Sense of place is palpable in Chanel property’s Napa Valley wines.
Lush camphor trees line a driveway bisecting blocks of Cabernet and Merlot vines at St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery, established in the 1980s and since 2015 owned by the French luxury brand Chanel. The Rutherford winery hosts tastings and events at a modern ivy-covered structure and occasionally an adjacent oak-shaded 1882 Queen Anne Victorian. When the weather’s fine, guests sip wine on an outdoor patio facing courts for playing pétanque, a French game similar to bocce. Robust culinary and espalier gardens producing ingredients for experiences with food complete the bucolic yet sophisticated tableau.
St. Supéry is known for estate-grown Sauvignon Blanc and Bordeaux reds, many of the the latter Cabernet Sauvignons. The wines come from grapes grown on the 56-acre Rutherford property or 20 miles away at the 1,500-acre Dollarhide Ranch on Howell Mountain, where Chardonnay and Moscato also thrive. The Winemaker’s Selection tasting surveys the portfolio; a food pairing offered a few days a week highlights sustainability initiatives in the vineyards and winery.
Robert Skalli, St. Supéry’s founder, chose to locate his winery in the Napa Valley because he believed this appellation was the best in North America for growing Cabernet Sauvignon. One pleasure of the Cabernet Collector’s Tasting is comparing the wines made from the two very different properties he purchased. The Cabernets from the alluvial soils of the valley-floor Rutherford vineyard tend to be soft and supple, with the volcanic soils of Dollarhide showing more structure and tannins. Five Bordeaux Varietals tasting focuses on the distinguishing characteristics of the five principal Bordeaux grapes: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.
Aromatherapy and Ampelography
Aromatherapy with a Corkscrew, one of the winery’s most popular experiences but on hiatus as of early 2022, is worth seeking out when it resumes. Participants blind taste several wines and blind sniff scents that range from fruits and fungi to herbs and spices. The point here is to identify aromas and understand how the sense of smell affects the enjoyment of wine. Also expected to return is the Ampelography Master Class, much of which takes place in the vineyard. Determining a vine’s grape type by the shape of its leaves is the goal in that session.
Sense of Place
The sense of place is palpable in all the St. Supéry wines, overseen by vice president of winemaking and vineyards Michael Scholz, a master of French oak aging. In the 1990s, Scholz created the Élu red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals. He and winemaker Brooke Shenk also craft separate single-vineyard wines of each varietal, with the Cab Franc and Petit Verdot often outstanding.
Why go: valley-floor and mountain Cabernets; focus on wine education; commitment to sustainability.
St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery appears in 10 Foolproof Napa Valley Cabernet Tasting Experiences.
Napa Valley Itineraries
This story originally appeared online in 2017; it was updated in 2022.