Sun 12 Feb 2012
Specialization can be a great thing; I wish more wineries practiced the habit rather than trying to be all things to all people. Kelly Fleming Wines, established in 1998, makes only limited bottlings of a sauvignon blanc wine and a cabernet sauvignon, each 100 percent varietal. Fleming (pictured below) bought 300 acres in the northward Calistoga appellation of Napa Valley, but devotes only 12 acres to organically framed vines, allowing much of the rest of the estate to remain as the wilderness it was. The first vintage, a cabernet from 2002, was released in 2005. The 5,000-square-foot winery, designed by Taylor Lombardo architects of San Francisco, opened in 2010; the underground barrel “room” is a cavern blasted by dynamite 200 feet into a limestone hillside.
The winery enterprise is dominated by the talents of women. While Fleming’s son Robert works in sales and her vineyard manager is Jeff Roberts, the winemaker is Celia Welch, who has made wine for Staglin Family, DR Stephens and Hartwell, and assistant winemaker is Becky George; the winery’s assistant manager is Fleming’s daughter Colleen. As I mentioned in a post last week, one of the most gratifying aspects of writing about wine is being introduced to estates whose wines I have not only not experienced before but haven’t heard of. I’m happy to have tried these expertly turned out and attractive wines and look forward to their successors.
These were samples for review. Images from kellyflemingwines.com.
The Kelly Fleming Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Oakville, Napa Valley, is not made from estate grapes, but from Oakville grapes, including some from the legendary To Kalon vineyard, supplemented with fruit from Pope Valley, the latter a hotter and drier, more isolated Napa appellation mainly known for being home to St. Supery’s Dollarhide Ranch. The wine is made 80 percent in stainless steel and 20 percent in new French oak, aging for six months. Produced from the aromatic sauvignon musque clone, the Kelly Fleming Sauvignon Blanc 2010 lives up to that source with its scents of lemongrass and jasmine, honeydew melon and fig along with notes of grapefruit, lime peel and papaya, celery seed and tarragon; though complex and layered, the bouquet is blessedly free of exaggeration. In the mouth, this sauvignon blanc is gracefully influenced by a sheen of soft spicy oak, while retaining an aura of lively, almost alert acidity that buoys flavors of roasted lemon, greengage (that is, yellow) plum and a strain of sunny, leafy fig; the finish is imbued with scintillating limestone and a bright arrow of bracing grapefruit bitterness. 14.1 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2013. Truly one of the best sauvignon blanc wines made in Napa Valley. 540 cases. Excellent. About $30, and Worth a Search.
The Kelly Fleming Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Napa Valley, is made completely from estate grapes grown on the winery’s 12 acres. The wine ages in 85 percent new French oak barrels for 20 months. The color is a glamorous robe of dark ruby with a vestment of blue-purple at the rim. What a bouquet! Black currants and blueberries, fruitcake and black cherry tart, cumin and cardamom and ancho chile, with a bite of black pepper and smoky graphite. The whole package is framed by dense, dusty finely-milled tannins and oak that feels burnished to an ebon glow; that oak comes up more forcefully from mid-palate back through the long earthy, mineral-defined finish, though none of this structure, profound as it is, prevents the taster from perceiving how deep and rich and ripe the black and blue fruit flavors are nor how thoroughly permeated by traces of lavender and licorice, potpourri and slightly bitter mocha; a touch of austerity contributes to the wine’s dignity and integrity. 14.8 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018 to ’20. Production was 700 cases. Excellent. About $90.