Egelhoff Wines was founded by long time Napa Vintner Bob Egelhoff with his first vintage dating from 1999. He has a background in both viticulture and enology and graduated from UC Davis. After managing vineyards for a brief period near Chico, California he moved to the Napa Valley – what better vineyard management company to start with then Beckstoffer. He worked for Andy Beckstoffer for several years in the mid 1980’s and followed that with stints at well known Napa wineries including Harlan Estate, Pahlmeyer, Chappellet and Merryvale.
Since the early 1990’s he has exclusively consulted for a number of ultra premium small producers – all based in Napa. And what was one of his career highlights, he was profiled in the Wine Spectator as crafting the 1997 wine of the year, the Cabernet Sauvignon Elevation 1147 he made when he was the winemaker at David Arthur Vineyards.
It is refreshing to find other wines and varietals from a small Napa producer, other than the ubiquitous Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and or Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Bob makes several wines fairly uncommon to Napa including his first ever release of Riesling in 2008. There are not many Napa Riesling producers (very few vineyards of this varietal in the valley) and it is always a treat for us to find this wine when we are conducting reviews for this project. As Bob says, “a Riesling is one of the more versatile wines” – and it can be paired with a large variety of ethnic foods and does particularly well with spicy foods. This Riesling is made with grapes entirely grown within Napa.
The 2008 Egelhoff Riesling shows a pretty straw color in the glass with a very aromatic aroma even at its chilled temperature. Aromas of pear, apricot, and honey show with additional hints of mineralities. This wine is slightly off dry clocking in at a reasonable 1% residual sugar. There is definitely a slight background sweetness to the wine but it in no way takes way from the excellent fruit that shows on the palate. Notes of honey continue to the palate with additional nuances of stone fruit flavors. It is balanced from start to finish with with excellent acidity. We tasted this wine just after it had been released and already it is extremely popular – especially during the summer. Its a great wine to sip around the pool on warm summer evenings.
We tried a number of barrel samples including Egelhoff’s 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. The several Cabernet Sauvignons from barrel that we sampled all had great color, but Bob says this vintage is among the darkest and most concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon of any vintage he has crafted. Part of that reason is tied to the much lower yields from the mountain side sourced vineyard used for this wine. April of 2008 saw severe frost damage to parts of the Napa Valley, especially on the eastern side in the hills. This was the worst frost damage in over 30 years and it will be interesting to see how wines from this particular year develop. The 2008 while so young and from barrel already is bursting with huge flavors from entry all the way to the super long finish. This is going to be one concentrated wine once it is released in a few years.
Bob is involved in a very interesting one of a kind project. His blend, Two Worlds involves a 50/50 blend of Australian Shiraz and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The Shiraz is flown over in the cargo hold of a jet and then receives its aging at the winery and Bob puts together the final blend. We tried a barrel sample of the Shiraz – it is a juicy mouth filling varietal that is all about the fruit flavors. The Cabernet Sauvignon contributes much of this wines structure and when combined with the Shiraz you have a very unique wine. Two Worlds is produced in merely 500 etched magnum bottles each year.
Another very unique project is Egelhoff’s tawny port-style wine bottled under his Walton label (a family name). This is made in the solera style so there is no vintage – only several producers we have met with in Napa produce non vintage port style wines. Egelhoff also crafts a Cabernet Sauvignon under the Walton label. This tawny port is made from a number of very interesting varietals including Carignane from 95 year old vines and early Burgundy, Garnacha (Grenache) and Touriga Nacional. Bob started making port-style wines before even starting his Egelhoff brand and as a result actually has a tawny port on the market even though his Egelhoff label was started 10 years ago as of the time of this review. Tawny port needs to age 15 years before being released. This is a rare wine indeed. Egelhoff only releases about 70 cases of this every two years, just to mailing list members and or those who taste on site at the winery. It is a complex wine with layered aromas and flavors. It is quite brown in the glass and shows notes of maple syrup, crème Brule, and honey in the bouquet which lead to a rich palate dripping with liqueur and butterscotch flavors. The finish lingers tantalizingly and leaves you wanting only more of this unique wine!
Bob says this wine shines when used in cooking or pairing with fresh fruit – put some of this over fresh nectarines, peaches or strawberries and you are in ‘heaven’.
You can find Egelhoff wines at several locations locally including St. Helena Wine Center as well as ACME Fine Wines (both in St. Helena). The best way to enjoy Egelhoff’s wines is to join their mailing list and to make an appointment for a tasting with Bob at the winery. Tastings are for serious wine enthusiasts and are always by appointment. This is a unique opportunity to taste with a long time Napa winemaker who has both extensive experience in the vineyards as well as winemaking. For more information, visit: www.bobegelhoff.com