- Rating: 93 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: $50
- Accepts Reservations: Yes
- Reservation Required: true
St Helena, CA 94574
One of the first ten wineries established in the Napa Valley, Chappellet has a long and storied history - from Wine Spectator mentioning one of its wines in the top ten of the past century, to naming and copyrighting the location that people think of when they hear Bryant Family, Colgin, etc. (Chappellet copyrighted “Pritchard Hill”), to producing a consistent 97+ pt wine in the Wine Advocate (their Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon). Chappellet has a fantastic reputation and for good reason - the quality of their wine is very good. I just had to visit Chappellet on my most recent trip, though the reasonable tasting fee also helped. Note that like many other owners in Napa, the proprietar of Chappellet made his money before coming out to Napa and buying land. In his case, he invented the first coffee vending machines, where you would pay to get a cup of coffee automatically dispensed for you. No disrespect to coffee lovers, but I am glad he transitioned to wine!
Our visit to Chappellet was a little more epic than normal because of a sulphur leakage inside the winery. Scary, I know, but it was easy to smell that something was wrong in the storage/tasting area. Instead of cancelling reservation for the day, the owners approved us to have our wine tasting at a great alternative location - their private outdoor tent in the vineyard. For those that don’t know, many wineries have a special area that is designated for use only by the winery owners, where they can host close friends, VIPs, and others in a more secluded, relaxed setting that is even more beautiful than inside the winery. Very rarely do common visitors like us get a chance to enjoy their private oasis.
They didn’t tell us that we were heading to the owner’s tent though - we were told it was a surprise where we were heading. We were lead to what looked like a miniature version of a military transport truck. After we all managed to climb in the back, we took off into the winery. Although it did get dusty (and some people forgot to protect their glass of Chardonnay), we finally made it to the owner’s private tent in the back-left portion of the winery. We dusted ourselves off, took many pictures of the tent and the surrounding area, then proceeded to sit at the table and enjoy the wines.
- 2014 Signature Chardonnay ($45)
- The grapes are from family growers in the cooler Carneros, as the winemaker wanted Chablis level acidity for use in a new world style wine. The fruit is nicely developed past the lemon/lime fruit development into the yellow apple / apricot stage. The minerality and sweeter spice are deeper in the wine and take some time to dig out.
- 2014 Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir ($55)
- Great fruit development on the nose with bright floral notes and tons of spice. A Cabernet lover’s style of Pinot at 14.9% ABV. There is a bunch of earthiness to the wine, a clean finish without lingering alcohol, and a good amount of acid that stimulates the cheeks. The short finish of the fruit makes me think this would do better as a wine paired with dinner. Just make sure it’s a bigger dish, since black fruits (cherry/currant) dominates the palate.
- 2014 Napa Valley Merlot ($45)
- 82% Merlot, 5% of Cab Sauv and Franc, with the rest Malbec. Bright red fruit with lots of spice/alcohol on the nose. Definitely some tannin that clings through the finish. The fruit is a bit lighter again, but with med+ body and acid. Cooked/stewed fruit through the finish as well. Some tobacco and cedar and maybe some espresso adding complexity to the flavor profile as well.
- 2013 Napa Valley Malbec ($65)
- Deeper blue/black fruit on the nose, lean, really nice lingering aromas. The palate is soft, with some black pepper, jam, black fruit, a touch warm, and a med+ finish. It tastes a little young – seems like it needs to age a bit to round out the tannins a bit more. The tertiary note in this wine is more coffee than the wood spices of the Merlot.
- 2015 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon ($55)
- 79% Cab Sauv, 14% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot, and 3% Cab Franc. A richness, lighter spice and baby fat comes off the wines as soon as you dig your nose in. Soft on the palate, it is drinkable right now. Pretty and sweet red fruit, smooth tannins, and a decent length on the finish. And at a really decent price - just what I remember when I served six bottles of this to my colleagues at our company event. I didn’t really get the herbs and cola to the extent our wine guide described, but I did get the hint of licorice.
I’m sure that if we had the signature tasting (~$95), which includes the Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon ($225), I would’ve been happier with the wine piece of the experience. Chappellet was also our final winery of the day and was right after a late lunch, so I would also be interested in making another visit just to enjoy the wines more, though I doubt we will get the same experience.
I think the theme of the wines from Chappellet is Pritchard Hill terroir wines at an afforable price; every other place nearby sells wines at $200+ a bottle, though the Gandona Encosta is another good buy. These wines are also on the heavier / hotter side and display many qualities that are associated with Napa wines. I also need to call out their Signature Cabernet as a tremendous value buy at $55 that should be tried by everyone, even those that normally don’t care for Napa Cabernets.
If you want to get away from the valley floor, but not pay the traditional mountain AVA prices of Napa, give Chappellet a try. And if you are really ambitious, make sure to try the Pritchard Hill Cabernet too. Cheers!!
Rating: 93 out of 100