Delectus Winery maintains a small winery and tasting room just south of the town of St. Helena (in the old Milat Winery space). Long time customers, may remember visiting Delectus in an industrial park in the southern Napa city limits; at the time they were one of only a handful of wineries south of Napa located in an industrial/business park with a tasting room. As a result they were not a winery you simply stumbled into. And from the outside, their old space was one of the most humble looking wineries we have visited. There was no signs greeting visitors as they pulled into the parking lot and guests were surrounded by metal framed industrial buildings; we were told that some people assumed they were lost and ended up calling the winery even though they were parked right in front of the winery building! Delectus used to sell hats capitalizing on this old location that said, “Grapes don’t need a view”.
In 2016 Delectus was acquired by Vintage Wine Estates (with headquarters in Santa Rosa in neighboring Sonoma County). Today Vintage Wine Estates has become a significant player in the wine worlds of Napa and Sonoma – with the acquisition of a number of winery properties and vineyards in both counties. In Napa, as of our latest update – in addition to Delectus, they own Clos Pegase, Cosentino, Delectus, Girard, Swanson and the former Napa based Cartlidge & Brown.
Delectus was founded in 1995 by Gerhard Reisacher & his wife Linda at the time. Gerhard (who was also the the founding winemaker) was originally from Austria and comes from 8 generations of wine making. He fell in love with the Napa Valley when he visited at 19 years old, and never left. Part of their growth a number of years ago was a 112 acre entirely hillside piece of property in Knights Valley (neighboring Sonoma County) near Peter Michael Winery. That location is historical; there is an old toll road originally used by miner’s accessing Lake County cinnabar ore mines (which when processed produces mercury, commonly called quicksilver). Well-known author Robert Louis Stevenson used to spend time on the property writing his poetry. And while Delectus still produces wines from Knights Valley vineyard locations, this property was not included in the sale to Vintage Wine Estates
Knights Valley has some intriguing micro climates. South facing vineyards often receive significant sunlight and ripening time. Contrary to what you would think about mountain grown fruit, Gerhard originally told us their picking time is surprisingly early in the season, usually in mid September. One year they even started harvesting some of their red varietals in early September. Case in point was the 2009 season in which a heavy somewhat quick rainstorm hit northern California fairly early but Delectus had already picked most of their own vineyard. The temperatures on the hillsides of certain vineyards in Knights Valley are more moderate; they don’t experience the large diurnal temperature shifts in nearby valleys
A typical tasting includes sampling a wide variety of wines in barrel from the actual winery (located behind the tasting room) and then a lineup of their finished wines. The tasting table contains blocks of soil profiles from the various vineyards.
The barrel samples are real treat as Delectus sources from a variety of vineyards. Allow about 45 minutes to an hour for a tasting. The crush pad is in the back of the tasting room and all wine is produced on site. The highlight here is tasting the wine and the individual attention you will receive from the hosts in the tasting room. Their focus is purely on premium hand-crafted red wines and the high quality is quite apparent during your tasting. Cabernet Sauvignon is one of our favorite varietals and their Cabernet Sauvignon from the Sacrashe Vineyard does not disappoint with its robust flavors and structure (however one will have to dig for this wine as they no longer sources from this particular vineyard).
Many of their wines are higher alcohol. They are meant to be consumed when you purchase a bottle – but they have the history to show that their wines will also hold up nicely with some bottle age. Nothing is about being quick to market with Delectus. They barrel age their red wines for a minimum of 2 years and then give it additional bottle age so by the time the wines are released they are typically a bit older than the current releases in the market. We tried one of their 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon vintages – it was like drinking velvet, smooth and soft with texture – everything you want in a high quality Cabernet.
The 2007 Delectus Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is from a vineyard almost directly on the other side of the valley from what was their own vineyard at the time. It is ruby red color in the glass with an elegant bouquet interwoven nicely with both vanilla and red fruit aromas. This wine is bright and lively on the palate with good acidity. It does have higher alcohol but that isn’t really noticeable on the palate. Just a touch of white pepper spice shows on the lingering finish.
The 2005 Delectus Mutti’s Pride was made in tribute to Gerhard’s mother Elisabeth who used to visit from Austria every year to help out during harvest. “Mutti” is Austrian for mother. This predominately Cabernet Sauvignon blend is crafted from a barrel selection. The layered nose is somewhat sweet, with herbal hints, red licorice and also shows red and black cherry aromas. The palate is rounded and juicy with a finish displaying slightly dusty and lingering red fruit notes including cranberry and raspberry.
All their labels have stories behind them; their daughter Julia had a very small production Cuvee named after her and their older labels contained her artwork from each year. Delectus found a neat use for old wine bottles – they would cut the bottle off about 2/3 of the way up above their label and fill the rest of the bottle with a soy based wax and stick in a candle. This type of wax is longer burning then regular wax. These were sold on site.
The Dog-Gone Good is a red wine blend made as a tribute to their dogs (who are often wandering around the winery). A tasting is always refreshing low key with friendly staff. For more information or to join their wine club, visit: www.delectuswinery.com
Note: Delectus moved their tasting room to the old Milat Winery tasting room in south St Helena in August 2014. This new location gives them an immediate public presence that they do not have at their other winery in the business park. This is along a busy section of Highway 29 near major wineries.
NOTE: THIS REVIEW HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED AS NEEDING A MAJOR UPDATE.
Old Tasting Room in Business Park South of Napa: