Tag Archives: Cliff Lede Vineyards

Cliff Lede Vineyards: Rock Blocks and Wines That Rock

Burnt hills from the Atlas Peak fire above Cliff Lede Vineyards.

A long time ago, when we were first starting to go to Napa Valley, we visited a winery called S. Anderson. On the edge of the Stags Leap District, S. Anderson made very good Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, and also was relatively unique in producing sparkling wine. In 2002 Cliff Lede purchased that Stags Leap property, and Cliff Lede Vineyards and Lede Family Wines were born.

Some of the Rock Blocks from Cliff Lede Vineyards.

One of the first things Cliff did was to start replanting the vineyards. The problem? Vineyard blocks, with different varietals, are most often given numerical designations: Block 1, 2, … Cliff couldn’t remember which numbers went with which varietals, so the names of favorite rock songs and albums were used. Those, he could remember. I’m pretty sure Cliff is within 5 years of my age, because this reads like my high school playlist: Dark Side of the Moon, Your Song, Magic Carpet Ride, Born to Run and a whole lot more. There’s a taste of it above, but for the full map (and cheat sheet) go to Cliff Lede Rock Blocks.

View from under the arbor at the Cliff Lede tasting room. Burnt hills from the Atlas Peak fire in the background.

One of the other things done was to revamp the tasting room, including adding a patio and arbor outside. We started our tasting at the bar inside, but soon migrated to the very comfortable seats under the arbor, just coming inside when we were ready for the next wine. Pierce did a great job helping us, although it was dangerous to come inside, as he and I talked as much or more about the music of the Rock Blocks as about the wine.

The patio at the Cliff Lede Vineyards tasting room.

Also, while Cliff started with the Napa property, he eventually purchased Savoy Vineyards in Anderson Valley and launched the FEL Wines brand. (FEL are his mother’s initials.) FEL is focused on great Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.

We tasted both the Cliff Lede and FEL wines. The Sauvignon Blanc is still their best seller by volume, but wasn’t on the tasting menu that day. We really liked the 2015 FEL Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. It’s not common for Lori and I to agree on a Pinot Noir, but we did on this one! We also enjoyed the 2014 “Scarlett Love” Cabernet Sauvignon. The name of this blend comes from the two blocks from which the grapes are sourced. First, there’s Cabernet Sauvignon from the Scarlet Begonias (Grateful Dead) block, then there’s Petit Verdot from the Sunshine of Your Love (Cream) block. Of the Bordeaux style blends that we tasted, this was our favorite, showing nice balance from nose through entry all the way to the finish. It should age nicely; at least we’re hoping so, since we’re laying it down for one of those round number anniversaries that’s still a few years off.

In a couple of the photos above you will notice burnt hills, from the Atlas Peak Fire last month, in the background. It seems that the fire didn’t damage any of the vineyards. Regarding this vintage, they had most of their grapes already harvested by the time the fires hit, so there should be no smoke taint on their wine. (Probably anything that has smoke taint, and this goes for everyone in Napa and Sonoma, will be sold on the bulk wine market, and end up in the very low end wines.)

This was a great tasting. I’m not sure when we’ll be back, but I’m not hesitating to send friends there.

L’Chaim,

Larry