DR Stephens Estate is a beautiful wine estate located in the hills off of Howell Mountain Road just minutes from the Silverado trail. This location is peaceful, secluded and while minutes removed from the valley floor feels much further removed from parts of the busy Napa Valley. The tastings are held at the estate and are for serious wine enthusiasts. A visit here is always with one of the family members and weather permitting is outside on a long wooden table overlooking their rock styled pool and nearby hills. A beautifully furnished tasting room is available during bad weather. Don R. Stephens and son Justin are the owners. During Don’s time in law school in the Bay Area he and some partners started a steakhouse restaurant in San Francisco. At this time he gained appreciation for fine wine and especially for how Cabernet Sauvignon paired well with steak.
The seeds were planted! Fast forward many years through a successful career in which he runs a real estate and private equity investment business – to 1996 when he acquired 35 acres and soon planted 9 acres of this to vineyards. They released their first commercial vintage in 2002. The family grew up in the northern Napa Valley, just up the road from their current wine estate. Their original intent with the property was not to get into the wine making business but the acreage they purchased, while never historically planted to vineyards is mostly hillside and is perfect for growing Cabernet Sauvignon as they later discovered.
DR Stephens Estate’s primary focus is on Cabernet Sauvignon although they do make a delicious Chardonnay from the cooler Carneros region to the south. Their winemaker, Celia Welch specializes in consulting for ultra-premium wineries and is well known throughout the valley for her attention to detail and high quality wines. They make three Cabernet Sauvignons – two vineyard designates and a declassified second label. One is their impressive Moose Valley Vineyard which is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon entirely grown on the St. Helena property. Another is their Walther River Block, also 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a 1.6 acre vineyard in Rutherford – 2006 will be their first release. Finally the DRII, which is produced from estate fruit as well as from other Napa Vineyards.
The 2005 Moose Valley Vineyard and Walther River Block Cabernet are aged predominately in new French Oak and typically sees no fining or filtration. All grapes are harvested by hand, de-stemmed and then re-sorted so that only the ripest berries are left. These berries are then fermented on the skins before pressing. The 2005 is a very dark wine and its aromas are full of the smell of ripe blackberries. The palate bursts with ripe cherry and dark chocolate. The tannins are gentle and delicate with a finish full of vanilla and tobacco that lingers well after you swallow.
Their wines are well placed within the Napa area, usually found at the higher end restaurants and resorts including Auberge du Soleil and Meadowood. Cases of their wine have received some of the highest bids at the annual Premier Napa Valley which is a mid-winter event mainly for trade to benefit charity organizations. Don and Justin also own a label called Hunnicutt. Note that their mailing list is currently full – but you can join the waiting list for the mailing list. For more information about DR Stephens, visit: www.drstephensestate.com