Chateau Boswell Winery is an elegantly designed stately stone building with unique turrets located right next to the east side of the Northern Silverado Trail. This is one of the northern Napa Valley’s stunning estates. Their first commercial release was in 1979 and today their total production is fairly small, focusing on small production hand crafted wines. Their first winemaker was the famed soils expert and winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff and he in fact helped design and was instrumental in the layout and clonal choices for their original vineyard on site.
The estate vineyard is very terroir driven with volcanic ash, red soil as well as rocky obsidian – good soils for growing Cabernet Sauvignon. Nearby Glass Mountain is literally full of the black shiny obsidian rock that was so commonly used by Native Americans. Chateau Boswell has 3 acres to vine and the majority of their land remains untouched, completely forested. They are set back against the wooded hills in a very secluded bucolic location.
Stand by their cave and look out towards the main part of the Napa Valley and all you see are beautiful hills; it is so quiet here. Recently they completed a state of the art wine cave. The floor leading to the cave is inlayed with obsidian taken from the property. This wine cave is functional yet at the same time aesthetically gorgeous. Much of the cave goes through fairly solid rock and a number of sections are left to bare rock. One arm connects with their existing winery and all the crush and fermentation takes place indoors.
During the cave construction two huge boulders fell down from one of the ceilings leaving a most unusual concave formation. The formal and elegant tasting room is just inside the cave. Older vintages of their Cabernet Sauvignon are stored in the small cave grottos here. Visits to Chateau Boswell are for serious wine enthusiasts and are not meant to be rushed. Their philosophy is to get to know their customers and a tasting is private and personable usually with the winemaker Josh.
In the past couple of years the Boswell family refocused their winemaking efforts with Josh Peeples at the helm (Update 2015, Josh has since left Chateau Boswell to pursue other ventures). As recently as the late 1990’s Josh had no experience as a winemaker, rather he was running a dot com company in the Bay Area. After getting out of the high tech world he slowly eased his way into the wine world – working in the cellar and gaining invaluable knowledge from other experts in the industry.
In addition their winery is home to several other winemakers who specialize in premium limited quantity wines; working here is the perfect venue to ferment new ideas and work in collaboration with other sought after winemakers. His wife Jacquelynn is the daughter of the owners of Chateau Boswell and a label named in her honor is also produced here. Today they focus on premium hand crafted Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. There are a lot of Chardonnay producers in the valley but very few that specialize in the high end tier of this varietal. Chateau Boswell is one of these wineries.
Here is an example of their unwavering focus to using only the highest quality fruit. A recent vintage of Chardonnay numbered 41 barrels. After their final sampling and blending they elected to use merely 8 of these barrels for their final released wine! This is a common thread that plays throughout their winemaking and is not just limited to the white wines. Vineyards not owned by the Boswells have even been planted specifically upon their request tailored to their individual needs. All their white wines are barrel fermented and wild yeast is used for the fermentation. Presently, all of their Chardonnay is sourced from premium vineyards in Sonoma County including the well-known Russian River region as well as other Sonoma Coastal areas.
Our favorite is the 2005 Dutton Ranch Braughton Vineyard (Wente Clone). Dutton Ranch produces high end Chardonnay for a variety of premium producers. This vintage does not disappoint as it is extremely well focused on the fruit with intense flavors, vibrant acidity and overall is well-balanced. Mineral notes and nuances of lemon on the nose lead to a palate with notes of stone fruit, citrus and hints of vanilla. The 2006, again from the Dutton Ranch but from the Martens Vineyard (Dijon clone) has a cloudy presence in the bottle due to no filtering or fining. This is a Burgundian style Chardonnay. The nose is decidedly mineral in nature – think rocks right after they have been crushed. Lemon oil nuances are found on the palate and the finish is clean and full of flavor. This is a great food wine.
We tried the 2007 Jacquelynn Cuvee Blanc which is a 50/50 blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. This wine was carefully made and only undergoes partial malolactic fermentation. It is stirred 1x per week on the lees over about 6 months while in barrel. The vineyards for both of these varietals are carefully managed with extremely low yields based on their 1 cluster per shoot requirement. The results are concentrated fruit and a nice textured mouth feel. The bouquet is fairly refined with nuances of melon and pineapple with a palate layered in other fruit flavors.
The 2006 Jacquelynn 100% Beckstoffer To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon is partially fermented in open top wood pungeons. This wine like their other reds are only made from free run juice (not the pressed juice after maceration occurs). This is a rich layered wine with black fruit aromas including blackberry and cherry with just a touch of vanilla. It is big on the palate with notes of blackberries carried over from the bouquet as well as picking up nuances of black chocolate.
Chateau Boswell makes several delicious Cabernet Sauvignons one of which is sourced from premium vineyards in Oakville and the other is their only estate wine, the Cabernet Sauvignon typically blended in proportion with the Bordeaux varietals on the property – Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and or Merlot. The 2004 Boswell Beckstoffer has a bit of Cabernet Franc blended with the Cabernet Sauvignon and this produces a beautiful terroir driven wine with a dustiness and earthy quality to the nose. Think the smell of dust after a rain. This is a very rounded opulent wine with a lot of fruit mid palate. Time the finish on this one – you won’t be disappointed!
The 2005 Estate Cabernet was their smallest ever production – it is never very large but this year saw just 108 cases. You can find their wines merely at 3 or 4 local restaurants and at the winery. The best way to gain access to their wines on a consistent basis is to join their mailing list. Chateau Boswell has a relatively long history in the Napa Valley – their efforts have recently been re-invigorated and they are producing elegant inspired wines. This is a winery to definitely keep a close eye on.