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Monday, November 12, 2007

Whitehall Lane Makes the Most of Napa Whites and Reds

On the Napa Valley leg of our trip to California, Sandy and I made a stop at Whitehall Lane Winery, located just to the south of St. Helena.

We were given a tour of the wine making operation by Doug Fitzgibbon, tagging along with a VIP group. After seeing some grapes being crushed and workers topping off barrels, we made our way into the tasting room. There we had several very nice wines. Whitehall was founded in 1978 and produces 45,000 to 50,000 cases of wine annually. They have big plans on the horizon, with a new hospitality salon and a chef's kitchen that will allow 30-35 people to enjoy intimate dining. Part of the project will expand Whitehall's high-end wine portfolio.

Whitehall has 160 acres of vines on the Napa Valley floor and also buys from a select list of growers. Some of the wines being made at Whitehall use the Vino-Seal glass cork, which is the latest attempt at solving the industry problem of an average 6-8 percent failure rate of bottles using natural cork closures.

We found Whitehall produces some very nice whites and reds.

Whitehall Lane 2006 Proprietary White: A blend of 62 percent sauvignon blanc and 38 percent semillon, this wine has a grapefruit nose and a honey, citrus and grapefruit flavor profile. Refreshing for a hot day.

Whitehall Lane 2005 Carneros Chardonnay: An oak and honey nose with crisp, green apple flavor notes.

Whitehall Lane 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon: This Bordeaux-style wine is chuck full of fresh fruit notes. There are tart plum skin and dark cherry flavors. A solid Napa Valley value compared to prices from other nearby vineyards.

Whitehall Lane 2006 Belmuscato: This dessert wine is made from 100 percent orange muscat grapes. There is a forward apricot essence with an interesting caramelized creme brulee aftertaste.

Whitehall Lane may not have the name and reputation of some of its neighbors along Route 29, but it is worth a stop on your tasting itinerary.


Phil said...

Fantastic post, Rick. I'll admit I'm a bit jealous that you're up there, and I'm down here. We didn't get a chance to visit Napa/Sonoma at all this year.

Wineries like Whitehall are indicative of what the Napa wine region is all about. It's like a hidden gem out in the country, producing incredible wine, utilizing grapes from all around the region. They have incredible output - 50,000 cases?

White blends are slowly becoming my favorite wines to enjoy, Canundrum being my favorite. Whitehall's blend sounds fantastic. Semillon, to my knowledge, is a very hearty grape that can take a real beating and still produce incredible sweet fruit flavors. I've tasted blends with this in it before and I can imagine it takes a true wine craftsman to get the balance just perfect.

Just realizing you had this blog, Rick. I appreciate your work on BFH quite a bit, so I'll check in more often. Keep up the great work. I enjoy it very much.


Rick Lyke said...

Phil, thanks for you kind comments. Canundrum is a pretty darn good white blend. I think we are going to see more of these signature blends coming from vineyards.