Stewart Cellars, located in Napa Valley's posh yet quaint town of Yountville, offers a welcoming setting in which to taste wine. Multiple spaces provide different tasting experiences—from the rustic u-shaped tasting bar to the lodge-style private library space to the comfortable outdoor patio, there is a setting to suit all desires. On site as well, is the Southside Café, which offers rather affordable breakfast and lunch options in an informal, yet upscale space. Much like their "tasting home," as the Stewart family refers to their location, the Stewart Cellars wine collection offers approachable elegance.
As winter lingers on in Northern California wine country, I have found myself reaching for hardy reds. It just so happens that I had stashed away some Stewart Cellars fall releases, and their 2013 Merlot and 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon were perfect to enjoy on a chilly February night by the fireside.
Merlot is a varietal that often gets pushed to the side when poured next to its Cabernet Sauvignon counterpart, but in the case of Stewart Cellars, you'd be remiss to not give their Merlot a chance. One of my favorite Napa Valley Merlots, the Stewart Cellars 2013 Merlot is a steal of a deal at $50. It’s a single vineyard bottling from Brokenrock Ranch (all Clone 181), whole-berry fermented in stainless steel and aged for 20 months in 50% new French oak—the latter of which lends itself well to the smooth body and voluptuous nature. This seductive Merlot exudes aromas of dried rose petals and cocoa, with plum and raspberry flavors at the forefront on the palate. Soft and silky, though with a solid backbone of acidity and complexity, this Merlot is ready to impress even the most Merlot-skeptical of wine lovers.
It's no secret that Stewart Cellars makes a beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon (and not to mention their exclusive Bordeaux blends, which in my opinion rival some of the best in France). A combination of 85% Max Vineyard and 15% Crystal Springs Vineyard, the grapes for this 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon are whole-berry fermented in stainless steel (just like the Merlot) and then aged for 22 months in 65% new French oak. Although the case production is roughly double that of the Merlot, it's still very small at 1,436 cases. This 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon definitely has the complexity to age gracefully, but don't let that stop you from buying a few bottles and enjoying one now, because it's already palate-pleasing with classic aromas and flavors of cassis and blackberry fruit, with baking spice and subtle background notes of vanilla. Full in body but not over the top, it has a luscious texture, compelling mouthfeel and alluring complexity.