Wine Tasting Notes: Ehlers Estate, St. Helena

The BioDynamic vineyard at Ehlers Estate comprises 43 acres in total. In order to help amend the soil for the upcoming season, rows of vibrant yellow mustard alternate with verdant rows of grasses, fava beans and vetch. With rain subsiding, these same cover crops will assume a monotone shade of golden brown over the next month or so.

In some ways, it’s almost embarrassing to heap lavish praise onto my favorite Napa wineries. I often feel as though I might be coming across as some sort of Napa Valley rah-rah, gushing with unbridled hyperbole, as if I were posting on Yelp. As far as I’m concerned, Yelp represents the absolute lowest of the low in online content. In fact, I resent Yelp much more than I’ve ever resented the Wine Spectator. At least the Wine Spectator — with its hopeless predictability and its overblown influence — still manages to offer up some meaningful content every three weeks. On the other hand, Yelp remains aggressively mediocre, allegedly corrupt, with zero chance of improvement. I’ll say it before, and I’ll say it again: “Yelp Elite” is an oxymoron. But that’s enough Andy Rooney for now.

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Having extensively fawned over Chappellet in my last entry, I’m just going to offer up a bit of shorthand here, and point out that I consider Ehlers to be Chappellet’s equal in several ways: For instance, both wineries feature killer, world-class Cabernets at the top level, those being the Ehlers “1886” ($95) and the Chappellet Pritchard Hill ($135); in addition, both wineries also offer their wonderful “flagship” Cabernets at under $50 each (and as far as I’m concerned, these two respective reds offer two of the very best values in the entire Napa Valley); and finally, neither Ehlers nor Chappellet makes a bad wine, no matter what varietal you may choose (the greatest wineries are always the most consistent, which is a tribute to the winemaker).

I tasted four Ehlers reds the other day: the 2007 Ehlers Merlot ($45), the 2007 Ehlers Cabernet Franc ($45), the 2007 One Twenty Over Eighty ($45), and last but not least, the 2006 “1886” Cabernet Sauvignon ($95). Each wine was exquisite, as I’ve grown to expect over the years. The 2007 Ehlers Merlot featured ultra-ripe red fruit with an impeccably smooth finish, while the 2007 Ehlers Cab Franc offered some earth and some grip. The Cabernets, which are very different in their composition, each fill their niche. The 2007 One Twenty Over Eighty is 80% Cab, 14% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot, while the “1886” is 93% Cab and 7% Cab Franc (and thus, neither Cab features the same blending grapes as the other). Regardless, they’re both strong values at their respective price levels.

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The tasting room at Ehlers, once a pre-Prohibition gravity-flow winery, was constructed in 1886 by Hamden McIntyre, the same gentleman credited with building Far Niente, Inglenook (now Rubicon) and Christian Brothers (now the CIA at Greystone).

4 comments to Wine Tasting Notes: Ehlers Estate, St. Helena

  • I agree with you about Ehlers….fantastic wines. My group, Trio Solea, has been playing music there for the last four years for some of their hospitality events, and they feed us well and let us taste the wines. They also give us some to take home too. The historic buildings and ancient olive groves, not to mention the biodaynamics, make it a truely special place. The staff is always warm and gracious too.

  • textmex

    They are incredible. Dense, concentrated, aromatic, beautiful. I’m going to a wine dinner there on Saturday. Can’t wait. Thank you for clueing me into the architecture. I love the other buildings, haven’t seen Far Niente but really like Rubicon–are they still charging just to go onto the grounds?–and Greystone.

  • Hi,

    I am planning to put together a tour package for my new web site. I love the photo of Ehlers Estate with the car in front. May I have permission to use it on my site ?


    Jim Orr

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