Delectus Winery is located just south of Napa (although note that in August 2014 they now maintain a winery and tasting room in south St. Helena – see below for update); it is one of only a handful of wineries south of Napa located in an Industrial/Business park. As a result this is not a winery you simply stumble into, rather prior reservations are required. From the outside, this is one of the most “humble looking wineries we have visited. When you pull into the parking lot there is no sign and you are surrounded by metal framed industrial buildings; we were told that some people assume they are lost and end up calling the winery even though they are parked right in front of the winery building! Once you step inside however, you are treated to a beautiful tasting room. Tastings are entirely private for your party.
This winery was founded in 1995 by Gerhard Reisacher & his wife Linda (since sold to Vintage Wine Estates). Gerhard (who is also the winemaker) is originally from Austria and comes from 8 generations of wine making. He fell in love with the Napa area when he visited at 19 years old, and never left. Several years ago Delectus purchased a 112 acre entirely hillside piece of property in Knights Valley (neighboring Sonoma County). This will become the hallmark estate of their wines and is currently planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with plans to plant additional varietals including Cabernet Franc. There is hardly any flat space on this property which runs from an elevation of 1200 feet up to 2200 feet in a small bowl between the Lake and Napa County lines. Their properties’ winery neighbor is the esteemed Peter Michael.
Delectus used to sell hats that said, “Grapes don’t need a view” – well now their grapes have one of the best views immediately north of the Napa Valley!
The location has some interesting micro climates. Because the vineyard is predominately south facing it receives significant sunlight and ripening time. Contrary to what you would think about mountain grown fruit, Gerhard told us their pricking time is surprisingly early in the season, usually in mid September and one year they started picking the 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 their hillside are more moderate; they don’t have the large diurnal temperature shifts that the nearby valleys experience.
They planted the first ever grapes on their property in 2005 and the first vintage will be 2008. The location is historical as well; there is old toll road that used to be used by miner’s going up to the Lake County quick silver mines. Also of note, famed author Robert Louis Stevenson used to spend time on the property writing his poetry.
A typical tour and 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 including their own estate in Knights Valley to the north. Allow at least an hour to 90 minutes for a visit here. The crush pad is in the back and all wine is produced on site. The highlight here is tasting the wine and the individual attention you will receive from the Reisacher family. 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 from the Sacrashe Vineyard does not disappoint. It is a big wine, full of flavor. From the samples of their own Cabernet Sauvignon the Sacrashe vineyard will soon have a run for its money!
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 the wine 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 99 Cabernet Sauvignon vintages – it was like drinking velvet, smooth and soft with texture – everything you want in a high quality Cabernet.
The 2007 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is from a vineyard almost directly on the other side of the valley from their own vineyard. 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 Mutti’s Pride is made in tribute to Gerhard’s mother Elisabeth who visits from Austria every year to help out during harvest. “Mutti” is Austrian for mother. This is a predominately Cabernet Sauvignon blend made with select barrels. The layered nose is somewhat sweet, with herbal hints, red licorice and shows red and black cherry. 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 has a very small production Cuvee named after her and the labels contain her artwork from each year. Delectus has found a neat use for old wine bottles – they 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 are 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). There is a refreshing low key atmosphere to the tasting and the staff are very friendly. The owners are usually on site. 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. They have plans to update and improve this tasting room – we will visit again over the next year for an update once these improvements have been made.
Old Tasting Room in Business Park South of Napa: