This post about Kelly Fleming Wines is a collaboration with my friend and fellow blogger Amber Burke of www.winetraveleats.com. She is based in Napa and well connected. Our friendship was online based for months before we actually met, but once we did at the Wine Writers Education Conference (WWET), we quickly went from online friends to family. Gary and I could not have had the magical experiences that we did without her, and we are forever grateful. Now we talk all the time, so it only made sense to share this experience jointly.
Amber Comments: One of the things that I love about writing about wine food and travel is the community of people that I get to meet. As Rick said, we were not only instant friends but became wine family.
Rick Comments: We began our last day in Napa driving almost the entire length of the valley to get to our first stop, Kelly Fleming Wines. Amber drove up the Silverado Trail as Gary, and I gawked out the car windows past wineries and vineyards of world-renowned estates and the small, family-run properties. It is all there and more than you can imagine but impossible to even make a dent in the few days we had to explore.
Amber Comments: Even though I have lived in wine country for over ten years now, I never get sick of the vineyards, the weather or its beauty. It was nice to be able to share this beauty with people who love it as much as I do. People ask me if I have visited every winery in Napa. There are more than 500 with tasting rooms and nearly 100 more without, so I have still not made a dent even though I visit several most weeks.
About Kelly Fleming Wines
Rick Comments: Kelly Fleming Wines is just outside the town of Calistoga which is in the far north of the Valley. When we reached the gate to the property, deep in the secluded canyons throughout the area, it felt like we were miles from everywhere. It was glorious. Vineyards covered the hillside as we drove up the drive to the Old World-style, 2-story stone clad winery. It is stone inside and out, simply furnished with a lush, comfortable couch and chairs and a farmhouse dining room set for a small group tasting. Additionally, there is a glass wall that separates a third of the room with another farmhouse dining set for another area for groups. This one has an open archway with views of the vineyards. I think we are in for a treat.
Amber Comments: When we pulled up to the winery, I felt like we had been transported to France. The charming rustic stone building surrounded by vineyards reminded me of my time in Europe earlier this year. I loved its architecture and feeling of peacefulness that encompassed the entire place.
Let the Tasting Begin
Rick Comments: Upon our arrival, we were met by winemaker, Rebecca George. She was our guide and host for our visit. We were greeted with a glass of Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon. This was a first for me, and I was overwhelmed by the complexity and depth of this wine. It was a beautiful transparent cranberry red with a slight red-orange ring. It was made with 100% saigneé (sohn-yay) juice from our Estate Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard after just three hours of skin contact.
Sadly there were only one hundred cases made of this wine, and it is gone until the next release. Having never had Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, I was really impressed. My response, as well as Amber and Gary’s, was, “This is rosé for the red wine drinker.” I will not tease or temp you with tasting notes but rest assured when it is released next Spring; I will get in line early with an order.
Amber Comments: I was so impressed with meeting Rebecca. She’s a great example of young female winemakers who are taking the wine world by storm. Her confidence and passion for the wine that she makes were evident in our conversation.
As for the Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon we tried, it was a winner, and we were off to a great start. I have to agree with Rick about the rosé being a bit larger in the mouth than typical, after all, it is not made of a typical grape used for that style of wine. The grape choice gives the wine texture and a weighty feeling in the mouth.
The Only White
Rick Comments: So our tasting began in earnest with the only white wine offered at Kelly Fleming Wines, a Sauvignon Blanc. The fruit for this wine was sourced from two vineyards: 35% from Sonoma’s Rincon Valley and 65% from Aetna Springs in Napa. This blending of two sources creates a beautiful profile of tropical fruit and honey, unlike a more traditional Sauv. Blanc.
Amber Comments: I loved the texture and flavors in this 2016 Sauvignon Blanc ($42). It was not overly grassy or acidic. Instead, there were floral notes, stone fruits and a hint of almond in my glass. I really enjoyed this taste and would have loved the opportunity to relax and drink it in this beautiful setting.
Rick Comments: This wine is right up my alley, and I could not agree more with Amber on this one. This is a wine I could sit and drink on my porch all day long.
The Big Pour
Amber Comments: While tasting through the wines, Rebecca told us the story behind the Big Pour Napa Red ($90). Years ago Kelly was with a group of all male companions as she was tasting through wines in another winemakers cellar. Each of the males who were tasting that day got a tasting sip of each of the wines that were being sampled that day, but the host took a shine to Kelly and gave her the big pours throughout the night.
