I’m always determined to find producers I’ve never visited. In fact I strive to spend the bulk of my time in wine regions experiencing new things and places. I have my favorites and I circle back when time permits, but I realize the next spot I hit for the first time might be my new favorite. So it was with that philosophy in mind that I set about to visit to Kelly Fleming Wines, a producer I knew by name but not much else.
Kelly Fleming Wines sits on 300 gorgeous acres in Calistoga. Of those a mere 12 acres are under vine. They farm those acres sustainably; just this year they were awarded Napa County’s Fish Friendly Farming certification. Among the animals and such on the property are beehives, turkeys, mountain lions and four rescue donkeys. When the property was purchased it was unimproved land and they have done everything in their power to be shepherds of this property, improving it with a very light footprint.
While at their Estate property I toured the grounds and tasted through the current releases with Kelly Fleming herself. Apparent after spending the first minute with her is the unbridled passion she has for the property, for remaining a small boutique producer (2,700 cases currently), and for making excellent wine from her Estate and beyond. My thoughts on the wines follow
Kelly Fleming Wines 2013 Sauvignon Blanc ($36)
The fruit for this wine came from three Napa Valley vineyards. Fermentation and aging took place in a combination of new French oak (10%), used French oak (30%), and stainless steel (60%). Grass and citrus aromas emerge from the nose. The palate is filled with apricot and peach flavors. Minerals, bits of papaya and orange peel are all in play on the long finish that has a bit or a creamy edge.
Kelly Fleming Wines 2014 Rosé ($36)
The Rosé is produced from estate Cabernet (88%), as well as Malbec (6%), and Syrah (6%) from neighbors. Fermentation took place in stainless steel and once used French oak barrels. Oodles of watermelon characteristics leap from the nose. Strawberry, bright Bing cherry and a bit of vanilla fill out the palate. Continued red berry elements and a touch of crème fraiche are present on the crisp, refreshing finish.
Kelly Fleming Wines 2012 Big Pour Napa Red ($75)
Big Pour is a blend of Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (85%), Syrah (5%), Malbec (5%), and Petit Verdot (5%) and from Napa Valley. Red and black fruit aromas fill the nose. From the first sip the mouth-feel is velvety in nature with black raspberry and cherry flavors in play. Bits of cocoa lead the finish which showcases a continuing cavalcade of sweet red fruit tinged with black. A dollop of cinnamon appears as well. This is a very accessible Cabernet based wine that is ready to drink today but will age well over the next 8 or so years.
Kelly Fleming Wines 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($110)
Their signature wine is composed of entirely Cabernet Sauvignon from the estate. It spent 20 months in 82% new French oak. 920 cases were produced. Wisps of toast and vanilla are present on the nose along with a cornucopia of berry aromas. There is an almost stunning amount of depth to the palate here with an avalanche of sweet red and black cherry flavors. These are underpinned by copious spice characteristics. Cinnamon, bits of dusty clay, minerals and chicory are all apparent throughout the prodigiously long finish. Firm, yielding tannins and solid acid provide an excellent backbone for aging. This estate wine is delicious now but will improve steadily over the next decade and drink well for a minimum of 5 years after that, perhaps longer.
The tasting room and an attached alcove are quite warm and inviting, as is Kelly herself. This is a beautiful little winery making terrific Napa Valley wines. Tastings are by appointment only, but don’t let that hold you back. They’re happy to have visitors so they can show off the beautiful estate and wines. Kelly Fleming Wines is precisely the type of place it’s worth making extra time and an extra effort to visit. If you’re like me, you’ll leave enchanted, with the magic that comes from the very best of what Napa has to offer. And really, how can you beat that? So reach out to them, next time you're headed to Napa Valley, you'll be glad you did.