Stellareese Winery is more than a story of great, micro-production Cabernet. The story of its creation and evolution is worth your attention, too. It started in 2007 at one important Napa winery made by one partner and now is made at ANOTHER important Napa winery by the other partner. With these twists and turns, the wine’s evolved and improved while keeping its unique character.
The partners are husband and wife Geoff and Rachel Davies. They both grew up in Napa Valley, met in Calistoga in the late ‘90s and married in 2004, the same year Rachel started to work at T-Vine Cellars. Sales were her Job One at T-Vine, but at small wineries (which T-Vine was at the time) a smart, resourceful person does a little bit of everything. 3 years later, in 2007, T-Vine Owner Greg Brown convinced Rachel to make her own wine at his winery, and Stellareese “Marcey’s Vineyard” Cabernet was born. I remember the 2007 Stellareese. It was GOOD!
Through the recession, the sale of T-Vine, and the hellos & goodbyes to loved ones, Stellareese Cabernet marched on, making its customers happy with a fruit-forward, juicy, very tasty young style.
Then came 2013, an important year in the wine’s evolution. Geoff changed careers and took a job in wine production at Outpost Winery under winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown with Stellareese in tow. The exposure to a highly successful winemaking philosophy and a culture of world-class winemaking has lifted Stellareese to yet another level. But, interestingly, it’s not an Outpost style. More on that in a second.
Joining their “Marcey’s” Cabernet is the Stellareese Grenache and Chardonnay, both come from mountain vineyards and are sub-100 case wines full of personality and flavor. You’ll see offers for these two wines as well, but not as consistently as the Cabernet because there is so little made.
Stellareese consistency and evolution begins with “Marcey’s Vineyard.” It’s on the north side of Calistoga, farmed organic, dry-farmed barring extreme weather events, and is taken entirely by Stellareese (a Napa Valley monopole). As mentioned above, the wine from here is always darkly fruited, a little bit sappy, and smooth-textured. It has tannins but its not tannic. My wine offers talk more about the wine, vintage by vintage.
Vineyard first, winemaking second, and I’m reminded of how wine was made at T-Vine in the 2000s. Accessible, luscious, happy, gently oaked. And very well priced. These qualities are still at the core of its character, now the 2015 vintage. The evolution of Geoff as a winemaker, and the culture of world-class winemaking at Outpost, is like an elevator to the moon: It’s not stopping anytime soon.
3 questions for Stellareese:
Your favorite home-cooked meal?
Geoff: Bolognese from Rachel’s garden tomatoes and beef from Lewelling Ranch.
Rachel: Fresh tomatoes out of the garden, crusty French bread, good olive oil, fresh mozzarella and a nice glass of wine. I could eat that any time of day, multiple times of day and never get tired of it.
Mountains or Ocean and why?
Geoff: Mountains! Big trees, snow, fresh air, and of course, FLAVOR.
Rachel: That’s a tough one, but I’m definitely a mountain girl at heart. I love to ski, hike, backpack and trail run. I live on a mountain and get into the woods at least once a week.
Tell us something interesting about terroir, clones, yeast or cork.
Geoff: I choose clones: The vines at Marcey’s vineyard from which we make our cabernet are Clone 7 Cabernet Sauvignon. This Clone 7 can be traced back to 1893 when James Concannon planted vineyards in Livermore Valley with cuttings obtained from France. In 1974 UC Davis registered Clones 7,8 and 11 in collaboration with Concannons original vineyard and developed three new Cabernet Sauvignon clones that were proven to come from James and his attempt at making Bordeaux style wines. I like Clone 7 because of the luscious fruit up front on the palate and then the complexity builds with dried herbs, leather, spices and a wealth of character.