As I have mentioned in the past, I am a big fan of Celia Welch-made wines (she is one of the top winemakers in Napa Valley). This fondness for her wines led me to Kelly Fleming Wines, where she was winemaker through the 2012 vintage.
After some research on Kelly Fleming Wines, I decided to join the mailing list and purchased some bottles of its 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and some of its library wines (past vintages) from the 2007 and 2009 Cabernet vintages.
During all this flurry of activity, my correspondence was with the winery’s General Manager, Ryan Clark. Ryan is a relatively new member of the Kelly Fleming team. Ryan worked at Larkmead Vineyards until January 2012 when he joined Kelly Fleming.
In our exchange of emails, I asked Ryan if there might be an opportunity on my next Napa trip to taste the wines and tour the winery so that I could do an article on the Kelly Fleming operation for the wine blog. We agreed that I would contact him when I confirmed my travel plans to schedule a visit to the winery.
With my Napa trip plans made, and my tasting and tour time established at Kelly Fleming, I did a little more research on the winery. The winery is located on a 300-acre parcel just a little northeast of Calistoga in Summons Canyon. It is about a 35-minute drive from the Hilton Gardens hotel in Napa, where I hang my hat while in wine country.
Paul and Kelly Fleming founded the winery in 1998 with their first release being the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon. Since divorced, Ms Fleming now owns and operates the winery and annually produces approximately 3,000 cases of all her wines.
Tuesday of the Napa Trip
I arrived at the winery as scheduled around 10 a.m. and was met at the door by Ryan. We chatted briefly and he introduced me to Lili Shariati, the Marketing and Hospitality Coordinator, who would be my host for the tasting and winery tour. Like Ryan, Lili is new to the Kelly Fleming team. Lili’s background is in marketing and as she says, “I’ve also dabbled in the culinary field,” which led to her interest in wine. Lili hails from the San Diego area and joined the winery last September. Although she says she has a lot to learn about the wine business, I was certainly amazed at how knowledgeable she was on wine in general as well as the winery operation being a newbie to the world of wine. She was a delightful host with a wonderful personality, and well suited for her position.
Taylor Lombarda Architects of San Francisco designed the Kelly Fleming Winery, and Ms Fleming provided the interior design, calling on her years of experience of doing interiors in such restaurants as Ruth’s Chris and P.F. Chang’s.
The 12,000-square-foot winery was completed in 2009 at a cost of around $7 million dollars. To me, one of the highlights of the facility was the 7,000-square-foot of limestone caves used for barrel storage that were blasted into the hillside. They extend over 200 feet and house the winery’s wine cellar and even have an area that can be used to host dinner parties…quite impressive.
When Celia Welsh left Kelly Fleming as winemaker, assistant winemaker Becky George was promoted to winemaker in October of last year. Becky has been with Kelly Fleming as assistant winemaker for three years. She now manages the day-to-day winemaking tasks and continues to produce some lovely wines.
After the tour of the facility, Lili seated us in the impressive tasting room and proceeded to pour the following wines:
• 2009 Big Pour Bordeaux Style Red Wine
• 2011 Big Pour Bordeaux Style Red Wine
• 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
• 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
She was also kind enough to pour a 2008 Cabernet. What a treat. All of the wines were outstanding. There is an interesting story about the wine name “Big Pour.” I’ll let Lili tell you when you visit the winery.
The colors of the wines were a mix of deep, dark, red/purple with a tinge of black. The wines seemed to me to have a stubbornly tight nose. As the wines opened, they threw off very pretty fruit aromas and hints of mint and spices. On the palate, all wines were excellent. The wines were rich with fruit, yet crisp and well balanced. All the wines, including the 2008 Cabernet, were exuberant and mouth filling.
The finishes of the wines were a little tight but well balanced, long and quite elegant as the wine warmed.
Kelly Fleming produces four wines: the Kelly Fleming Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Big Pour Napa Valley Red, Kelly Fleming Sauvignon Blanc and the Kelly Fleming Rose. Winemaker Becky George does a great job of producing these wines.
Everyone I spoke with at Kelly Fleming was very knowledgeable and fun to talk with. Ms Fleming has assembled a great team and is producing some good wines…worth the effort to taste or purchase.
When you are in Napa, I recommend you take a couple hours and visit the Kelly Fleming Winery. Tours and tastings are by appointment and cost $60 per person…well worth the money. To arrange a visit, call the winery at 707-942-6849 or email Lili at firstname.lastname@example.org. You will not be disappointed with the visit or the wines.
By the way, while you are at the winery, I am sure that Lili would be more than happy to sign you up on the winery’s mailing list to purchase wines in the future.
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Until next week,