Young Inglewood Vineyards. While the last name of the proprietors of this winery is “young” the property ownership is anything but that. Four prominent names in the valley have owned this property over the years – starting with Edwin Bale who sold to the Lewelling family (nearby Lewelling Lane, a historic winery in St. Helena, vineyards and wine) who sold to the Jaeger family in the 1950s. The Jaegers are well regarded vineyard owners in Napa Valley who were part owners of both Freemark Abbey and Rutherford Hill wineries. They even produced a Jaeger Inglewood vineyard designated Merlot from this property in the 1980s and early 1990s. The Jaegers in turn sold the property to the current owners, Jacky and Jim Young in 2007.
Jim and Jacky, along with partner Mike Murdock founded the successful software company, Sirsi Corporation in Alabama in 1979. The focus of the company was on a library automation system in part allowing libraries to share information with other libraries. This company since merged and is now known as SirsiDynix (Jacky and Jim are no longer involved).
Jacky was born in the United Kingdom; after they sold their company, they initially looked for vineyard property in Europe. After returning to the United States, they focused on finding property in Napa Valley, in part looking to maintain a rural lifestyle. Their son Scott initially moved onto the property after their purchase. Friends convinced him to make wine and ultimately, he took an internship at a winery in Burgundy, eventually moved back to the valley and worked harvests at Long Meadow Ranch and at Spottswoode Winery.
Today Scott is the head winemaker (he spent several harvests working at Domaine Leflaive in Burgundy) along with help from his mother (she attended UC Davis taking winemaking classes) – they also employ a vineyard consultant and wine-making consultant. Doug Hill has farmed this property for many years continues to manage the vineyards. The vines are all farmed organically. Both Jacky and Jim and their son Scott and his wife live on the property; their respective commutes to the winery are less than a minute!
The philosophy at Young Inglewood is to create wines which are European influenced in style and most importantly, are balanced. Their elegant label ties in perfectly with this philosophy. It is of a tight rope walker balancing across a high wire (a label not to be confused with the similar looking Tightrope Wines in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley). This is one of the more impressive wine labels we’ve come across on this project, coming up with a representation that defines grace, balance and art with similar desired qualities in the wine.
Napa Valley certainly has a number of small vineyards which features multiple soil types, often between vineyard blocks which are in close proximity to each other. This property is not one of those. It has similar soils throughout – primarily deep gravelly loam. When their barrel room was under construction, crews dug down 25 feet and discovered similar soil at that depth as at the surface. It is unusual to have a barrel room set deep under the valley floor, however this makes sense from an energy efficiency point of view. The concrete walls are very thick and well insulated. 50% of the winery is powered by solar cells.
Vines were originally planted on the property in the 1870s. In 2022 several acres directly behind the winery were replanted with the intent to grow about 15 different varieties including a number of grapes from the Rhone region in France. Vines were planted in pairs with the intention to remove the weaker of the two vines once they became established. And in 2015, their vineyards were certified Napa Green, a certification program by Napa County Department of Public Works and the California Green Business Program overseeing water conservation and reduced energy and waste within Napa based County wineries.
Their first vintage from Young Inglewood was from 2009 although Scott made several earlier vintages which were not bottled commercially. Today they produce around 900 cases annually; all the fruit is from the estate with the exception of their Chardonnay which is sourced from Oak Knoll District in the southern part of the valley. All of their wines are extremely food friendly.
Out of all the vineyards we have visited in the Napa Valley this is the first one we’ve come across that grows Aligoté, a Burgundian white varietal. We have heard that perhaps only one other vintner in Napa Valley (on Pritchard Hill) has made wine from this variety but not from Napa Valley grown grapes. This is the only Napa Valley based winery producing wine commercially from Aligoté, albeit a minuscule production. It should also be noted that Napa Valley based Duckhorn Wine Company owns Calera Vineyard in San Benito County and Calera produces a small amount of Aligoté.
Time spent by the family in Burgundy was certainly influential in the decision to plant this variety in Napa. About 2/3 of an acre surrounds the winery surrounded by plenty of trees and the winery to maximize shading; planted in 2013 its first vintage was from 2015 (a very tiny production of 10 cases which remarkably they ended up squeezing the grapes by hand).
The Young Inglewood 2009 Aligoté inaugural release offers a pretty union of both tropical and citrus aromas (orange blossom) with minerality notes. On the palate the wine is very balanced, rounded and almost slightly creamy at times – with flavors of citrus and apple and a hint of spice. The finish is very clean, and it drinks well by itself. Looking for a wine from a white varietal that absolutely no one else in Napa Valley makes; this is it. The 2016 vintage was a whopping 19 cases bottled with the grapes harvested in very early August. And we later tried the 2019 bottling – crisp, clean and a perfect drinking companion for those warm summer St. Helena evenings.
In 2018 a society was formed in Burgundy to promote Aligoté called Les Aligotéurs. Young Inglewood was one of their invited guests pouring their wine at this groups first ever Aligoté tasting.
The 2010 Young Inglewood Chardonnay is from the Sonoma Coast Appellation, although if one looks at a map of this AVA one will notice that this appellation actually winds inland around and near the town of Sonoma (which is where these grapes are sourced from and are not from the coast at all). Their approach to producing Chardonnay is a gentle and long one; whole clusters are pressed in their basket press and then fermented slow and cold in barrel. The bouquet on this vintage shows floral notes, cut grass and citrus blossom. It is rounded and creamy on the palate without being overly viscous. Mineralities and flinty notes show mid palate with a lingering rounded finish; this wine has decent weight.
