Ehlers Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Napa Valley
Cost: $64-66
I have a small plaque that reads “Life’s Too Short To Drink Bad Wine.”
I completely agree with that sentiment and would add this corollary: “When Times Are Tough Drink Your Best Wines.”
With the coronavirus pandemic forcing cancellation of social events all over the world, it looks the the best thing we can do is stay home and drink great wine. My wife Teri and I do that all the time anyway; now we have an excuse for doing it.
One of the best wines I have come across recently Is the Ehlers Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($64-66) from Napa Valley.
It has everything you could want in a blockbuster red wine starting with intense aromas of Asian spices and dark berries. On the palate the wine shows flavors of wild berry jam, chocolate and cedar, with a long mineral finish. The rich, intense fruit is balanced by a crisp acidity and muted tannins.
This is a special occasion wine, suitable for wedding, anniversary, birthday or I’m-just-happy-to-be-here celebrations. The wine is fine to sip by itself, but the flavors really explode with food.
The wine is 80 percent cabernet sauvignon and 20 percent cabernet franc. Nearly all the grapes are grown on the Ehlers’ 42 acres in the St. Helena AVA in the heart of Napa Valley. The location is ideal for grapes to ripen, cooled by the breezes that sweep up the valley between the Vaca and Mayacamas mountains.
The 2017 vintage was outstanding. A Labor Day weekend heat spike kicked harvest into high gear, while cooler weather allowed sugar levels to return to normal. Grape picking finished by October 4, just a week before wildfires struck the Napa Valley.
All the grapes are farmed organically, with no pesticides or commercial fertilizers.
The labels point to the Ehlers commitment to heart research. If you look at the “E” in the Ehlers’ logo sidewise you can see the shape of a heart.
Ehlers is led by general manager and winemaker Laura Diaz Muñoz, who was born in Spain and learned about winemaking in New Zealand and Chile before making wine at some of the most prestigious wineries in Napa Valley.
Muñoz took over in July 2018 and has committed to moving Ehlers forward while honoring the legacy of the past. She has concentrated on focused farming, with some replanting based on the variety of soils on the estate. She also has experimented with a variety of vessels for cellaring and aging.
Winery: The Ehlers Estate story is about the passion and patience of two couples separated by 100 years.
Bernard Ehlers got the ball rolling by buying a small, dying vineyard in 1886 in the northern part of the St. Helena appellation. He replanted his 10 acres, started an olive grove that still produces today, and built a stone barn that is the current winery and tasting room.
When he died his wife Anne ran their Bale Mill Winery until the 1920s. After that a series of new owners each saw the potential of the prime Napa Valley location and the unique terroir.
French entrepreneurs and philanthropists Jean and Sylviane Leducq began acquiring small parcels of vineyard land in Napa Valley in 1987 after establishing the Prince Michel Vineyards and Winery in Virginia in 1982. Leducq had built a successful international business involving the supply and care of linens and uniforms in Europe and North America.
Leducq wanted to build a classic contiguous French estate in Napa, where wineries often buy widely separated parcels all over the valley. He worked with renowned enologist Jacques Boissenot to find land with the characteristics to grow grapes that could build powerful, complex wines with the grace and elegance of Bordeaux reds.
They bought seven acres in 1987 and then in 2001 bought the original stone winery and estate home built by Bernard Ehlers. When they finished the Leducqs had 42 acres of prime vineyards with the stone winery in the middle. No point on the property is more than 600 yards from the winery, allowing the Ehlers team to have complete control over every aspect of the viticulture program, leading to greater focus and quality.
As a tribute to the site’s long winemaking history, the Leducqs revived the original Ehlers Estate name beginning with the winery’s inaugural 2000 vintage cabernet sauvignon. The following year, Ehlers Estate produced its first merlot, and with the 2002 vintage, the winery added its flagship, estate-grown “1886” cabernet sauvignon bottling to its portfolio of handcrafted Bordeaux-varietal wines.
The family created the Leducq Foundation to improve human health through cardiovascular and neurovascular research. Jean Leducq died in 2002 and Sylviane died in 2013. The care of the Leducq Foundation Trust was left in the hands of Jean and Slyviane’s longtime friend and employee, Martin Landaluce. Landaluce now oversees the trust as the president. All the profits from the winery go to the foundation, making this the only non-profit winery in Napa Valley.
In 2009, Sylviane Leducq was awarded the French Légion d’Honneur in recognition of her generosity and leadership of the foundation.
The winery is organic, making a strong commitment to caring for the land. They rarely use contract labor, using employees to do all the farming. Right now there is some contract labor to do replanting in the vineyards. Most years all of their wines are made only from estate grapes.
Ehlers Estate embraced organic farming in 2004. Beginning with the 2005 red wine vintage and the 2007 white wine vintage, all Ehlers Estate wines have been crafted exclusively from certified organic, estate-grown grapes.
Goes with: We used this wine to turn an ordinary night into a special occasion. I had intended to drink it at Edisto Beach where we spent a week with our friends we call the Magnificent Eight. But we ate seafood every night, and it would be a shame to drink this powerhouse of a wine with seafood.
So we saved it for when we came back. The first couple of nights back in town we didn’t feel like cooking or going out so one night we ordered a pizza for me and an eggplant parmigiana sub for Teri from Giuseppe’s, our favorite Italian restaurant. It was a magnificent combination.
I’m sure the folks at Ehlers don’t think about serving this wine with pizza or a sub, but it worked really well. The fresh acidity in the wine cut through the cheese and dough and balanced out the tomato sauce. We loved the pairings so much there wasn’t any wine left when we finished dinner.
This wine also would pair well with steaks on the grill, or any other hearty cut of beef, hearty stews, roast duck or lamb and probably even a good pork stew.
This cab likely will continue to improve in the bottle for another 10-15 years.

If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at

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