2014 Casa Nuestra, Tinto St. Helena, Napa Valley.
One of my favorite Napa haunts and one of the Valley’s best kept secrets, Casa Nuestra Winery, which means “our house” in Spanish was founded back in 1975 by the Kirkham family and made their first wines in 1979 with their small batch bottlings of Chenin Blanc and Grey Riesling, or Trousseau Gris as it is more commonly called now, especially as it has no relation to true Riesling, being the first efforts to get released, and the Chenin is still a must every time I visit, along with their true old vine Dry Riesling and this wonderful historic red field blend, the Tinto St. Helena, made from a wild collection of varietals. These grapes, which were originally found at their Oakville plot, are set up at the Casa Nuestra St. Helena Estate in the same percentage with this plot going in the ground in 1992, it’s an intriguing mix of Carignan, Negrette, Napa Gamay (Valdiguie), Petite Sirah, Grey Riesling (Trousseau Gris), Zinfandel, and Alicante Bouschet, to name a few, plus I believe a touch of Refosco a rare Italian grape found in Friuli that is all co-fermented and aged together to make a rustic, deep flavored old school wine that is excellent with robust foods and or BBQs. This 2014 shows the cooler vintage and nice higher tone of fresh acidity is still wonderfully vibrant and adds to the drinking pleasure and heightens the experience, it is absolutely charming and is one of the best vintages I’ve had of this unique wine, though there is plenty of ripe details and it opens up and fills out to a full bodied and lush red with air and time in glass. This Tinto St. Helena unfolds in a smooth quaffable fashion with blackberry, dense cherry, plum and earthy mulberry fruits along with some sweet cedary wood, licorice, sage, dusty cinnamon and thyme spices, lingering with some delicate florals that are kept nicely in place by supple tannins that feel gentle and well polished.
Prior to the Kirkham’s buying this old farm/ranch, WWII hero Captain John Thomas Blackburn, planted the winery’s oldest Chenin Blanc parcel in 1961 and followed up with Riesling in 1970, both still in production today and usually wines I can’t resist taking home, as I did or tried to do yesterday, as there is limited reservations during Covid and mostly to their awesome wine club, lucky for me I met up with Hannah, who is the director of guest service and the wine club manager here and she took pity on a spontaneous traveller, who begs well enough to be let in to buy his coveted bottles. Her kindness and guidance on vintages was greatly appreciated and I left with a huge grin as I watched the beautiful winter mustard, in a fabulous yellow blur race by the window as I made my getaway, with a set of the Chenin, Riesling, this darkly delicious Tinto St. Helena and another of the cult followed wines here, their Cabernet Franc, which I look forward to trying at a later date. On day two, after being open without gas, there is more depth and fruit intensity here in this 2014 Tinto St. Helena and a decedent creme de cassis note becomes evident and I’m glad I had some left in the bottle to see the full expression to show itself, also giving hint to how well and interesting this vintage should age, at 14.3% natural alcohol, this version is well judged and has potential to go at least a decade more, if not closer to two, as there is more concentration than one might think, this is a great value for a small handcrafted Napa Valley effort of such tastiness. This is a winery, that is a post Covid, a must visit spot with an awesome location on St. Helena’s eastern side on the less traffic burdened Silverado Trail with picturesque surroundings and a welcoming feel of the Napa Valley of a different era with eclectic lineup of well made and handcrafted wines, it is well worth your time to discover this small family, even just for this wine, but I certainly suggest never passing up on their Chenin!
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive