A second chance can happen every day, in every moment that one chooses to change direction or be someone or something different.
In #MWWC18, I wrote about my crisis, which turned out to be a second chance. I was a community college professor living in Virginia who, after the end of long teaching career, moved to Napa, California to begin again in the wine business.
After a few months of living and working here, I realized that my career was not what I wanted. While I will always be appreciative of the opportunity and open door that allowed me to follow this path, I knew early on that I had landed in the wrong place. I would have to tread water for a while to get the experience I needed to move forward. After a year, I began to look for new employment. I didn’t realize that it would take me seven months to find a fit. Finally, in September 2015, I started my journey at Ehlers Estate, my second, second-chance career.
Ehlers Estate, like me, has had its fair share of second chances. Founded in 1886 by Sacramento grocer Bernard Ehlers, the winery flourished under the leadership of Bernard and his wife, Anna, until the early 1920s, when it fell into the hands of a variety of owners, including bootleggers Fred and Manny Domingos, who operated the winery until 1958, through the repeal of prohibition when they could legally operate as Bale Mill Winery. In 1987, French philanthropists Jean and Sylviane Leducq, longtime wine lovers and enthusiasts, gave the winery its current-day, second chance. It took the Leducqs 14 years, until 2001, to cull vineyard parcels to include the stone barn winery built by Bernard and Anna Ehlers in 1886, the original 10-acre property, and the historic olive grove.
In 2009, Ehlers Estate underwent another second chance, the hiring of winemaker and general manager Kevin Morrisey, who himself had faced second chances throughout his life as a cameraman turned winemaker. His internship at Château Pétrus in Bordeaux and his talent and leadership at other Napa Valley wineries such as Stags’ Leap Winery and Etude made him the ideal candidate to take Ehlers Estate into the future.
Ehlers Estate produces 100% estate wines from 100% California certified organic vineyards, managed year around by our full-time vineyard and cellar team headed by winemaker Kevin Morrisey and vineyard and cellar manager Francisco Vega. Ehlers Estate crafts only Bordeaux varietal wines: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and sauvignon blanc. The winery produces one 100% cabernet sauvignon wine, the J. Leducq Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as two other cabernet sauvignons, the ‘1886’ Cabernet Sauvignon and Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, which both include blending amounts of merlot, cabernet franc, and/or petit verdot. The remaining merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot grapes are given a second chance to shine on their own as single-varietal wines: the Ehlers Estate Merlot (with a touch of cabernet franc), Cabernet Franc, Sylviane Rosé of Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. The only white wine is the Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc.
Each new vintage at Ehlers Estate is a second chance, a new opportunity to showcase the unique terroir of its vineyards located in Napa Valley’s narrowest point between the Mayacamas and Vaca Mountains, as well as Kevin Morrisey’s expression of this terroir and fruit through his hands-on, personal approach to winemaking. The resulting wines are elegant, well balanced, polished, and distinctly Ehlers Estate. As Morrisey says,
Making wines that express our terroir is the goal,” he says. “You can’t always articulate it exactly. But when you taste it, you know it. Just like hearing the accent of someone who grew up within a few miles of you. It’s distinct and recognizable, and it’s the sound of home. It strikes you and cuts through the mix, singular and individual, and intensely and familiar. And there’s no possible way to mimic it. It’s either there, real and recognizable, or it’s not. (http://www.ehlersestate.com/)
Every bottle of Ehlers Estate wine is replete with second chances. The liquid inside is ever-changing and evolving. When opened, each bottle will provide a second chance to be more delicious than before. With each sip, one tastes the progression of second chances across time, from 1886 through today, from Bernard and Anna Ehlers, to the Domingos, to Jean and Sylviane Leducq, to winemaker Kevin Morrisey, and the footprints they have left on this enduring 42-acre estate in St. Helena, Napa Valley.
Interestingly enough, I rarely review Napa wines. Occasionally, I receive Napa wines from friends to enjoy, but I don’t receive Napa wines specifically as media samples. I am not sure if that’s because I live here and work in the wine business? The winery for which I work now encourages comparative tastings and even hosts them for staff, so I am happy there is not a conflict of interest when I do find Napa wines I feel like sharing. The past month or so, I have managed to get my hands on a few Napa wine samples and all were unexpected. I decided if they blew me away, I would write about them. Well, they did, so here we go.