Since we tried this vintage, Young Inglewood now sources their Chardonnay from Steve and Jill Matthiasson’s Linda Vista Vineyard in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley.
The 2018 Young Inglewood Cabernet Franc (100% varietal) is dark ruby in color; the bouquet offers aromas of milk chocolate, espresso, mocha, Graham cracker, leather, tobacco smoke, fig newton, boysenberry and assorted baking spices. This wine offers plenty of aromatic depth, especially its secondary aromas. There are no vegetal characteristics that this variety is often associated with especially when growing in cooler climates. The palate offers flavors of red plum and cherry, framed by dusty and dry tannins showing a light to medium grip. The finish lingers with a note of dried tobacco leaf. This is a balanced and very approachable bottling in its youth.
The tiny 120 case production 2009 Young Inglewood Right Bank Blend is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The wine is dark ruby in the glass; the bouquet is inviting – a beautiful meld of earthiness with a slight herbal character. As the wine opens, more high-toned fruit shows including red fruits, raspberry and red cherry. It is balanced across the palate. The finish shows somewhat dusty but with well-integrated tannins.
Their flagship wine, the 2009 Young Inglewood Estate Cabernet Sauvignon shows very dark in the glass; the bouquet reveals complex layered aromatics, primarily darker fruits. The bouquet is lively and slightly dusty. Dark fruit shows on the palate anchored with good acidity and a decent structure. There is a pleasing balance between fruit, acidity, alcohol and structure. We tasted this wine again in 2017 – it is aging very nicely and has lots of life ahead of it.
Several very small lot wines are crafted just for their membership offerings, including the estate Cabernet Sauvignon and a 100% Cabernet Franc. Often these wines are as small a production as a single barrel. With 40 olive trees on the property (four of which are at least 150 years old) the winery also produces limited production olive oil.
Venn Wine Co.
In 2013 Jacky and Scott began Venn Wines with the intention to craft wines from organically farmed sites using minimalist and low-input practices. Their philosophy is similar in the cellar, using native fermentation and minimal SO2 inputs whenever possible. Venn Wine Co utilizes grapes from several vineyards including from the Young Inglewood property. Unlike the Young Inglewood wines which are primarily sold direct to consumer, the Venn wines are primarily distributed. These are an extremely unique style of wines from contemporary Napa Valley.
The 2018 Venn Skin Fermented Chardonnay, Linda Vista Vineyard (Oak Knoll) certainly shows its winemaking style in its color; this wine is medium amber in the glass. It offers aromas of apricot, baked peaches and vanilla extract deeper in the aromatics. Its texture is supple and slightly oily in feel as it glides across the palate but shows some light textural grip on the finish. It is quite flavorful with notes of nectarine, wild plum, tangerine and some desert spices which linger including cardamom. Lovely acidity. This wine is as far stylistically as one can find from a Chardonnay that is oaky, buttery and or slightly sweet.
It was fermented using indigenous yeast; it spent 16 days on the skins and then was aged 28 months in barrel (part of the wine spent one year on skins) and part of the wine was aged in an acacia barrel. This may be the most unique Chardonnay we have tried from Napa Valley.
2020 Venn St. Helena Carbonic Merlot (100% varietal) is pale to medium ruby in color; the bouquet offers aromas of raspberry, wild strawberries, old parchment paper, rose stems and hints of jalapeno pepper. The aromas are not green, but the bouquet has enough herbal nuances to make it intriguing. This wine is juicy on the palate with good acidity; it offers flavors of red cherry and currant with a lighter but noticeable grip of slightly astringent tannins lingering for some time on the finish. After the grapes were harvested, they were then fermented whole cluster (grapes + stems) in an anaerobic environment in a stainless-steel tank for 15 days. The wine and pomace were then removed from tank and subsequently foot treaded. This wine was aged for 9 months in neutral French oak. 12.6% alcohol, only 55 cases were produced. This is certainly one of the most unique Merlot wines we have ever tasted from Napa Valley.
Their cleverly titled FYI Wine Club Membership includes not only wine shipments but concierge assistance in regard to trips to Napa Valley including where to stay, where to eat and what to experience in the valley. From a hospitality point of view, this is certainly a much-needed value ad on that wineries often overlook.
Guests typically discover Young Inglewood through word of mouth and referrals. This is only one of three wineries on Inglewood Avenue including Bougetz Cellars to the east and a bit further down the road to the west, Sinegal Estate, owned by the founders of Costco.
Visits to Young Inglewood are highly personalized and are private for your party and typically include some discussion about the family’s intriguing collection of art, a walk through a part of their vineyard and a winery tour which is followed by a tasting. Tastings include an older vintage of their Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery is located only a short drive from the usually very busy Highway 29.
Their wines are distributed to several wines shops locally including ACME in St. Helena. They currently sell some of the fruit each year to several premium wineries. Select wines are also generally available at fine restaurants in the valley including Bouchon and Press. Members of their allocation list are called FYIers (friends of Young Inglewood). For more information, to join their mailing list or to purchase wines, visit: www.younginglewood.com