Since then the family acquired two vineyards in the St. Helena Appellation and one vineyard in the Oakville Appellation (right alongside Highway 29). They do not outsource any of the vineyard management duties, rather they have their own in-house team managing all their vineyards. And a number of their employees have been with them for years and as a result, know their vineyards extremely well.
Today they grow only red varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre) and sell the fruit to local exemplary wineries such as Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Del Dotto among others.
Proprietor Doug Stanton (Jesse’s grandson) has a background in vineyard management. After many years of growing grapes he decided to start making wine and released his first vintage in 1999. When you have excellent fruit and taste the wines it is producing for other wineries, it only makes sense to make your own wine.
Their production is small, usually around 800 cases divided between two wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Petite Sirah. Based on years of experience managing their vineyards they know where the best blocks grow within the vineyards and they harvest only those blocks for their wine. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is actually sourced from the same rows each year. They are only using a small percentage of the fruit they form for their own label – all the rest is sold to other premium producers in the valley.
What typically changes every year is the blending wine used and its varietal. This is because every growing season is different and it is the challenge of the winemaker to best use a blending wine that complements the Oakville fruit.
As Doug says, “producing wines has made us better farmers”.
Their winemaker Dave Phinney (of Orin Swift fame) is talented and already has high end experience in the Napa area at Mondavi, Whitehall Lane and Opus One. We sampled the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from their Oakville Vineyard. This was already bottled but was not yet released. However it was already drinking very nicely with hints of vanilla and chocolate on the nose. The oak is subtle and does not dominate with pleasing flavors of blackberry and blueberry on the palate.
Their 2005 Petite Sirah is a big wine, yet elegant beginning with a bouquet rich with black cherry aromas. The tannins are well managed and the finish is very long. Many Cabernet Sauvignon lovers will really enjoy this wine because of its structure and rich fruit. The fruit for the Petite Sirah is sourced each year from several select rows of vines growing in their St. Helena vineyard.
The challenge with this varietal is to get it ripe each year (weather doesn’t always cooperate late in the growing season) as Petite Sirah is a fairly thin skinned grape and doesn’t have a stronger resistance to moisture – as does a Cabernet Sauvignon grape. And Stanton’s style with their Petite Sirah is to ferment it when it is very ripe – this creates a higher alcohol wine but neither vintages we have tried have been overly ripe or revealed jammy characteristics.
The Stanton label has an image of an acorn on the bottle; their vineyards have oak trees growing nearby and these trees were the inspiration for the label. Stanton is also active in several charities by donating large format bottles to auctions. You can find Stanton’s wines locally at Enoteca in Calistoga, Cal Wine in Napa, the St. Helena Wine Center and Brix Restaurant. Visit: www.stantonvineyards.com
NOTE: This review has been identified as needing a major update.