From then on she was affectionally nicknamed “Big Pour.” She named her wine Big Pour as a nod to that nickname and an inside joke. The name actually fits beautifully as the wine is big and bold and everything that one expects from a wine from Napa. I wanted a huge steak to eat with it as I savored the delicious flavors of cocoa, dark forest fruits, blackcurrant and a little bit of woodland thrown in.
Rick Comments: Next up was the 2014 Big Pour, a red blend. I so enjoyed the story of how the Big Pour name came to be.
A reason that winemakers will blend in smaller amounts of other varieties is to parse out flavors and textures while also taking the edges off of the tannins. While aging a wine will do a similar job, blending can make the wine a more drinkable glass much earlier. The 2014 Big Pour combines 81% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Kelly Fleming Estate vineyard in Calistoga along with 11% Malbec and 8% Syrah from neighboring vineyards. This blend is big and bold yet ready to drink and will work as the perfect cocktail wine for those that them big. But it will also handle a juicy grilled steak as Amber stated.
Timing is Everything
Rick Comments: The timing of our visit was perfect. The 2015 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon was to be bottled in the next couple weeks, so we got the opportunity to taste the latest vintage just before its release.
The 2015 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($150) is “bee-ute-ee-full” and it is what classic Napa Cabernet is all about. My first sip is foreplay, as I prepare my taste buds to sample what Kelly Fleming Wines is known: the Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Now, I sip again and bring forth a gorgeous blend of dark fruits and rich, dark chocolate. The tannins are firm but nuanced and will only become more rich and luscious over time. You can taste the intensity of the small, concentrated berries resulting from the weather during the growing season that year. If you are going to drink this wine soon, be sure to get a few bottles. That way you can put some down and watch this wine develop.
Amber Comments: I really enjoyed the 2015 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Although I would say that this is a big Napa Cab, the qualities that made it stand out were the intensity and layers of flavors on the palate along with the long finish which left a gorgeous impression behind.
This Cab is King
Rick Comments: Last was the 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($165). And I have to say; this is what I love about wine. Here we have the same vineyard with the same winemakers making wine from the fruit harvested in 2014. The weather was different, and the age of the vines is a year younger. However, the soil is for all intent the same as in 2015. But here we have a different wine. Yes, it has spent a year in the bottle but it is more than that. The feel of the wine is, as I like to say, huggable. The dark fruit flavors of cherry, plum, and fig round out the earthy mineral and herbal notes. This is so incredibly delicious.
Amber Comments: The 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon was my favorite sip of the day. Rich and lush, this wine has many complex notes rather than just one big mouthful of tannins that seem to be the story of so many Napa Cabs. I could taste spices and soil but also ripe dark fruits, fig, and hints of wood. I’d love to taste this wine again in 5 years to really taste it in its maturity, although a wine like this could easily age for 15 to 20 years. This wine would enhance any food you chose, but I could imagine it with braised venison with a red currant sauce.
Rick Comments: This last taste concluded our visit to Kelly Fleming Wines. There is no mistake that Cab is king in Napa Valley and her wines are what elevates the crown. These are premium wines at a premium price. But they have a place in the cellar of those that enjoy a Napa Valley, small batch Cabernet.
Amber Comments: At the end of our tasting we had the opportunity to meet Kelly Fleming herself as she breezed in with her doggies who were protectively watching their mistress. The winery that she has created is clearly a reflection of her personality, warmth, and charm. I’d call it European style and grace with strokes of American bold confidence.
We want to thank Rebecca and Kelly for their hospitality and graciousness. And for sharing the stories that are the short but illustrious history of Kelly Fleming Wines.
If you are planning a trip to Napa Valley, you will want to put Kelly Fleming Wines on your itinerary.
Some of you are lucky enough to live in a state where her wines are available. As such you may find on them on a restaurant wine list. Or if you live in any of these states, you can order direct from the winery as well. They are (AK, AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, GA, IL, LA, MD, MI, MN, MO, NV, NY, NC, OH, OR, PA, TX, VA, and WA).
Visiting Kelly Fleming Wines is by appointment only which you can arrange here. Or you can always call at 707-942-6849.
That is all for now.
Rick and Amber
To read my Into to Napa Valley post, please click here.