Celani Family Vineyards (pronounced ‘Chelani’) was founded in 2005 by owners Tom and Vicki Celani. They divide their time between Napa and their home in Michigan. Tom is a man who wears many hats and is and has been involved in a number of businesses ranging from owning a Harley-Davidson dealership, theatres, real estate to being involved in the gaming industry for many years with holdings in select locations nationwide. Tom comes from an Italian family and used to make wine with his grandfather. Then he started collecting wine and over the years has amassed a fairly large cellar. His passion and enjoyment of fine wine ultimately took the “next step” in becoming a commercial venture with Celani Family Vineyards. They focus on limited production, high quality wines from their estate vineyard as well as other south Napa regions.
The property is not your typical Napa vineyard planted to a majority of Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact there is no Cabernet Sauvignon on site. The vineyard includes 10 acres of Merlot and 6 acres of Chardonnay. The wine making team has been the same since the first vintage. Head winemaker Mark Herlold has long favored the moderate influences of the nearby Coombsville region for his red varietals and this is where Celani sources their Cabernet Sauvignon from.
The appealing part of this property (other than its obvious Tuscan feel) when Tom and Vicki first looked at it was that it was already planted to vines and an existing winery was on site. With a bit of modernization and addition of state of the art wine making equipment, the winery was fully functional in time for their first harvest in 2005. Only one wine was made then, their flagship Cabernet Sauvignon (Ardore) and in 2006 they introduced 4 other wines, all of which are produced each vintage. In the winemaking style of Mark Herold, all their wines are unfiltered.
The 2008 Chardonnay is a delightful palate pleasing wine entirely by itself. This wine saw no malolactic fermentation, has a rounded mouth feel and carries good weight and structure. This weight comes from ‘battonage’ where the lees (sediments) were stirred in barrel for a number of months as the wine aged. This also helps contribute to the rich golden color. Nice mineralities show on the nose complemented by both tropical aromas including pineapple. Notes of citrus, more orange than lemon and some of the tropical components found on the nose are also on the palate. The finish is clean yet lingers for some time.
The 2007 Tenacious is a predominantly Merlot based blend with the remainder being Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. This wine may be named Tenacious, but its bouquet is anything but, rather its rather elegant showing cassis, cedar, baking spices and dark berry fruits. There are many layers in this wine. The entry is soft; the wine finishes with pleasing tannins and just a touch of mocha.
The 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from several vineyards in Coombsville and was created with one purpose in mind – to be paired with steak! It is medium to full-bodied bodied with a juicy mid palate showing characters of spicy plum and blackberry. This wine has both big structure, big fruit and meaty tannins.
The Ardore is a wine that tends to age for quite some time before being released, both in barrel (usually around 36 months) as well as in bottle. The current release at the time of this review is the 2006 vintage. Their Napa Valley Cabernet is a dark wine but this wine is decidedly darker. Staying true to his heritage Tom named this wine, Adore which means “passion” in Italian. The 06′ is showy on both the bouquet and palate. This vintage has well structured tannins which are complemented and balanced by the rich fruit on the lengthy finish (black cherry, blackberry and cedar box spices. This is a big rich Napa Cabernet and the weight of the bottle matches the structure of the wine. In fact, this is the largest custom designed 750ml bottle ever produced by this particular glass company (Saver).
Tastings are for serious wine enthusiasts and visitors often have previously tried their wines. The estate is located just north of the town of Napa and offers a number of private visiting options including a general tasting as well as a boutique catered lunch (all by prior appointment). For serious cigar aficionados Celani offers a cigar and wine tasting (which can be a good option as this is held later in the day after most wineries have already closed).
Celani’s wine is currently distributed in a number of states including New York, New Jersey and Michigan – for obvious reasons. You can find the wine locally in Napa at Backroom Wines, and in St. Helena at the St. Helena Wine Center. They are also on the wine list at the French Laundry in Yountville. For more information visit: www.celaniwines.com