A Visit to Jericho Canyon in Calistoga

I was first introduced to Jericho Canyon Vineyard many years ago when another winemaker bought grapes from this area to make Ramey Jericho Canyon.  That was a big, muscular cabernet with structure, loamy tannins, and deep rich fruit which would cellar for a long time.  My recent visit was an opportunity to rediscover Jericho Canyon Vineyards and taste the wine that the owners of Jericho Canyon now make and bottle under their own name.  The wines still have those same great qualities and characteristics that I remember.

Jericho Canyon Vineyard is family owned, and the owners take great pride in honoring the land as they craft their wines.  The founders and proprietors are Marla and Dale Bleecher.  The property is sustainably farmed and certified Napa Green Land and Winery.  It is nestled between the Palisades and Mt. St. Helena off of highway 128 in Calistoga.  The vineyards sit at elevations between 200 and 1000 feet, and there are 40 acres under vine.

Upon our arrival at the winery, Nick Bleecher and Tara Hole greeted us.  Nick is part of the winemaking team, and Tara is the Director of Business Development.  One of the very cool parts of a visit to Jericho Canyon is the “up close and personal” view of the vineyards and the winemaking process.  They have instituted a tour (The Polaris) that includes a ride through the vineyards, literally down the rows between the vines, and allows you to appreciate the farming aspects of winemaking.

Many winemakers will tell you that 80% of what you taste in the bottle comes from the work done in the vineyard.  Nick and Tara are quite proud of the sustainable farming and pointed out the interesting aspects of their approach for their care of the vines.  They discussed the rationale for the cover crop and the birdhouses along the way.  They explained where each fits in and the part they play in tending the grapes.  For this wine geek, it was all quite intriguing.

The property houses a large, high-ceiling tasting room that sits in front of the entrance to the caves.  Your tour will obviously include a visit to the caves and tasting through the wines that are currently available.  The wine is made entirely on site and is aged in barrels that are 60-80% new French oak, with the percent varying with the vintage.

This is a winery that has flown “under the radar” to date, but the future is very bright.  Aaron Pott and Michel Rolland consult Nick and winemaker Kieran Robinson.  That type of support bodes well for the future of these wines, which today are already drinking quite well.  Visiting the property and setting up tastings is done by appointment only.  The Polaris tour may take up to 2 hours and is quite educational.  Their wines are available at the winery or through their website at www.jerichocanyonvineyard.com.  The price point for their reds starts at $45 and goes up to $90.  On my visit, I especially liked and bought the 2006, which was smooth and rich with deep black fruit.  I believe this speaks to the quality and age-ability of their wines.

This is a winery worth your time to visit.  On your next visit to the Valley, take some time to visit Jericho Canyon Vineyard.


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