Text Size:-+

2002 Steltzner Claret, Napa

If you're a Napa wine drinker, even if you've never heard of Steltzner Vineyards, you have almost assuredly had a wine that in some way has been touched by Dick Steltzner. A third generation Californian, from a farming family, Steltzner originally wanted to leave all that behind and become an artist, and in the early Sixties he was living in St. Helena following his dream. By 1964 though, he was having second thoughts about his chosen path, and in what would be a fateful decision, bought some land in the Stag's Leap district and started growing grapes.

Having been acquainted with Ernest Wente in his younger years, and coming from an agricultural family, this perhaps seemed a logical choice, and within several years, Steltzner's skills in viticulture had become widely known and in high demand. Over the next two decades, Steltzner would manage vineyards for an incredibly impressive list of wineries and vineyards including Diamond Creek Vineyard, Spring Mountain Vineyards, Clos du Val, and Markham, just to name a few. By 1977 Steltzner was purportedly managing 450 acres of vineyards in 22 separate locations in the valley.

It was at this time that an excess of grapes prompted Steltzner to make his own wine, and his interest quickly led to the creation of his own facility on his property in Stag's Leap in a ramshackle building originally used as a dehydrating shed for making prunes.

Today Steltzner Vineyards is producing wines from the original piece of property that Dick bought in 1965 as well as from land in the newly formed Oak Knoll appellation. They produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinotage, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay, along with this Claret blend.

This wine is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 30% Merlot, and is a significant improvement on the 2001 vintage which I tasted about 18 months ago. Steltzner has recently engaged the services of winemaking consultant Charles Hendricks who is partially responsible for some of the Barnett Vineyards wines which I love so much.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is a young bright violet in the glass -- we're talking really purple -- with a nose that includes aromas of licorice, cherry cola, and some light floral notes likely from the Cabernet Franc in the blend. In the mouth it is lively and bright with very light tannins and good acidity underscoring primary flavors of cherries, and what can only be described as Dr. Pepper notes. The finish is solid and satisfying. I'd say this is a great example of the Claret style and a likely crowd pleaser not to mention a great value.

Food Pairing:
Call me a cheap date, but I think this is a great everyday wine. Why not use it to make some of these Cabernet Burgers and then drink the rest while you eat them?

Overall Score: 9/9.5

How Much?: $14

This wine is readily available from various Internet merchants.

Buy My Award-Winning Book!

small_final_covershot_dropshadow.jpg A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. 2015 Roederer Award Winner.Learn more.

Follow Me On:

Twitter Instagram Delectable Flipboard Pinterest

Most Recent Entries

Vinography Images: Unglamorous Work A Lesson in the Loss of Denis Malbec I'll Drink to That: Kimberly Prokoshyn of Rebelle Restaurant Wine News: What I'm Reading the Week of 6/19/16 Vinography Unboxed: Week of June 12, 2016 Warm Up: Richebourg I'll Drink to That: Jean-Nicolas Méo of Méo-Camuzet Vinography Images: It's Nice to be King It's Time for American Wineries to Grow Up I'll Drink to That: Joy Kull of La Villana Winery

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune

Archives by Month


Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud