Xtant Wines was founded by two partners, Jeffrey O’Neill and Laurence Vosti both of whom have strong ties to the wine industry. Jeff is a past president of The Wine Institute and Laurence went to school in the Bordeaux region of France, has owned a retail wine business and has been a collector of California & French wines for many years.
Winemaker Jeff Gaffner has strong ties to the neighboring Sonoma County wine scene. He began what has become a long career as a winemaker in 1981 at Chateau St. Jean in Kenwood. A name that rings a loud bell in Sonoma County is Dick Arrowood, Jeff’s mentor at the time. Jeff went on to launch Saxon Brown in 1997 (named after the heroine in Jack London’s book, “Valley of the Moon”. The focus of these wines is on old vine Zinfandel and Semillon – using field blends. Along with these varietals he produces a wide range of other wines sourced from various vineyards throughout Sonoma County.
The first release of Xtant was from the 2001 vintage.
Jeff has his feet in both counties; he is consulting winemaker for a number of wineries both in Sonoma and Napa. The Xtant Wines are made at Laird Estate just south of Yountville where we had the privilege of meeting with Jeff. Xtant sources their fruit from select vineyards that they have hand picked based on the quality of fruit available from the various sites.
Since the beginning Xtant has sourced from within the historic Lewlling Vineyards in St. Helena each year. Lewelling Vineyards is one of the oldest continuously-owned family vineyards in the Napa Valley with family roots dating back to 1864 when the family patriarch John Lewelling moved to St. Helena. The vineyard itself is located at the base of the Mayacamas mountains on the western side of the valley. The vines grow on rich benchland soils; several premium producers source from this vineyard.
Once the grapes come into the winery they are typically cold-soaked for three days before starting fermentation. Once the wine has fermented to dryness – the wine is pressed and then transfered to barrel for malolactic fermentation. Jeff told us that Xtant ages their wines for an extra year compared to most Napa wineries. They use very tight grained oak barrels from coopers selected from certain geographical regions in France. As a result despite the extra aging, their wines are not “oaky” in flavor rather the flavors imparted from the wood are slightly spicy and sweet at the same time.
Their 2004 Xtant Cabernet Sauvignon is a rich complex multi-faceted wine. The Cabernet Sauvignon is blended with Malbec and Merlot. The Malbec brings a violet and lavender complexity to the palate; you can also pick up on notes of cherries and red currants. The finish on this wine is remarkably long!
Xtant also produces another label called Petit Batard, which from the French to English translation, translates to “Little Bastard”. Heh, not many wines are named something like this! This particular wine is Cabernet Sauvignon, created from barrels of wine that are not used in the Xtant wines. It is Cabernet Sauvignon based and is available at a very good price point – we’ve had wines of this quality and structure easily 2x the value of what this wine is priced at.
For more information and to join their mailing list, visit: www.xtantwines.com
NOTE: this review has been identified as needing a *major* update.
View Jeff speaking about Xtant