The last stop of that very windy day in Napa was at Tom Eddy Winery in Calistoga. Heading further up the mountain into high elevation is the vineyard and winery and a private meeting with Tom Eddy.
At the time I did not know very much about the winery. I had tasted a large portion of the portfolio, including the Tenz Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. With a large geographical scope of wine making, I believed the winery was going to be large and flashy. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. It is humbling.
Through the gates (which we passed once) and up the winding drive through the vineyards we passed the office and someone waving at us. We drove to the end of the laneway where we realized, we truly did see someone waving at us from inside the building. So, we turned around and drove back.
The little cottage on the property, which was a rental property for some time, has been converted into the offices of the winery. It was here that I met Tom Eddy.
We began our introductions over a tasting of his New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. A fantastic representation of the fruit forward Sauvignon Blanc. Gooseberry, grapefruit, star fruit and some stoney minerality to finish it off. After our introductions we headed down to the end of the laneway (where we turned around) to newly built caves.
Lew, Tom’s right hand, met us there and gave us the beginnings of our tour. The caves were newly built this past year. The soil a combination of three different volcanic soils which creates the terroir of the region. The majority of the cave was poured concrete, but the back wall, where the tasting table will be set up, was left as the natural exposed crushed volcanic rock. As the cave was being built, the builders engraved a large “E” in the rock as representation of the winery. Here we had a tasting of the famous Elodian Cabernet.
As Lew was explaining some more components of the cave, Tom came bearing his thief for some barrel tasting. Tom purchases grapes from surrounding areas to make his wines, along with the grapes from his vineyard. By gathering grapes from different elevations and soils you get different characteristics of the varietal.
We tasted three samples from the barrels. Each from its own specific region and terroir. Side by side it was interesting to taste the apparent differences before the fermentation and ageing process had completed. Before all of the oak added to nuances of the wine. The grape tannins from each elevation changed, as did the over-all mouth feel. One of the barrels was a new plot purchase. A high elevation that provided a lot of bright acidity and fresh fruit flavours. The lower the elevation, the darker the fruit flavours became.
This led to a conversation about oak. Tom discussed the toast he gets on his oak barrels, and the companies he receives most, if not all of his barrels from. There were several barrels that were still wrapped up from delivery overseas. There are of course issues when shipping French barrels overseas to the states. One of which is mould. The moisture needs to be maintained at a certain level so the oak straps do not dry out and crack, but too much moisture can cause mould issues. It is a tricky, and somewhat risky business getting the barrels. But when they make it overseas safely, it adds the delicate nuances and flavours that we look for in wine.
After our tastings and conversations about barrels we went back to the office. Here we furthered our conversation about the intricacies of the wine world. A common theme through the conversations I had with several wine makers and winery owners. Conversations with Tom began my further hands-on, in-depth learning of the wine world. A fantastic opportunity!