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Unique Wine Experiences At Elizabeth Spencer | Wine Country This Week Magazine Wineries, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Maps
Fri, 01/23/2009Unique Wine Experiences at Elizabeth SpencerCharles NeaveThe tasting room of Elizabeth Spencer Wines is in a little, historic (c. 1872) jewel box of a building. The original town post office, it is situated in the small but celebrated hamlet of Rutherford, about midway between Yountville and St. Helena, surrounded by some of the most renowned grape-growing soil anywhere on earth Partners in business and in life, Elizabeth Pressler and Spencer Nike Zoom Hyperdunk Graham are the creators of their somewhat eponymous winery. Just as their names have combined to create the Elizabeth Spencer imprint, so have their lifelong passion for food and wine been a guiding force. Together they have worked with some of the finest wineries and winemakers, chefs and restaurants in the country. As a chef Spencer understood the dynamics of food and wine; as a marketing expert Elizabeth understands the dynamics of presenting wine to the public. "Partnering with Spencer to make our own wines seemed such a natural evolution." When they considered what wines to offer, they wisely kept the core list small and limited to wines they truly loved. So to that end, they offer six varietals. There is an organic Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay crafted from fruit from cool-climate California vineyards that has a flavor profile that includes notes of lemon, minerality and minimal oak. Then there is a fruity Grenache, a seductive and earthy Pinot Noir with flavors of both dark and red fruits and at times that wonderful and elusive orange peel quality. They also have a Syrah that is an intense blue-black color, and to round out their well considered list, a Cabernet Sauvignon that is ripe - but not overly ripe - rich, fruity and full. Sometimes Malbec, Cabernet France and a Roussane (among others) - wines made in made in very small lots and available only at their tasting room - might appear. In all they work with a select group of growers and source their fruit from a dozen prime vineyard blocks in Northern California. Their philosophy as it pertains to winemaking is admirably straightforward: "Wine should be delicious and representative of its appellation of origin. We make wines to drink. Inviting wines that we and our friends - and by extension, our customers - truly enjoy. And the model for all of our wines is intensity without weight, purity, persistence and length. "We carefully monitor the annual growing cycle and fruit development through to harvest.  Our wines are made to be accessible in youth, display ample fruit and be well-balanced from the first impression through to the finish." Winemaker (and California native) Matthew Rorick's winemaking philosophy is just as direct. It is to strive for the purest expression of the relationship between site and vine. He feels Elizabeth Spencer offers a unique opportunity to address that challenge, with its commitment to searching a wide range of sources for the most vibrant, complex, and exciting fruit available. In the winery, he believes in an approach that he calls "meticulous minimalism," in order to allow the fruit to showcase its true character.   One of the most enjoyable and educational programs they offer explores this philosophy. It is the hour-long Appellation Tasting, an intimate, sit-down tasting featuring four Elizabeth Spencer Cabernet Sauvignons produced from four different Napa Valley appellations plus a "mystery wine." They are paired with hand-selected artisan cheeses. When you take part you will taste and explore the individual characteristics of each wine and how the climates, soils and conditions found in the growing region are expressed. You will also learn about artisan cheeses and how and why they pair with the selected wines. There is also the octagonal, tented and heated space next to the tasting room, which people have described as like an exotic private lounge, with it's own small tasting bar, a basket of lap blankets, comfortable seating and much, much more. It is a magical space and when the weather cooperates, six of the eight sides can be opened. Used for private events and certain tastings, it is an oasis flanked by a wall of vines and more. Surrounding it are small tables where anyone tasting can sit and relax. It is, in fact, a hidden garden with, one with excellent wines. But no matter how you to choose to do your tasting, make sure to take the time for a memorable visit at this intimate and beautiful spot in the middle of the Napa Valley. You will walk away all the better for it, that I can promise. The Elizabeth Spencer tasting room is located at 1165 Rutherford Road (Highway 128) in Rutherford across from the Rutherford Grill. It is open 365 days a year from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. for tastings and for retail sales and no appointment is necessary. Private Tastings, Wine and Cheese Pairings and the Appellation Tasting can be arranged by prior arrangement. They can be reached by phone at (707) 963-6067 or look on their website at .

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