Amid the rain and wind this past Wednesday, we managed to squeeze in a tour and tasting at the Whitehall Lane Winery in St. Helena. Tom Leonardini and Family have owned the Whitehall Lane winery since 1993. Whitehall Lane is one of the Napa Valley’s earliest wineries with a start date of 1979. The winery is one our favorites, and we’d selected the winery for our Boutique Wine Trail back in 2003.
This was our first visit since the winery did a remodel and an addition a couple of years ago. Although the building structure has changed, the personnel remains very much the same, anchored by winemaker Dean Sylvester now in his eighteenth year at Whitehall. Our tour leader was Mike McLoughlin, the General Manger who joined the winery shortly after the Leonardini Family purchased the winery. Consistency is good in this case; the Whitehall Lane wines have been highly regarded throughout its history, highlighted many times by the Wine Spectator for its reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
For tourists to the Napa Valley, the winery is easy to spot as you drive north on Highway 29 heading to St. Helena. The vineyards here stretch across to the Mayacamus Mountains to the west, providing one of the most glorious Napa Valley sights no matter what the season of the year or the weather of the day is. The architecture and color scheme of the winery blend perfectly into the vineyards and mountains. This inviting atmosphere draws many tourists to the tasting room. The photo below was shot in January of 2011 from the Whitehall Lane parking lot.
We like the Sauvignon Blanc and it is perhaps the most underrated wine in the Whitehall Lane lineup. The key to this wine is the small amount of Semillon grape that Dean Sylvester puts into this wine. I think the Semillon gives an added character to the S.B. The acidity is quite nice but not overbearing as in some Sauvignon Blancs. The wine is quite gentle with subtle citrus flavors. The wine sells for $18 at the winery. I can occasionally find this Sauvignon Blanc at my local Costco for about $11. It is usually in stock at Costco when the winery needs to make room for the next vintage. What a steal!
Two other wines we like are the Merlot and the Napa Valley Cabernet, both solid efforts and well balanced. These are terrific food wines because they do not overpower the palate. They just taste darn good with chicken and a variety of red meat dishes.
The tasting room is open daily and the tasting fee is $15 per person for a taste of four wines. Tip: Before you visit, do a Google search for “Whitehall Lane two-for-one tasting coupon.” I am almost certain you’ll find a coupon to print out for your visit to Whitehall Lane. We also suggest that for lunch you try Cindy Pawlcyn’s new restaurant in St. Helena. It is called the Wood Grill and Wine Bar and the food and atmosphere are very pleasant. You might even spot a few winemakers there enjoying lunch or dinner and having a friendly chat about their wines.