Over the past decade or more, numerous reports have suggested that red wine is good for the heart. At one of our favorite wineries in Napa, the heart has been very good for the wine as well. As the picture above shows, inside the “E” in the Ehlers logo there is a heart, an homage to the legacy of the founders and the cause that is a big part of the winery’s purpose today. Many wineries in Napa Valley are owned by large beverage conglomerates or international wine enterprises. Ehlers Estate is unique in that it is owned by a charitable foundation, the Leducq Foundation, which is dedicated to funding research in cardiovascular and neurovascular disease. This foundation was formed in 1996 by the founders of Ehlers Estate and today proceeds from tasting fees and wine sales help fund the Leducq Foundation’s activities. This is one winery where members and visitors can be confident that their money not only delivers high-quality wines but truly has a charitable purpose and impact.
We have been members of Ehlers since just after our move to Napa Valley and we visit as often as we can. This past weekend, we took relatives visiting from Miami to Ehlers, their first ever visit to a winery.
There are many things that we like about Ehlers, beyond the direct link between their wine business and their charitable operations. One of our favorite aspects of Ehlers Estate is its location and story. Although the Leducq family started producing wine in this century, the property was originally planted with vines and olives in the late 1800’s by Bernard Ehlers. In 1886 Bernard finished construction of a stone barn on the property, a building that (with a bit of modern renovation) is still standing and serves today as Ehlers’ winery building and tasting room.
Original beams of wood and stone walls are still visible from the original construction but the interior has been refreshed with colorful furniture and many paintings hanging on the walls.
Despite the ravages of phylloxera, the long period of prohibition and ownership changes along the way, the property Ehlers sits on has been continuously producing wine for over 120 years. While there are no vines remaining from 1886, the original olive groves are still on the estate.
Another thing that we love about Ehlers is their commitment to sustainable farming. Since 2008, they have been certified organic; no chemical herbicides, pesticides, or synthetic fertilizers are used in their vineyards.
The Ehlers wines – Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon – are produced in a style that is as much Bordeaux as it is Napa. The wine making team at Ehlers Estate firmly believes in making wines that reflect the unique terroir – the diverse soil types and the microclimate. An important difference between Ehlers and most other Napa Valley wineries is that they do not employ seasonal vineyard labor or outsource to outside companies for their vineyard management. They have a full-time team that handles all of the work in the vineyard: planting, weed and pest control, pruning, canopy management, and harvesting. Maintaining a full-time staff throughout the year ensures a consistency in the way the grapes are grown.
During our visit this past weekend we enjoyed four different Ehlers wines; as always, we started with the Sauvignon Blanc.
Like all of the Ehlers wines, the Sauvignon Blanc – the only white wine they produce – is crisp, rich, and bone dry, with zero residual sugar. There has been no malolactic fermentation and no new oak was used in the aging of the wine. A perfect wine with food or to sip with friends or alone with a good book.
The remainder of our tasting consisted of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Ehlers’ luscious “1886” Cabernet Sauvignon.
We enjoyed all three wines and have always been big fans of the Ehlers portfolio of red wines. Certainly, the most impressive wine is the 1886 Cab, but the Cab Franc is also very structured with strong tannins and spicy aroma and flavor. This visit, the Merlot really stood out for us and we all ordered an extra pour (or two) of the Merlot as part of our tasting.
So a winery with a great story, a beautiful location, and great wines. What more could you ask? How about great events? One of the reasons we have held onto our Ehlers membership while jettisoning most of our others are the fantastic events that occur throughout the year. When we visited this past weekend, there happened to be an open house with great food and an array of local artists and craft sellers in the tasting room.
There was quite a spread which we sampled along with our wine. Our family from Miami had a great time and we didn’t have the heart to tell them that every tasting doesn’t have such a bountiful spread. It’ll be difficult to take them to another tasting if there’s not an event going on – they may feel let down.
John & Irene Ingersoll
December 7, 2016