Chimney Rock Winery is located alongside the eastern hills of the Napa Valley at 5350 Silverado TrailÃ¢â‚¬â€if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re headed north on the Trail, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be on your right-hand side. The winery sits on some 135 acres of land that prior to 1980 was an 18-hole golf course.
In 1980, Chimney Rock Winery opened in the heart of the Stags Leap District, taking 75 acres and planting it with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, leaving nine holes of golf still open. In 2001, the remaining golf holes were converted to Cabernet Sauvignon and in 2004 the Terlato Family (who also owns Rutherford Hill Winery just up the Trail above Auberge du Soleil) assumed full ownership of the winery. We stopped by the winery on a warm and sunny afternoon just before the Fourth of July for a tastingÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
The winery: The Chimney Rock Winery was built in a Cape-Dutch architectural style, with the curved, bright white structure offering an amazing contrast to deep blue sky and lush green surrounding vineyards. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s easily visible from Silverado Trail. The winery is open to the public and appointments are not required for tastings, which happen daily between 10am Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 5pm.
After parking and walking past a neatly kept garden with full, blooming lavender, crimson and white flowers, you enter the door and are right near the winetasting bar. Two tasting options are offered, the Estate Flight ($15), which is a selection of five Chimney Rock wines, and the Prestige Flight ($25), which includes a selection of five wines specially chosen, including some in limited production.
The tasting room: The tasting area features a rectangular-shaped granite-topped bar in the center of the room, which the crowds gather around. The room has high, valuted ceilings where numerous banners featuring various Chimney Rock wine ratings proudly hang. The room has a dark hardwood floor and is lined with tall windows that let in ample sunlight and the walls surrounding the bar are stacked with bottles of wine and other memorabilia for sale.
The staff: We saw a total of three staffers on-hand while at the winery this particular afternoonÃ¢â‚¬â€more than enough to handle the decent, but not overly large crowd of people eagerly tasting the wine. We were greeted by a friendly staffer who explained the two tasting flights to us and got us set-up for an Estate tasting. While not overly friendly, the staffers were polite and willing to answer questions about the wines, the winery and the surrounding areas.
About mid-way through our tasting a group of Ã¢â‚¬ËœClub ElevageÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ members bellied up to the bar for some post-lunch winetasting. It was then when we picked-up a noticeable change in the level of service we were receiving. Suddenly we waited much longer between pours (which was fine, we were in no rush) and there was far less time devoted to answering questions or explaining the different wines. Now we are well aware that pretty much every winery has a wine club (itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sometimes hard NOT to be aware as many try their darndest to sell you on joining), where members get special benefits, including free tastings, invites to Ã¢â‚¬ËœexclusiveÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ events, etc. That said, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s our opinion that every patron in the tasting room at a given time should be treated equally.
The wine: As mentioned, we went for the Estate tasting, which was supposed to include a total of five wines–a variety of red and white.
Our first flight was the 2005 Elevage Blanc ($39 per bottle), which was being poured for everyone as a complimentary tasting as it was a new release. We got hints of pear and soft fruits that hit mid-palate and this cool wine went down quite easily on this warm afternoon.
Next up was the ’05 Fume Blanc ($20 per bottle), which is actually harvested from the winery’s property in the Rutherford appellation. This wine was crisp and had nice hints of citrus and peach on the nose.
Following the Fume Blanc was the 2006 Rose of Cabernet Franc, another new release that retails for $16 per bottle. Now we’re not typically Rose fans, but this one may have swayed us a bit. The wine had a subtle hints of cherry and cranberry and we could easily see it pairing well with ethnic foods like a spicy Asian dish.
Next was the 2003 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which retails for $58 per bottle. This wine is a classic Napa Valley Cabernet, with soft hints of dark red fruits and the typical Stags Leap taste and structure. We particularly enjoyed the long, lingering finish on this one.
The ’03 Cab was followed by the ’04 Cabernet Sauvignon (also $58 per bottle), which was showing slightly sweeter and more fruit forward on this particular afternoon–we got hints of blackberry and chocolate on the nose and enjoyed the slightly smoky taste on the palate.
Our final taste of the day was the Ã¢â‚¬â„¢04 Elevage, another new release that is equal parts Ã¢â‚¬â„¢04 Cabernet Sauvignon and Ã¢â‚¬â„¢04 Merlot with a little petit verdot mixed in for good measure. The wine was clearly very young and will open up over time, but nonetheless we enjoyed the chocolate and mocha flavors that hit mid-palate. The wine retails for $76 per bottle.
The Cork Board rating: 3 corks (out of 5 possible). The wines were undoubtedly solid and we enjoyed the Elevage Blanc, which offered a nice twist on some of the typical white wine blends found in the area. If it werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t for the feeling of being somewhat less important because we were not members of Ã¢â‚¬ËœClub ElevageÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, we would have given Chimney Rock Winery a higher score.
Have you visited Chimney Rock Winery lately? Leave us a comment and tell us what you thought of the experience. Also, be sure to check out our previous winetasting reviews.