Visiting a winery is never a bad idea, especially when it’s one whose wines you respect and enjoy. You can talk to the winemaker, perhaps sit down with the proprietor and taste some back vintages. Taking in the surroundings, the vineyards and cellar and other infrastructure, gives one a fuller sense of the place and people behind the wines you love.
I spent a morning at Ehlers Estate in the fall of last year, and though I have been an admirer of the Napa winery’s offerings for a number of years, my appreciation of the estate and its history, people and vintages was dramatically enhanced by my visit. My conversation with Laura Díaz Muñoz, the winemaker there, was illuminating, and a walk with her among the vines gave me a glimpse of her dedication to producing great wines. (Ehlers is open to the public, and it is a beautiful place, so add it to your future visit list.)
My mind drifted back to that visit this week when I sampled a bottle of the 2017 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. If you like California Cabernet, buy two bottles of this, drink one immediately, and cellar the other one for 10 years. The quality of this vintage (the winemaking and the fruit) is already apparent, and when I open a bottle of it in 2030 I will be a happy man.
A few details about the vintage: It is 80 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 20 percent Cabernet Franc, and harvest took place from September 11 through October 2. A total of 3,050 cases were made, and the alcohol clocks in at 14.5 percent.
We opened our bottle and poured a taste immediately. The color in the glass is garnet, deep garnet, almost purple in certain light, an inviting hue. If one is familiar with Cabernet Franc, its aroma will be evident, as will black fruit and earthy spice notes. The tannins are impressive — another reason to look forward to uncorking this in 2030 — Muñoz is a conscientious winemaker, and it shows in this vintage.
After about 45 minutes of breathing time, we were ready for another taste, this time paired with grilled New York Strip and roasted potatoes (heavy on the garlic). Wonderful pairing it was, the char on the steak combining beautifully with the dark cherry in the wine.
Mouthfeel is lush, sensual. The additional breathing time benefited the wine; it’s earlier vibrancy was still evident, but it had matured into something much more graceful. Hints of cedar were elevated, as was our pleasure.
Ehlers Estate has a fascinating history — you can read about it here — and Muñoz is assuring that its future will be equally fascinating. You can order the 2017 Cabernet directly from the estate ($65), or ask for it at your favorite merchant.