The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon is deep, dark ruby in color and has a seductive nose of black cherry, smoke, cola, cedar, and a touch of black pepper. On the palate, it has a seamless entry, with flavors of blackberry, blueberry, well integrated oak and a rich earthiness punctuated by graphite and leather. This superbly balanced and complex wine is lavishly textured with structured yet velvety tannins, and a finish that lingers on.
In 1983, Nancy and Ray arrived in California from Cape Cod to fulfill Ray’s dream of making wine and Nancy’s taste for adventure. After working harvest at Mt. Eden Winery in Saratoga, they moved to Napa Valley and became innkeepers for a bed &breakfast. Ray then spent formative time at Tonella Vineyard Management, where he gained philosophical perspective and practical knowledge working in the vineyards. Ray’s nine year tenure at Whitehall Lane Winery under the tutelage of Art Finkelstein first as a cellar worker and then as head winemaker honed his skills in the art of blending and was the inspiration for Ray’s winemaking style today.
In 1987, Ray & Nancy started Elyse Winery with 286 cases of Zinfandel from the Morisoli Vineyard, which is still a cornerstone vineyard source for the winery. After a decade of nomadic winemaking at various custom crush facilities, in 1997 they purchased a small winery and vineyard on Hoffman Lane, the home of Elyse Winery and tasting room.
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It's hard not to think of Napa Valley when thinking of California wines. The region is, after all, the one that brought world recognition to California wine making. The area was settled by a few choice wine families in the 1960's who bet that the wines of the area would grow and flourish. They were right. The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when vineyard lands were scooped up and vines were planted throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, from large conglomerates to small boutiques to cult classics. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux Blends. Whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie smaller sub-AVAs that lend even more character specifics to the wines. Furthest south is Carneros, followed by Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford. Above those two is St.-Helena and finally, just granted an AVA, Calistoga. These areas are situated on the valley floor and are known for creating rich, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There are a few mountain regions as well, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs. Those include Howell Mountain, Stags Leap and Mount Veeder. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from more time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Fruity
Red wines that are more fruit-forward and lighter in tannin and body.
Smooth & Supple
Medium bodied reds that go down easy, with smooth tannins and supple fruit.
Earthy & Spicy
Wines where earthy and/or spicy dominate the flavors – typically medium to full body.
Big & Bold
Full bodied wines that have concentrated fruit and are higher in alcohol and/or tannins. Some need age.