Our fourth Sommelier Feature is El Molino Winery. One of California's oldest wineries.
Founded in 1871, El Molino was one of the first wineries in the Napa Valley. Operated until Prohibition and restored in 1981, conditions are ideal for the limited production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The label is the original design introduced in 1871, displaying the Bale Mill, or “El Molino.”
Dr. Edward T. Bale was an English physician and a surgeon of the California forces by General Mariano Vallejo. He married the General's niece and through influence, was able to obtain a four league grant of Rancho Carne Humana in Napa Valley in 1841. Just a few years later, 2 acres of Mission grapes were planted, making the vineyard the largest in Napa at that time.
His daughter Caroline Bale married Charles Krug and inherited land in St. Helena, where they would plant and grow grapes. The Bale mill was purchased from the family in 1871 and a wine cellar was built.
Some of the first grapes panted were included white grapes as Green Hungarian, Sauvignon Vert, malvasia, Burger, golden Chasselas and Muscatel. The red varieties included Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mattaro and Carignan.
Today, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the only two wines that the winery makes. The unique location south of Rutherford allows these "cool climate" grapes to do very well. Husband wife winemaking team, Lily and Jon Berlin take a very Burgundian approach to their winemaking. Sugar levels range from 22.7-25.1 Brix on the whites when picked, whole cluster pressed and gravity fed directly into barrel. with no settling, for fermentation. 100% barrel fermented in Francois Frères oak with no malo, the wine spends 11 months on the fine lees before bottling.
The chardonnay is certainly new world, yet has a nervy, minerality and acidity about it. Crisp, slightly tart fruit is balanced with the oak spices, leading one to imagine how the wines will age. Very different from the neighboring regions, this wine can lend an alternative to the common buttery, rich styles.
The Pinot is also whole cluster fermented in small 1 ton open top fermenters. Basket pressed to barrel via gravity for native malolactic and aging for 11 months. The wines are lightly racked and blended before another 18 months in wood. The wine has high toned red fruits, doused with earthy, mushroom and savory notes. As many of my favorite pinots display, a barnyard note in the background. Not as lean as the French wines, this pinot has shoulders but lively acidity.
Production is 1,700 cases of wine a year. The wines sell out every year so the best way to acquire is to join the mailing list or get some from Tenzing today.
There are plenty of Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs out there, we feel that this winery has a great story that continues to capture the attention of wine lovers everywhere.