California Wine Country

California Wine Country

Davis Estates winemaker Walter Leiva

May 11, 2022
davis estates

Dan Berger & Walter Leiva.

Davis Estates winemaker Walter Leiva is our guest on California Wine Country with Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger.

Before talking about Davis Estates wines with Walter, Dan Berger has opened another cellar dweller, this one is a 2015 Pinot Gris from the Lichen Estate in Anderson Valley and it’s delicious, everyone loves it. Dan detects flavors of dried peaches and a little spice element from the young wine. Pinot Gris is difficult because it produces tannins, when the grapes turn a pinkish-gray when ripening. Normally, tannins are not good for whites.

Davis Estates is a family owned and operated boutique limited production winery located in Calistoga. They make several varieties, especially Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It ls located at 4060 Silverado Trail in the north end of Calistoga. They have a tasting room and a tasting experience with a full-time executive chef Mark Caldwell. He is a wine guy to creates pairings specifically for their wines. Dan Berger says, “The winery is spectacular, gorgeous.”

They taste their 2019 Chardonnay which Dan Berger says is delicious but could stand three or four more years before it begins to show. It has a nice combination of tropical and citrus fruit. It uses oak barrels but no malolactic fermentation. Dan says that it is “white Burgunday incarnate” and that if it were French, it would go for $150 a bottle. This is a limited production, only about 600 or 700 cases. The property is easy to reach from Sonoma County. Dan recommends a visit.

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This uses clone 95, which Dan says does not produce a lot of fruit, so it is expensive to make. For a winery with an emphasis on quality, that’s fine. Walter mentions their quest to develop the phenolic profile in the vineyard.

Next they will taste the 2020 Sauvignon Blanc, which is made with fruit from Rutherford, stainless steel fermented. They use “just a touch of oak,” for texture and it has a crisp acid and tropical fruit. In 1966, Mondavi started using the name Fumé Blanc, when very few people had had success with Sauvignon Blanc. The French designation was “Blanc Fumé” and so Robert Mondavi reversed the word order.

The name of the label used to be Windmill Valley, which is reflected in the windmill on the Davis Estates labels.

Now they taste Classic Chase, a blend of 48% Cabernet Franc, 49% Merlot and the rest is Petit Verdot. Cabernet Franc is the “father” of Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a little more personality, when grown properly. Dan says this will be the salvation of Napa Valley in the future. Merlot has more personality than Cab Sauvignon. This is a big wine that has good aging potential.