Foley Johnson Winery is one of several Napa wineries owned under the Foley Estates wine group. Proprietor William Foley II and his wife Carol Johnson Foley also own wineries in neighboring Sonoma County and on California’s Central Coast. This physical winery is located right off of northbound Highway 29 in the Rutherford appellation.
Foley Johnson doesn’t sit right on Highway 29 as some of the other nearby wineries do so keep a close look out when you get close (they are the next winery south of Peju Winery). The wood surrounded tasting room is located in an old 1920’s totally renovated wooden “barn” and almost 50 acres of estate vineyards are planted on the property which surround the barn. The winery becomes ‘newer’ as you head east (it was built in stages over the years). As you walk away from the tasting room you enter the winery that the previous owners Charles and Joanne Sawyer built (the original Sawyer Cellars) – and as you continue walking you reach the newest part of the winery – a state of the art wine making production facility that was built by Foley Johnson.
Foley Johnson concentrates their wine making efforts on a number of Estate wines sourced from their surrounding vineyards. Several tasting experiences are offered including the Estate (wines from the property) and the Handmade which features very small production wines from select properties within the Foley Estates wine group.
If you are interested in a more in depth experience and education try either their Sensory tasting seminar or their blending seminar in which you help create wine that they will age for you. A tour and tasting combined along with a vineyard tram tour round out the select experiences offered here. The original barrel room is built below the winery/hospitality area and now serves as a space for private tastings.
Bill and Carol’s son Patrick is the winemaker. His first harvest was in 2011 at Chalk Hill Estate in neighboring Sonoma County. Like other young winemakers in the valley he has already had his share of international wine making experience with stints in New Zealand and Mendoza, Argentina.
Look for two selections of wines available here – the Napa Valley (made from estate fruit from their nearly 50 acre property on site) and Handmade, wines from some of the other wineries in the Foley Family Wines collection.
The 2006 Estate Sauvignon Blanc shows a bouquet followed by a flavor and mouth feel that might lead you to believe you are drinking Chardonnay. Not so. This is a somewhat unusual Sauvignon Blanc in the Napa Valley in that it was aged in Oak Sur Lie for 8 months, which means is has a creaminess and weight in the mid palate you don’t normally find in Napa produced Sauvignon Blancs. Rather than the cut grass and herbaceous flavors you sometimes find with Sauvignon Blancs, this wine is robust with its nutty aromas, almost caramel like which turn to pineapple after the bouquet opens up. This is followed by a smooth palate of pear and apricot flavors with some very nice mineralities.
The 2004 Estate Merlot is 100% varietal well balanced wine. Note the hint of oak and spices especially towards the finish. Our pick is their Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 vintage. The nose hints at a fruit forward wine with elegant well integrated aromas of blackberry, and cherry with a palate that also contains hints of vanilla. The finish is smooth and long.
The 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon reveals an elegant bouquet with notes of chocolate and cherry aromas – tending towards the darker fruits. An earthy characteristic also shows on the bouquet, more muted but there nonetheless. This is an extremely balanced wine for being so young at the time of our tasting – (just released). Mouth watering acidity – lingering flavors of cherries with structurally pleasing somewhat dusty tannins.
The 2011 Rutherford Petit Verdot (from a small block of this varietal on site) shows sweet floral driven aromas interwoven with intriguing fruit including raspberry and blackberry – and a touch of sage. This wine has very good acidity and a noticeable red cherry, red currant tartness that lingers on the finish for some time. The tannins are mouth filling and are also persistent.
They also make what they call the “fun wine” in very small quantities. Its a rosé of Merlot with nice wild strawberry and raspberry flavors on a light to medium bodied palate but with a rather intense finish. This is a good pool and patio sipping wine on hot days.
The wine hosts are friendly, knowledgeable & sincere. This is a tasting room that “cares” and that is big in our books.
Tastings are by appointment only but if you are there during a slow time you may be able to schedule something that day (the regular tasting).
Should you happen to be here during harvest you might even be put to work for a few minutes on on their sorting table, sorting jacks (grape stems) and other debris that don’t belong in wine! Total production is relatively small at just over 4000 cases. Check their website for pricing, tasting specials and or discounts. For more information and to join their wine club, visit: www.foleyjohnsonwines.com
NOTE: this review has been identified as needing a major update.