James Cole Estate Winery is located right off of Silverado trail at the junction of the Oak Knoll Crossroad which makes it very easy to find. They specialize in Estate Cabernet which makes sense as this winery is just south of the famous Stag’s Leap Wine Appellation – which of course is one of most well-known Cabernet producing districts in Napa Valley.
The winery opened in late 2007 and is open by prior appointment. The name combines James’ first name and part of his wife Colleen’s first name. James was born outside of Edmonton Alberta and used to work for Inniskillin Winery, which is famous for their ice wines (more about that later). Their logo is not a Texas Longhorn however inviting it might be to think that when you see a bottle of their wine! This logo is derived from a beautiful metal sculpture made by a Hispanic artist whose artwork focuses on sculptures of the human form. James and Colleen spotted this piece of art in a gallery in Laguna Beach (Southern California); it now resides in the winery across from the tasting counter.
This property was purchased in the late 1990’s and planted at that time. It used to be an old dilapidated equestrian center and the winery building sits in the footprint of one of the original buildings. Nine of the eleven acres are planted to three clones of Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruit from each clone is kept separate during the aging and then blended for the final wine. All production is very limited with each wine in the 100 to 400 case range with total production around 750 cases.
The tasting experience is relaxing with very knowledgeable and friendly staff and is held indoors at the tasting counter or at tables outside, weather permitting. As of press time all their wines are 100% varietal. We started with their 2006 Chardonnay which sees minimal Malolactic Fermentation and oak aging; it is crisp and full of fruit flavors including some apple and pear. Its extremely hard to find a 100% varietal Malbec in Napa (think Mendoza, Argentina), but James Cole does a very nice job with this wine. It is a winner! We tried their 2005 made with fruit from the Oakville district. It is a concentrated wine with great color – very dark and inky in the glass. We tasted some licorice and cherry on the palate – this is a good wine for aging.
Their 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon is a medium bodied wine but not overly huge as with some area cabernet’s made in this style. The nose is very earthy with dominating notes of black cherries and the mouth feel is full bodied and smooth.
Lastly for a wine you will *not* find anywhere in Napa Valley much less the rest of the world, try their Jaden Pinot Noir Icewine from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. This is a rare wine that is made in extremely small quantities, James Cole only received 75 cases of the 2004 vintage and a typical vintage is under 100 cases. Jaden is run by James and his brother who farms the vineyard.
This is a wine that is quite difficult to make for many reasons. The grapes hang on the vine well after the normal harvest often until the end of December and they have to be netted to keep out all the hungry birds and other animals. By regulation, the temperature for 3 consecutive nights must be -8C or lower and then what little juice you can get from these desiccated grapes comes from pressing them right in the vineyards. The Brix (sugar level) is usually in the upper 30’s low 40’s. This wine is then aged in small Acacia wood barrels which help to impart a honey spiciness into the wine. Their 2004 vintage has a great nose with some hints of flowers including apple and roses and the feel on the palate is crisp and not overly sweet. This is definitely one of the highlights of the desert wines that we have tasted on our Napa winery odyssey.
Their barrel room contains a large sit down table and they have been known to show movies from the projector on site. They like Rolling Stones music so this is most often what you will hear playing at the winery! This is a neat boutique winery that as of press time has not yet been discovered. Furthermore their wines are only available at the winery – future plans include some local distribution. They are developing a mailing list. Website in progress. Visit: www.jamescolewinery.com