2012 Coquerel Petite Sirah, Walnut Wash Vineyard, Calistoga
I don’t usually pair my wine with music, but this wine calls for two songs, Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix and Purple Rain by Prince. I really wanted to mention Purple Rain, because that’s one of my all-time favorite songs, soundtracks, and movies. The Coquerel petite sirah is so purple, it’s almost black. The fruit flavors are equally dark: blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, and plum. Add pepper, spice, and ample acidity and you have a total package petite sirah. You won’t mind that your teeth are stained when you are finished sipping. If you love petite sirah, you will love this one. $39 direct from the winery. Winemaker: Christine Barbe.
2010 Spence Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Spence is a small, private Napa winery on Howell Mountain. As good fortune would have it, I had the opportunity to taste this wine, the current release, with vintner Jacalyn Spence herself, then I took the rest of the 375ml (half) bottle with me to taste later. While beautiful right out of the bottle, I think it benefited from being open a while longer. This cabernet sauvignon is rich and supple, with fine, integrated tannins. While the nose exhibits dark berry notes, my first impressions on the palate are not fruit, but rather chocolate and coffee, enshrouded by a veil of dusty earthiness. The black cherry fruit reveals itself more in a supporting role. The spicy finish lingers longingly on the palate. $75 directly from the winery. Winemaker: Ted Osborne.
2014 Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc, St. Helena, Napa Valley
This bottle is challenging to photograph, but it looks pretty funky laying on a white surface, yes? This wine is from where I work. The tasting room staff opened this bottle and somehow a fruit fly met its demise inside, so the wine couldn’t be served. I volunteered to take it home to drink, not to review, but because I really need to keep learning about our wines. However, it turns out that I had a sauvignon blanc moment with this wine and I wanted to share it. Sauvignon blanc is one of my favorite varietal wines, but not often in Napa, where, as my co-worker and I were discussing, it is sometimes produced like a California-style chardonnay. For me, this Ehlers Estate offering is everything I want in a sauvignon blanc. If you are like me and you enjoy a clean, crisp, citrusy wine – as in lime/lemon citrus, not sweet or tropical fruit flavors – and a more substantial mouthfeel, this is your style of sauvignon blanc. It’s 100% estate, 100% organic fruit from a single vineyard on our property. Handcrafted in stainless steel and neutral French oak, it is aged sur lie for six months, which imparts a creamy texture. However, the floral aromatics, purity of fruit, and juicy acidity take center stage. $28 direct from the winery. Winemaker: Kevin Morrisey.
As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I am looking forward to spending the day with a friend who cooks like nobody’s business, and I will be providing most of the wines. I am not sure yet if I will review any of the wines I am bringing or just relax and have a good time, but I will take a notebook just in case.
Wishing you and yours a happy Thanksgiving!
No, it’s not a just a trip, but it’s a brand new life for me! Taking off the end of 2013 really allowed me to relax and open my heart and mind. When my part-time wine business employment ended, I didn’t panic, but just decided to breathe. I reached out to my wine and travel contacts to let them know I was seeking employment opportunities. Two responded. One was in the form of a text message: “Have you ever thought of moving to Napa?” Without hesitation, my intuition replied yes. Thus, my journey to Napa began.
I’ll be living in Napa and working full-time at a winery in St. Helena. I still have to pinch myself sometimes. However, when I look back at my recent past, from 2008 to the present, I can now see my path: wine business travel manager, my first wine moment, participation in virtual Twitter tastings, the start of my wine and travel blog, WSET courses, my first wine business job, and now this. I believe we all have a path of which we may not aware. To find it, just allow yourself be open to following your passion and trust your heart, your core, your gut, your intuition.
Recently I wrote about Jaffe Estate and participated in the fourth annual #CabernetDay with the 2007 Metamorphosis, Jaffe Estate’s Cabernet Sauvignon. I posted a review of the Metamorphosis as part of a fun, collaborative, he said, she said post with one of my favorite up-and-coming wine bloggers, Uncorked Remarks, so get over there and check it out!
Last night, I decided to cook, which is rare for me since I am rather inept in the kitchen. I made a pasta side dish and sirloin medallions. I decided to pair the 2008 Jaffe Estate Transformation with my meal. It’s a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 100% St. Helena Appellation, 100% Napa Valley, 100% Estate Grown fruit. Like its sister wine, I found it to have benefitted greatly from being in the bottle for a few years. Unlike many Napa reds I have tasted, it’s not a huge fruit bomb, but rather soft and feminine, with aromas and flavors of dark and red berries and a hint of chocolate. On the palate, it’s supple and velvety, with a long, delicious finish. Quite frankly, I couldn’t put it down, so I enjoyed a couple of glasses and imagined myself in St. Helena gazing at the starry night from Jaffe Estate’s adjacent observatory.
