Allora Vineyards is located in the vicinity of Ehlers Lane off of Highway 29 in the northern part of Napa Valley. The Allora winery and residence buildings are beautifully constructed and are the centerpiece of the property. This is truly a family owned and operated winery. The owners Terry and Nancy Klein have lived in the Napa Valley for many years and they own a successful residential & winery plastering company (based in the San Francisco Bay Area). Their daughters are also directly involved with the winery – managing the winery sales and marketing. The first vintage was in 1997.
Their 15 acre property is valley floor in between Calistoga and St. Helena in the northern part of the valley. Ten acres of vines are planted on the estate with the majority being Cabernet Sauvignon and lesser amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Sirah. Terry was born in San Francisco and moved to St. Helena when he was 13 years of age – his family has been in the Napa Valley since 1963.
The property features rich loamy soils – when they drilled a deep well they passed through layers of gravel, loam and clay which repeated itself as they went deeper. The soil is so fertile – Terry even mentioned one year the metal end posts on each row started “growing”!
Water is not an issue on the property – when they drilled a well they were hoping to get enough at least a decent amount to service the vineyards but they hit an artesian well – and water started bubbling out of the bore hole. The well driller soon capped the well and then demonstrated to Terry just how much water they had tapped into by removing the cap and Terry estimates he watched a 150 foot spray of water shoot over the vineyard.
This is one of the finer examples of a “garagist” winery in the Napa Valley (small winery at a home). The bonded commercially producing winery is located directly below their home – it is small but extremely functional. Two tasting rooms are located here – either one is private for your visit. Winemaker Dennis Johns (founder of White Cottage Ranch Winery and more recently Round Two Wines) was Allora’s first winemaker. Biodynamic farming proponent Rudy Zuidema has been their winemaker since 2002.
And it was Rudy’s decision when he started making the wine to stop using the Petite Sirah as a blending wine (it was one of the finer Petite Sirah’s he had tasted) and he told the Kleins’ it needed to be made as a stand alone variety. Allora releases a wine from this variety each year.
The highlights of a visit here are the wine of course and the personal experience of sitting down with one of the owners or their children. Total production is about 1200 cases which means some of their wines sell out very quickly due to the low quantities. They used to sell fruit to Caymus Winery, but in more recent years they ended that contract and as a result, Allora’s own production has increased slightly. Much of the fruit for their wines comes from their estate vineyard – they do source Chardonnay (in nearly 20 years, 2014 was their first vintage of Chardonnay) and Pinot Noir from neighboring Sonoma County. In the past they have sourced from several premium vineyards most notably in the Stag’s Leap District.
The 2004 Cielo is a Tuscan style blend with Merlot as the dominant variety but also contains Cabernet Sauvignon and touches of Sangiovese and Barbera. As with their other wines, only small quantities are available. Like all of their wines, production for the Cielo is extremely low – this vintage saw only 194 cases. The one thing that makes this wine fairly unique is it is not made every year; it is only made during years where the quality of the grapes are superior. The nose has appealing aromas of raspberry, red cherry and just a touch of vanilla from the oak aging. This wine is very dark and full bodied with a touch of spiciness that hits around mid palate and continues into the very long finish. With reasonable yet structured tannins at this age and lively acidity this wine will also cellar very well.
The 2005 Tresca Cabernet Sauvignon has 10% Cabernet Franc blended in – the blends and variety additions usually change from year to year. Tresca means “intrigue” in Italian and its easy to see why customers are intrigued with this one. It is their most popular wine and was their original commercial release. We can see why with its balanced palate and smooth and silky mouth feel.
The Lusso blend is supposed to be excellent however it was sold out at time of our tasting. It is their 100% Reserve Cabernet Wine – the beautiful label was designed from a painting by Margaret Keane a friend of the family. She is fairly well-known for her paintings of people with large eyes. She has been painting for over 50 years. While not cheap now, if you have the budget, get your hands on some of her works – with such a unique style her art is only going to go up in value. And for recognition on a much broader scale, the movie Big Eyes was released in 2014 starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz – detailing her very unique career as an artist in the shadow of her husband at the time.
Also of note is the Vino2 glass they use for the tastings. These solid “wine aeration glasses” have a large “dent” in the side – this is for “breaking” the wine – which allows for additional aeration of the wine as you swirl and actually makes a splashing noise. It is always interesting when we find a new type of glassware; this is the only Napa winery/producer out nearly 1,000 we have visited to use this unique type of wine glass. And of note is while perhaps these glasses don’t seem large enough – you can actually pour a full 750ml bottle of wine into one with space left over. You can purchase them at the time of your tasting.
Allora also offers a unique ‘label your own wine’ program – empty bottles with names such as “Matt’s Revenge” and other more upbeat labels line part of the tasting room. The lead time on this is usually 6 weeks from when you order – and purchases are limited to a minimum of a case.
A visit is for serious wine enthusiasts and is always held with family members. This is as personable a tasting experience as you will find in the Napa Valley. Allora loosely translates to “whatever” in Italian. Visit: www.alloravineyards.com