In the past, I have mentioned a great admiration for women winemakers. I have now started an investigation into women-owned wineries. I am very intrigued with the trials and tribulations facing women in what is generally considered a male-dominated industry. For this visit, fate has brought me to visit Zahtila Vineyards, located just a hundred yards north of the Silverado Trail and Calistoga’s Lincoln Road juncture, to chat with Laura Zahtila personally.
Don’t drive too quickly on the main road – the entrance to Zahtila is just on the right and almost hidden by large trees and brush. It would be very easy to drive right past it and head onwards toward Hidden Valley. After parking, I was immediately and warmly greeted by Zoe, the winery dog, who does her duty well as goodwill ambassador. She will guide you up the walkway, past the rose-covered house that acts as the office and administration building, towards the back of the property where the tasting room lies.
Laura is relatively new to the wine world. Having done well during the dot-com boom, a passion for wine brought her to Napa when she purchased her first vineyard from the Traulsen family in 1999. This had been a family endeavor with her husband, but they soon realized the passion was all hers and parted ways.
Laura now has complete control and the business is hers and hers alone and she is learning the business from the ground up. While not having any formal winemaking training, she relies on a consulting winemaker for much of the technical aspects but ultimately makes all of the blending decisions. The wine has her name so while the buck stops here, she has every reason to be exceptionally proud of what she has created in such a short time! Now moving beyond her own Calistoga vineayrd, she has started contracting for additional grapes and this year released her first Chardonnay.
2004 Napa Valley Chardonnay – From Bocannon fruit, this was a decidedly good first attempt. Clean, crisp grapefruit core with bright citrus pineapple. Very bright, clean entry showing green apple and carved, distinct fruit. $18.00
2003 Zinfandel, Dry Creek – Red berry black fruit with dusty floral tones. Brambleberry dominates the rich mouth entry and shows a hefty chocolate mid-palate. Clean and round, the full flavors produce a distinctive, spicy finish $20.00
2002 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – From Conn Valley fruit, 30% new American oak. Rich ruby red to the edge produces earthy, erotic, smoky bouquet with hints of sage and dried herbs. Medium-bodied, the expansive crisp fruit shows heightened acidity and perfectly integrated tannins. The palate is layered with earth and dark fruit and shows touch of smoke on the finish. $33.00
2002 Beckstoffer Cabernet Sauvignon – From Rutherford fruit, this dark magenta wine produces intense, rich plum aromas with layers of spice, black currant, and a touch of vanilla. Hedonistic in the mouth, the flavors are smooth and complex, a bit sweet on the entry, but rounding out to show opulence and immense quality. Needs to cost more… $48.00
Zahtila Vineyards ~ 2250 Lake County Highway ~ Calistoga ~ CA ~94515 ~ 707-942-9251