Tuesday, June 25, 2013

St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery – Rutherford, California

I first visited St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery about twelve years ago. Since then I have driven by it many times and noticed that the sign in front has been recolored to an almost a bright neon green. In fact, as you can see from the photos and video, the winery is very green.

St. Supéry is located in Rutherford in the heart of the Napa Valley and their wines are very reflective of this distinctive viticultural area. The winery has two estate vineyards totaling 510 acres of Napa Green and California Sustainable Certified Vineyards. 

The Founder

The estate is owned by The Skalli Family based in Paris France. Les Vins Skalli is a wine producer which operates in France and is based in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He family-owned business has a long history of winemaking with their first vineyard planted in 1920. After acquiring the Rutherford estate, the first St. Supéry vines were planted in 1982 by Robert Skalli. In addition to St. Supéry, the Skalli family owns three wineries in the South of France: Les Vins Skalli in the Languedoc, Côteaux de Diana in Corsica, and Maison Bouachon in Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe. Skalli also has a partnership in Provence to produce dry AOC rosé under the Robert Skalli label. St. Supery imports the Skalli family’s French wines through its SFWAmericas division.

The Winemaker

The winemaker for St. Supéry is Michael Scholz who is originally from Australia and is the 6th generation to grow up on his family’s vineyard in the Barossa Valley. He graduated from Roseworthy College in 1985 and developed his winemaking craft in France and South Africa before returning to California. He was a winemaker at Iron Horse Vineyards in Sonoma then Chief Winemaker at St. Supery from 1996 to 2001. Then from 2001 to 2009 he worked for the Australian owned winery, Wattle Creek in the Alexander Valley. Then in late 2009 he returned to St. Supéry in the Napa Valley.

The Architecture

Center stage on the estate in the midst of the vineyards, gardens, the winery and tasting room is the historic Victorian “Atkinson House.” Joseph and Louis Atkinson, brothers from Philadelphia, built this Queen Anne house and a nearby winery in the 1880’s. Their winery survives as Beaulieu Vineyard and their house is now owned by St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery. St. Supéry Winery has restored the house, both inside and out, and it is open to the public by appointment as a “Wine Discovery Center with a living museum of a late 1800 vintner’s life.”
The Atkinson House
As you walk around the Atkinson House you come to the very modern winery and tasting room. The contrast between the Atkinson House and the Tasting room is striking. It has sort of an art-deco/postmodern design with a lot of sleek straight lines, glass and hard wood. You can sample the wines in the tasting room or in the front at the outdoor lounge or at one of the many tables on the large patio under the trees.
The Wines

While visiting I enjoyed the following wines:

The first pour was the 2011 Napa Valley Virtu - a blend of 60% Semillon and 40% Sauvignon Blanc. This wine underwent 17% Malo-lactic Fermentation (a process of turning laic acid into lactic acid in the juice which softens it), 32% Tank Fermentation (which maintains crispness), 68 % Barrel Fermentation (the minuscule breathing of the barrel softens the sharp edge of the wine) and then it was then aged for 7 Months in 100% French oak but only 35% of it was new French oak which keeps the wine from becoming too oaky or Chardonnay-like. I usually don’t put such details in my reviews but the wine totally reflects the way in which it was made. The wine has very pronounced aromas of lemongrass, grapefruit, a hint of honeysuckle and chalk. On the palate it has pronounced fruit flavors of grapefruit and mandarin oranges. It is light in body, very crisp on the mid palate and then it has rich rounded edges on the finish. Some Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blends can lose their edge and become too soft but this one maintains a wonderful balance of crispness with a round mouth feel on the end. The white Bordeaux-like wine is an excellent summer wine and one that will pair well with seafood, I brought a bottle home for $30.

The second wine was the 2009 Napa Valley Estate Élu.  This is a Bordeaux blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec. This wine is clear bright ruby red from the base to the rim. On the nose it has aromas of red currants, cherries, black tea and oak. On the palate it has a mouth full of fresh fruit on entry with additional notes of fresh cracked black pepper, spice with a hint of tobacco and oak on the finish. The tannins are fairly aggressive but they are well refined, it has medium body and mouth-watering acidity with a medium+ length finish. If tasted blind, this wine could be mistaken for a left-bank Bordeaux. The wine sells for $65 a bottle.


The third sample was the 2009 Rutherford Estate Vineyard Merlot (100% Merlot). This wine is bright ruby red and it stains the glass when swirled. On the nose it has very a classic Rutherford profile with aromas of dusty cherries, earth, tobacco and tea leaves. On the palate this wine is bone dry with additional notes of wild blackberries, toasted oak and vanilla. It is medium bodied, very crisp and it has a distinctive wet slate minerality on the finish. Many Napa Valley merlots are too soft and fruity, this one is a nice alternative with more of an old-world appeal. The wine sells for $50 a bottle.

The fourth and final wine was the 2010 Dollarhide Estate Elevation – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Malbec. This wine is clear bright purple at the core to ruby red at the rim. The nose is very tight so it needs a lot of swirling for aeration. But eventually I was able to coax out aromas of black currants, wild blackberries, dark chocolate, dark roasted coffee followed by a hint of dried herbs and oak. On the palate it is very intense and fruit froward with tannins that have a lot of grip and a noticeable amount of oak on the finish. This wine sells for $65 a bottle.

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

To visit or for more information:

St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery

8440 S St. Helena Hwy  

Napa, CA 94558

Phone: 1-707-963-4507



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