2015 Elyse Winery, Zinfandel, Korte Ranch Vineyard, St. Helena, Napa Valley.
The Elyse Winery has been one of my favorites for Zin and Cab for almost 25 years and I still remember an early morning visit there, when the original owners Nancy and Ray Coursen politely took me in at their Hoffman Lane home and winery well before a normal opening hour, because I was driving home to Monterey, then proceeded to open close to 15 bottles and pouring exceptionally large pours! Elyse goes back to the 1980s when Ray Coursen started the winery/brand in 1987 with a tiny lot of Zinfandel from the Morisoli Vineyard, a wine I always was especially fond of and still am, that vineyard has made some fantastic wines over the years from Whitehall Lane Reserve (where Ray got is first head winemaker job) to Karl Lawrence, a cult label that was remarkably affordable. So with all this on my mind, I found this 2015 Korte Ranch Zinfandel from St. Helena, another bottling I have enjoyed over the years following this winery and this recent release didn’t disappoint with all the flavors and character I remembered with layers of black raspberry, dark plum, kirsch, guava flesh, floral notes along with hints of spices, like cinnamon and delicate vanilla leading the way on the medium/full palate that presents itself with the vintage’s warm/ripe round textures. The new team at Elyse, owner Josh Peeples and one of Napa’s hottest winemakers Russell Bevan, who’s own label is one of the most prized and sought after in California, have taken Elyse to new levels of quality while retaining the winery’s personality.

The Korte Ranch is a pre-prohibition vineyard set on valley floor rocky loams sitting between Turley’s estate, Dockhorn, Hourglass and Ehlers in the St. Helena zone in the northern part of the Napa with vines over 70 years old. This spot gets the valley’s warm and cool night time temperatures that refresh’s the vines and allows for ripe dark flavors and good balance with this vintage coming in at 14.6% in a warm year, somewhat less than some higher profile versions of Zinfandel, even though that is very lush and full flavored in the glass. The winemaking is pretty luxurious at Elyse with plenty of French oak and hand crafted techniques employed here with exceptional attention to detail and careful sorting and picking of the grapes. The winery notes that each block from their vineyards require a specific picking time in the field and a different treatment of barrels in the cellar. This includes special selections from bold heavy-toast Darnajou barrels to aromatic medium-toast Taransaud barrels, we select a deliberate combination to maximize each vineyard’s expression in bottle, and while present in this wine, the oak is not aggressive here giving a few markers like a soft feel, sweet toast and a touch of mocha. Peeples has really put Elyse a stellar team together here, with the mentioned Bevan, along with Ben Parodi, who worked for Venge and Reed Skupny, who spend time at one of my favorite Loire producers, Bernard Baudry, all accomplished and talented people that are putting out some tasty wines, like this impressive dark garnet hued Korte Ranch Zinfandel.
($45 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

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