Kelly Fleming Winery is located in the northern part of the Napa Valley, nestled in a narrow canyon against the steep hillsides. From this part of the Napa Valley you hardly know you are in the Napa area. Rugged hillsides, narrow secluded canyons and forested slopes all form the backdrop for Kelly Fleming’s 12 hillside planted acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. This is prime Cabernet Sauvignon country and nearby neighbors include Araujo Estate and Woodbridge.
Kelly founded the winery in 2002; she visited the Napa Valley for over 20 years and and like many others before her fell in love with the area. She purchased property in 1998 and soon thereafter planted various Cabernet clones on an assortment of root stalk. This particular hillside soil is extremely rocky and well drained. As a result, cover crops and the addition of organic layers to the surface are extremely important which help with erosion control as well as ensuring the soil retains additional moisture. The vineyards are certified CCOF organic.
As Kelly says, building a winery and brand come in small steps. She made these steps one at a time. She used to make her wine at another winery in the south valley but with the completion of her caves, all wine making operations moved on site in 2010. Both arms of her cave were drilled through solid rock so the shotcrete covering typically used in wine caves wasn’t used except at the entrance (to protect against dripping water). Natural rock is exposed in the rest of the caves.
The property is 300 acres so the vineyards take up only a small portion of the total acreage. Kelly is a firm believer in creating a healthy balance between the vineyards and the natural environment. Bee hives have been introduced to the property, a native plant reseeding program is in place and additional plans call for possibly solar and wind generated power sources. Speaking of winds, it is often breezy in this area from the steep canyons that rise behind the property. One advantage of this over the valley floor is these winds really mitigate stagnate air and colder temperatures which can produce frost damage during and after bud break.
Kelly Fleming’s first vintage was in 2002 with merely 300 cases released at that time, but since then each vintage has grown slightly; they do have the capacity to produce additional amounts. They also make a French styled Sauvignon Blanc part of which was sourced from one of Napa’s best known vineyards – To Kalon. This vineyard is actually extremely coveted for its high quality of Cabernet Sauvignon but other varietals are planted here including several rows of Sauvignon blanc. The 2011 has great aromatics with both tropical and citrus notes – but more tropical in nature.
Respected local winemaker, Celia Welch consults for a number of boutique high end Napa wineries including Kelly Fleming. Celia’s specialty is working with single vineyard estate properties such as this one. Kelly was the sole proprietor for many years but now her son Robert and daughter Colleen are involved with the business.
We tried the 2004 100% Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. All the Cabernet clones in this wine are picked separately based on individual ripeness, and are also fermented and aged separately until the final blending. This wine is inky and dark in color which are perfect color characteristics for hillside fruit. As the wine opens up seductive aromas of ripe juicy blackberries are revealed along with exotic earth driven spices. The palate is rich and well layered with lots of fruit on the mid palate which leads to a well structured elegant finish.
Visits are for serious wine enthusiasts and are typically hosted by Kelly, her daughter Colleen or their assistant winemaker. Tastings are either outdoors overlooking vineyards and this beautiful “side” valley or are in the beautiful stone winery which adjoins the cave.
You can find their wines locally at Dean & Deluca, Enoteca in Calistoga and Backroom Wines in Napa. Visit: www.kellyflemingwines.com