Tag Archives: Cliff Lede Vineyards

Sourdough, Memorial Day Weekend, Wine

Lori’s sourdough loaf.

Lori has been working on her sourdough starter, just like everyone else in the Bay Area, California and the world.  She calls her starter “Seymour”.  Technically it should be called Audrey II, but everyone remembers the name Seymour, and the line “Feed me!”, and so the starter became Seymour.  (The only other thing you remember from Little Shop of Horrors is Steve Martin as the dentist.) 

The key to enjoying sourdough, though, is not the starter, it’s what you do with the starter.  Sure, anyone can make a loaf of bread.  Almost anyone; I couldn’t.  But what about dinner rolls, which can conveniently become slider buns?  What about sourdough pancakes and waffles?  (Shout out to our friend Marybeth Binder who made the glass mosaic custom backsplash for our stove when we renovated the kitchen a couple of years ago.)  Personal opinion is that the blueberry sourdough waffles were much better than the pancakes. The crunchy and soft of the waffles just worked.

For the sliders, I worked from another recipe from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  It was modified to half ground chicken, half ground beef, with grated zucchini, diced onions, minced garlic and jalapenos added in, plus spices like cumin.  Then there was a yogurt sauce, with lemon zest and juice, and sumac.  Really good; might not ever make a conventional hamburger again.  We paired that with a bottle of 2017 St. Anne’s Crossing Primativo, Sonoma Valley, Shumahi Vineyard.  Great dinner. 

Pink Pinot Noir for Memorial Day barbeque.
Lori practicing 6 foot social distancing in our backyard.

The sourdough blueberry waffles were brunch on Memorial Day.  For dinner, a social distancing dinner in our backyard with kids and grandkids, we did a simple chicken barbeque with corn on the cob and a salad.  It was a warm day, and roses were the order of the day.  We opened two roses of Pinot Noir, one the 2017 from Balletto Vineyards, the other the 2018 Lazy Creek Vineyards (now owned by Ferrari Carano).  Both were quite nice, and had more body and bite than usual for rose of Pinot Noir.   

2015 FEL (Cliff Lede) Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley: delicious.

Last, but certainly not least, was the bottle of 2015 FEL Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, that we opened Saturday with dinner.  We didn’t cook, but supported one of our local restaurants and brought in dinner from Valette.  Great restaurant in Healdsburg, when you get a chance to travel to the wine country again.  FEL is the second label from Cliff Lede Vineyards in Napa (named from Cliff’s mother’s initials), which we visited about 3 years ago, just after the 2017 Tubbs Fire.  This was a really nice Pinot Noir when we visited, and even better now.  A great example of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. 



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.