On your next trip to Napa Valley let me suggest you visit White Oak Vineyard and Winery. White Oak is located about 40 miles north of Napa in the heart of Alexander Valley. It is quite easy to get to White Oak if you are staying in Napa as I do. Just head north out of town on California 29 which is the main highway through the valley. You will pass through Yountville and St. Helena. When you get to Calistoga you will come to a slight fork in the road. Stay straight on California 128 (CA-29 goes off to the right at this point). If you don’t stop in the wonderful, quaint little towns along the way, the trip will take you a little over an hour. Be prepared for a delightful scenic drive.
I was first introduced to White Oak wines a couple of years ago by our friends Tom and Dana Pletcher who have some involvement with White Oak. When I started Tiedemann Wines Tom was kind enough to make an introduction for me. Since that time Tiedemann Wines has been the northern Indiana distributor for White Oak wines.
On my visit to White Oak along with my friends Didier Loustau and Brian Nuss, I was fortunate to meet and chat with White Oak founder and owner Bill Myers. Bill has had an interesting career as a building contractor (besides wine we have contracting in common) and Alaska fisherman. In the early 1970s he moved to Healdsburg, CA, and started making wine.
Since that small beginning in Healdsburg, White Oak has grown to include vineyards in Alexander, Napa and Russian River valleys…totaling nearly 750 acres of vineyards. White Oak now produces their renowned Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc as well as a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, two Bordeaux-style blends as well as an old-vine Zinfandel (one of my favorite White Oak wines).
The zinfandel is produced from vines on the Alexander vineyard dating back to the early 1900s. When you drive down the lane to the winery and tasting room (off of Highway 128), you will see the old vines on the right-hand side of the lane. It is interesting to me to think about how long those vines have been there producing Zinfandel grapes. The Zinfandel and reserve wines are only sold in the White Oak tasting room due to limited production. It is worth the trip just to buy some of the White Oak Zinfandel.
The tasting room and hospitality center is open daily for you to enjoy from 10 am to 5 pm. The tasting room manager is Francesca Huson who is very knowledgeable about all of the wines and about the operation in general. Francesca has a wonderful personality and will make your visit very enjoyable.
Unfortunately on my most recent visit to White Oak, it was rainy and overcast…preventing us from enjoying the full splendor and beauty of the Mediterranean-style estate housing the winery, tasting room and hospitality center. The exterior pictures I took that day were not the best so I appreciate White Oak office manager Christy Loschiavo sending us some decent photos for you to enjoy.
Will Hunter is the national sales director and the White Oak person I work with the most. Some of you may remember Will from his visits to our market here in Elkhart and South Bend for a series of wine tastings and dinners. I have found the entire White Oak staff to be knowledgeable, friendly and easy to work with. The tasting room does charge a modest fee per person for wine tasting. The fee is waived for wine club members or with a purchase of White Oak wines. You can enjoy the wine club or purchase wines by going to the website or calling winery at 707-291-3209. The winery is located at 7505 Highway 128, Healdsburg, CA 95448. The staff requests that you call ahead to schedule your tasting or winery tour.
One of the first reserve wines White Oak produced was in 2004 which was their 25th anniversary reserve. As I mentioned earlier, this is Bordeaux-style blend and I am fortunate to have a few bottles in my wine cellar (benefits of being a distributor). I was doing some re-arranging of bottles in my cellar when I came across the reserve wine. I had not tried the wine for several years and decided to taste it one evening. I remember from previous tastings that the wine was quite tannic and had a palate of earthy mineral tones.
I did some research on the wine (isn’t the internet great) and found where Wine Enthusiast magazine had rated the wine 90 points and several wine competitions had given the wine gold medals. White Oak tasting notes indicate that the wine was released in September of 2007 and they produced 448 cases.
The wine sold for $50 per bottle upon release. You can still purchase the wine today from internet marketers from $50 to $59 a bottle. Check for the wine on Wine-Search.com.
I decanted the wine for several hours before tasting. The color of the wine remains a deep, dense purple. And the nose seemed to be a little lacking at first. After about 10 minutes it began to open and cast off some aromas of dark chocolate. The first taste of the wine produced some oak, a lot of spice and tannins, and the finish was long. After about 20 minutes the wine opened more and the wine noticeably coated the inside of my mouth with that pleasant dry, structured feeling. The spice and heat that I had tasted in the earlier finish had now subsided into a nice, pleasant, balanced one of good length. It was a nice wine for the evening.
I would recommend a visit to White Oak if you are already in the Napa area. Remember it is best to call ahead and let the White Oak team know you are stopping by or email Francesca Huson at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always…if you enjoy my wine blog, feel free to pass it along to family and friends. We welcome your comments on White Oak experiences or any other topics below.