2014 Stony Hill, Chardonnay, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley.
The historic Stony Hill Vineyard, founded back in the early 1950s, on Spring Mountain is still one of Napa’s great secrets, largely overlooked, but one of the most prized by collectors and those that enjoy aging their wines and their Cabernet Sauvignon is notably less than other wines in this level of quality and I have been a fan of their dry Riesling for years. That all said, the Stony Hill Chardonnay is not less exciting and age worthy, as I was reminded of at the last Slow Wine tasting, when I got a chance to sample their 2011 and 2014 Chards, with both impressing with depth and intensity from the slightly cooler vintages and the estate’s mineral driven mountain fruit. The 2014 won my heart and palate with a bit more of all of the elements coming together with harmonious complexity and a pleasing textural grace, it shows a steely nature not often found in California, and especially in the warmer Napa Valley, though that is exactly why this wine is a stand out and highlights the great terroir underneath this famous vines. Golden and with the impression of maturity beginning to show the 2014 is still wonderfully vibrant and focused with layers of apple, lemon, nectarine and Asian pear fruits along with hints of white flowers, fig, clove and wet stones that all flow smoothly across the medium/full palate that feels nicely creamy without any heavy hand showing and a retrained use of oak. This is a beauty and should cellar well for the better part of a decade, maybe more and it will be fabulous with various cuisine choices, especially crab and or lobster. Established by the McCrea family, who were big fans of French wines were visionaries and played a big role in inspiring many famous Napa winemakers, built the first Napa Valley post-prohibition winery in 1951, and released their first vintage of Stony Hill with their 1952 vintage almost 70 years ago. Stony Hill, now run by the respected Carlton McCoy, Jr, who will honor the McCrea’s legacy and retain the classic winemaking style of Mike Chelini who made these incredible wines for more than four decades.
Stony Hill, a classic old school label is not resting on its laurels and is looking toward the future, recently announcing the hire of the youthful and talented Jaimee Motely as winemaker, who is excitingly approaching her first harvest here and I am really looking forward to see what she does here, I am confident that she will do fantastic stuff and re-invigorate this winery. Motely, who is known for her work with Chenin Blanc and the rare in California, Savoie grape, Mondeuse, has a natural gift for expressing varietal purity and is highly regarded for her skills in the cellar and her attention to detail, so I am sure she’s put out some special stuff that fulls respects the history of Stony Hill and faithfully follow the style here. Interestingly, Cabernet and Merlot didn’t make an appearance at Stony Hill until 2009, with the McCreas being more interested in the whites, they originally planted Pinot Blanc, Johannisberg Riesling, an old German Rheingau clone and later added Gerwurztraminer and Semillon, as well as Chardonnay. This 2014 Chardonnay was grown on the high elevation parcels that are set on a complex set of mountains soils with volcanic influence along with broken limestone, all of which give this wine its class, structure and vitality that sets it apart and makes it a Napa icon, but with an old world soulful personality. The all organic Stony Hill sits on steep terraces on the slopes of the Mayacamas range, on the western side of the Napa Valley, in the Spring Mountain District AVA , with their vines up at an elevation between 800 and 1550 feet and facing northeast that allows ripening, but also is more moderately cool that gives these wines their balance. The vineyard was established in 1948, between St. Helena and Calistoga, as the winery notes, predates the beautiful and serene Bothe State Park, which surrounds the entire property. It’s a great time to get on the mailing list here at Stony Hill, which is going all biodynamic, looking to get fully Demeter certified, and has some intriguing wines in the works, with new plantings of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Gamay, Petit Verdot, and a little bit of Chenin Blanc!
($58 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive