Elizabeth Spencer Winery is located in one of the smallest buildings in the valley. This building was built in 1872 and served as the original post office for the town of Rutherford. Despite the winery name, there is no actual Elizabeth Spencer. Rather the winery is a partnership and the name comes from combining the owner’s first names.
Elizabeth Pressler spent many years working at select Napa Wineries; she first came to the Napa Valley in 1978 as a tour guide for Joseph Phelps winery. In later years she became involved with marketing and advancing what are now some of Napa’s most prestigious limited production labels.
Spencer Graham has been involved in the wine industry for his entire working life as a chef, sommelier and then later owning his own wine distribution business. Both Elizabeth and Spencer share the actual wine making duties with their primary winemaker.
The small one room tasting room is located right across from the Rutherford Grill Restaurant and Beaulieu Vineyard; what a contrast in winery sizes!
Current production as of our last update (on a large year) is around 15,000 cases. Considered slightly larger then a boutique winery, they produce an impressive lineup of wines from Napa as well as Mendocino and Sonoma County. And wines from varietals you don’t often see from a Napa producer including a Riesling and a Grenache (non Napa sources). A large percentage of their production is sold through distribution (restaurants and retail wine shops) while the remainder is sold on site and to the wine club. The winery celebrated their 20th vintage in 2018.
They have established long term relationships with various vineyards ensuring that they know the type of high quality fruit they receive as well as ensuring consistency in their wines. Their we very easy to drink rosé of Pinot Noir is one of their best selling wines and always sells fairly quickly. Also be sure to try their amazing Cabernet Sauvignon from Mt. Veeder (available in limited quantities). Because they have such a variety of wines to choose from their tasting options vary from time to time. A tasting typically includes four of their wines. If you are lucky you may happen to bump into either Elizabeth or Spencer as they will drop by from time to time.
The tasting room is tiny and intimate – however if the weather is decent as it usually is in Napa (other than El Nino winters) – they maintain plenty of outdoor seating directly behind the tasting room building. During spring a tasting out here is an excellent place to smell the wonderful aromas of the Meyer Lemons in bloom. An outdoor tasting is also a great break from the nearly always hectic pace of nearby Highway 29 and the busy Highway 128 intersection.
In 2017 the Elizabeth Spencer Studio opened on the same site as the tasting room – next to the parking lot. This formerly was a photography studio. Elizabeth Spencer uses the space for private tastings and hosting larger groups. A sizable patio/garden area in the back extends all the way to the fence at the edge of Highway 29.
In addition to their general walk in tasting, two more intimate tastings can be reserved within at least 24 hours notice. One, the Blind Tasting is both an educational experience (information is provided on how to evaluate wines) and fun experience. To some groups it becomes a competitive experience. And the Appellation Tasting focuses on wines from select sub appellations within the Napa Valley. This particular tasting features 4 to 6 wines from completely different growing regions. These wines are paired with select cheeses and your host will discuss how the differences in soil and climate help create such unique wines. Wines from the same vintages are usually offered.
And sometimes you will see a tent located outside – seating 30 to 40 people. Typically this is reserved for wine club members, or large groups who have made advance notice for tastings.
For more information visit: www.elizabethspencerwines.com
NOTE: this review has been identified as needing a *major* update.