Davis Estates Winery | A Changing Landscape in Calistoga
As the epicenter of America’s evolving and increasingly interesting wine scene, Napa Valley is the hottest place to be – and having its namesake on your label lends quite a bit of cachet and prestige in the marketplace.
Being so sought after has translated to the highest prices nationwide per buildable acre, with prices ranging from $150,000 all the way up to $2 million. While it’s still primarily an agricultural-centric region, long gone are the days of diversified crops in this fertile valley – today the cash crop is the wine grape – and it thrives here.
The combination of high prices and fierce demand for prime vineyard sites are making it increasingly difficult for those with ambitions inclined towards wine production. So when opportunity knocked and the old Saviez Vineyards property became available, Mike and Sandy Davis chose the historic estate to execute on their vision of “…building a sustainable property while crafting premiere Napa Valley wines to be enjoyed today and for generations to come.”
With a dream of owning a piece of this paradise and producing their own wines, Mike and Sandy Davis, with assistance from their world-class team, are realizing their dream.
Eponymous named Davis Estates, their vision is an exciting one that will forever change the landscape in this sleepy stretch of Calistoga at the Northern end of Napa Valley.
The Davis’ closed on the historic, century old winery estate in 2011. It was most recently known as Saviez Vineyards until falling into foreclosure in 2009. Regrettably, the 9.2 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah were neglected before the Davis’ came along.
Shortly after acquiring the property, Mike Davis told Wines & Vines that “Our goal is to work with Pina [Management] this year and get the vines in good shape.” He also said of his original plans that “We want to restore the barn, maybe have a tasting room, maybe caves. We don’t want to do it hastily. We don’t want to make a mistake.”
As the saying goes – good things come to those who wait. With expected completion in Spring of 2016, Davis Estates is an impressive work in progress that is well on its way to realizing the vision of its founders as they breathe new life into the property.
The historic barn, which was originally found in disrepair, has since been relocated and has undergone a fantastic renovation with a sort of rusticated chic flair. While tastings at Davis Estates can currently be conducted in the historic barn, there’s much more going on here.
In fact, when I visited the property with respected consulting winemaker Cary Gott (began his first winery Montevina at age 24, formerly President of Sterling Vineyards), much of the Davis Estates property was still under heavy construction:
Having been on-board since its inception, Cary was clearly very passionate about this project – and it would be hard not to be, even for such a seasoned winemaker who has arguably seen it all.
What you see pictured above is the new Davis Estates Visitor Center and winery. The spacious new structure will not only have state of the art winemaking facilities, but will provide Davis Estates with generous and diverse possibilities to accommodate tastings and events.
Also in progress is an extensive underground cave system currently being dug into the hillside. It will house a special ‘members only’ Phase V room (Phase V is the ultra-premium Davis Estate’s label which I did not taste), the likes of which I have never seen before at any winery.
The portfolio of wines at Davis is both extensive and well-made. The following were standouts:
Davis Estates Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Private Reserve: 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Davis’ estate in Rutherford and aged 8 months in stainless steel. Light straw yellow. There are aromas of sweet melon, apricot, guava and white flowers balanced by subtle suggestions of hay and citrus. In the mouth this medium to full-bodied effort is pure and richly textured with generous tropical fruit notes building along with good spicy character. It is creamy yet with enough acid balance to maintain good freshness.
Score: 90 | Price: $35 Retail
Davis Estates Hungry Blonde Chardonnay 2013 Carneros: Aged in 25% new French oak and produced from the cooler Carneros region of Napa. The perfumed nose reveals lively notes of apples, pears and guava interlaced with white flowers, lemon and vanilla. In the mouth it manages to balance being both creamy and zesty with a plush, easy-drinking personality . It’s neither lean nor overwhelmingly rich – there’s something for everyone in this balanced, approachable Napa Chardonnay.
Score: 89 | Price: $30 Retail
Davis Estates Merlot Napa Valley 2012: Produced from 100% Merlot from a single vineyard site (Erba Vineyard) and aged 22 months in 45% new French oak. It pours a dark ruby red in the glass. The perfumed nose reveals dark raspberries, black plums and black cherry nuanced by flowers, cocoa, and a dollop of sweet toasty oak. In the mouth it is on the fuller side of medium to full-bodied with a solid, juicy core of dark fruit framed by licorice, cloves and dusty cocoa. A lengthy, toasty finish exhibits just a trace of powdery tannin. The Davis Estates Merlot is a bold, layered Merlot fit for a Cabernet drinker.
Score: 92 | Price: $50 Retail
Davis Estates Cabernet Franc 2012 Napa Valley: A blend of 86% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 22 months in 15% new French oak. It’s quite aromatic with ripe raspberries, black cherries, black licorice, violets and smoky sweet oak. In the mouth this bold, full-bodied expression of Cabernet Franc exhibits layers of fruit and spice with a creamy texture accented by smoky vanilla notes. As it evolves in the glass it softens a bit and the silky fruit really takes center stage.
Score: 91 | Price: $50 Retail
The Specifics | Davis Estates
Location: 4060 Silverado Trail, Calistoga CA, 94515
Tasting Fee: $30 (Waived with $200 purchase)
Included in the Tasting: A selection of 5 current release wines.
Wine Prices: $25-$185
Total Production: ~1,800 cases annually.
Appointment Required? Yes. Call 707-942-0700. Tastings are conducted Monday – Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Time to Allot: Approximately 60 minutes
Should You Go? While it’s already hard not to be seduced when tasting these delicious wines in the tastefully appointed historic barn while overlooking beautifully tranquil Calistoga, the best is still yet to be seen at Davis Estates. I hope to return once the new winery, caves and visitor center are complete.
Fun Facts | Davis Estates
- There were initially rumors that Mike and Sandy Davis would build a commanding, castle-like winery to rival it’s Tuscan-inspired neighbor Castello di Amorosa.
- Davis Estates is entirely family-owned and they intend to farm the estate sustainably.
- The architecture was designed by Howard Backen, who is responsible for designing Ovid Winery, Harlan Estate and Rams Gate Winery among others.
- It cost the Davis’ $4.7 million to acquire the 114 acre property now known as Davis Estates. There are 8 acres of estate vineyards surrounding the winery.
- This isn’t actually the Davis’ first property in Napa Valley – they actually own and reside on a piece of property in Rutherford behind Cakebread Cellars. The 5 acre property is their ‘home base’ and contains 1.5 acres of Cabernet Franc.
- Ever heard of Gott’s Roadside? Winemaker Cary Gott is a founding partner. His son has also successfully found his way into the family business: as founder of Joel Gott wines.
For more information about Davis Estates, click here.
**Wines provided as samples for purposes of review. No consideration was received for writing this article.