Bell Wine Cellars is located off of Washington Street, just south of Yountville. You drive down a long driveway (at least 3/4 of a mile). Despite the Yountville town address, this winery sits in the country surrounded by vineyards and a nearby riparian zone. During high water years it can become a little scary when the water overflows its banks and the vineyards completely flood. Several tasting areas are located withing the winery building.
Winemaker and part owner, Anthony Bell was instrumental in clonal variation research on Cabernet Sauvignon. He worked for many years at Beaulieu Winery where he worked his way up to General Manager. In other words he developed many different types of unique Cabernet Sauvignon clones. He is often around the winery especially for tours so you might have a chance to meet him. Their clone 6 Cabernet put this winery on the “wine map” so to speak and is a must try when you taste.
Anthony is a long time Napa grape grower with his first commercial crush coming in 1991 at an old winery in the Carneros district. Over the years he moved to various local wineries before finally locating this already existing winery in 1998. The general tasting room is located right within the tank room, there is a Reserve room for special tastings and if the weather permits you can taste outdoors next to the kitchen, pizza oven, and bocce courts. Vineyards surround this wineries’ rather secluded location and are planted to Merlot and several clones of Chardonnay.
We enjoyed the 2005 Clone 6 several months before it was even released to the public. In our opinion this wine was ready to go when we tasted it! It is unfiltered and is sourced from the historic well-known Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard in Rutherford. The original plantings on site were from 1928 by Georges de Latour (BV Vineyard). This is a very dark wine with rich concentrated flavors. Cherry, black currant, and blackberry all come together on the palate which is anchored by structured tannins on the finish, slight notes of pepper and just a subtle fling with vanilla from the particular French Oak barrels it was aged in.
Also, two excellent Syrahs and a non vintage Reserve Port are released in very limited quantities. Bell Cellars in fact produces quite a few other wines including Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Viognier, Merlot and several Sauvignon Blancs – including one from a vineyard in South Africa!
Tastings are by appointment; it is always nice to find a winery that caters to people seeking a more individual intimate tasting experience. Two main tastings are offered, the current release and their Reserve (advance reservations required for the Reserve tasting). I suppose you could take extra time and do both tastings! Beside the winemaker, Art Spanos the owner of the San Diego Chargers, has significant ownership. Their wines have been well received in Japan and this winery is sometimes popular with Japanese wine aficionados who are seeking a smaller more intimate Napa Valley tasting experience. Visit: www.bellwine.com
NOTE: this review has been identified as needing a major update.