourth pour was the 2009 Tinto, St. Helena Estate Vineyard. A filed blend of 8 different varietals which are harvested separately then co-fermented and blended prior to ageing. This is a dark wine with intense concentrated medium intense aromas of boysenberries, black cherries, a hint of earth, cassis and plums. On the palate it has firm gripping tannins (medium +), medium acidity and gives the impression of being seemingly “old world” in style. Another fine, sort of a non-Napa style of wine, that sells for $38 a bottle.
The fifth sample was not on the list, the 2009 “30 Year Commemoration” Tinto, Oakville. In comparison to the previous Tinto, this one is earthier, with aromas of dusty dark fruits, blackberry pie, and dark chocolate. This wine sells for $38 a bottle.
The final wine was the 2008 Petite Sirah, St. Helena Estate Vineyard. This is a BIG wine with intense aromas of boysenberries, plums, black licorice, cigar box and freshly cracked pepper. On the palate it is full bodied and has massive tannins. This is not a “sipping wine” as it either needs a steak to go with it or a few more years of ageing. This wine sells for $36 a bottle.
To see more pictures, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:
3451 Silverado Trail North
Saint Helena, CA