Both wines were samples graciously provided by the winery. To secure your bottles of Transformation and Metamorphosis, visit the Jaffe Estate website, where they are still offering a three-pack special of the 2007 Metamorphosis, 2008 Transformation, and 2009 Transformation.
Here’s to captivating wines paired with heavenly skies!
Jaffe Estate marries the agricultural and the celestial, the earth and the sky, to create transcendent wines.
Jaffe Estate is located in the St. Helena district of Napa Valley, sharing a boundary with the Rutherford Bench. Its location in the alluvial fan and its Bale Loam soil are ideal for the production of Bordeaux-style grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
The Jaffe Estate team is led by owners Gary and Pam Jaffe, winemaker David DeSante, and vineyard manager Michael Neal. DeSante’s story is reminiscent of other winemakers’ stories I have featured on my blog, such as Cynthia Cosco, Tammi Ramsey, David Jeffrey, and Mike Anderson, who left other careers or pursuits to follow their passion of making wine. DeSante left medical school in Virginia to pursue winemaking in California and now produces wine for Jaffe Estate, his own label, and other boutique Napa brands.
On Thursday, August 29, 2013, the virtual wine community will be celebrating Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet blends around the world during the fourth annual #CabernetDay. I have participated in #CabernetDay since its inception with wonderful wines from Caymus Vineyards, Meander Wines, and Trentadue Winery, I am honored that one of the wines I will be tasting this year is the Jaffe Estate 2007 Metamorphosis (Cabernet Sauvignon), a sample graciously provided by the winery. I’ve been told that wine is tasting beautifully now and am thrilled to share it with you in two weeks.
It’s not too late for you to enjoy this Cabernet Sauvignon and Jaffe Estate’s other releases for #CabernetDay, Labor Day weekend, and beyond. For a limited time, Jaffe Estate is offering a three-pack special: one bottle each of their current releases, the 2007 Metamorphosis (Cabernet Sauvignon), 2008 Transformation (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot), and 2009 Transformation (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot) for $147.50 plus shipping, regularly $204.00 plus shipping. It’s an ideal gift for yourself or the red wine lover in your life.
I hope you will join me for #CabernetDay 2013 in two weeks! Cheers!
I was born and raised in the Napa Valley after my parents and grandparents had moved to St. Helena to get into the wine industry in the early 1980s. It was a fantastic place to grow up, but as with many small towns, it became far too small after 18 years, so it was time for a change of scenery.
I found myself in Spokane, Washington to attend Gonzaga University. I had the opportunity to thoroughly enjoy NCAA basketball, learn why rowing is one of the most grueling sports in the world, and receive a degree in Criminal Justice and Sociology. I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest, but after tripping and falling into the wine industry back home, I was hooked once again to the small town feel. A couple of years later, still working in tasting rooms, cellars, wine marketing, and studying winemaking, I decided it was time to create my own wine project.
MTGA Wines was born as a small, craft line of wines, each dedicated to a single initial (M, T, G. and A), relating not only to the name tied to each initial, but a particular varietal. The style of these wines is all about flavor, structure, and approachability. This project began in 2010 with a small harvest from vineyards located in the St. Helena and Rutherford areas of Napa, which aged for 21 months before bottling. This inaugural release, the 2010 Napa Valley Merlot, is 100% Merlot with just 43 cases produced and scheduled to be released this week at a price of $42 per bottle.
My passion for winemaking didn’t necessarily come from my parents and grandparents, though the thought of continuing the family tradition is something that is very encouraging and has become a driving force. Instead, it came from diving back into the Napa wine industry in every way possible. I remember literally waking up one day and going to work and having it dawn on me that I wanted to take my own shot. This was partially due to actually enjoying my work, but also the fact that when I start talking wine, you generally can’t get me to shut up. After the 2010 harvest and a year and a half of planning and development, I finally felt like MTGA Wines was ready for launch. Therefore, here I am today.
Editor’s Note: On Sunday, September 2, I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Mike in person and hearing his story. First and foremost, he is a winemaker, but he is also a smart businessman and a creative thinker when it comes to growing his business. He told me he had put his heart and soul into this wine, and when I saw the commitment and passion in his eyes, I knew that I was witnessing a winemaker’s dream come true. There’s nothing more satisfying to me than bearing witness to the beginning of a long and successful career.
To order wine from Mike’s inaugural release, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-337-9168. Mike is available for weekend tastings by appointment. You may also follow Mike’s wine journey by way of his personal Facebook page.