By Joy Neighbors
Rising 300 feet above the town of Calistoga, California, Sterling Vineyards offers guests panoramic views of Napa Valley. Peter Newton, a British international paper broker, founded the company in 1964 after purchasing a 50-acre vineyard. Newton decided to increase the vineyard’s production from Cabernet grapes to also include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and the area’s first significant planting of Merlot.
Four years later Sterling Vineyards released the first California vintage-dated Merlot. By 1972, a new winery had been opened and featured a salon-style tasting room with an aerial tram to take visitors from the parking lot to the tasting room at the top of a hill.
Then, as today, when guests arrive they are given a glass of wine and allowed to stroll through art galleries and elevated walkways, winding their way through visual displays that tell the story of the Sterling winemaking process from grape to glass.
Sterling Vineyards released their first Vintner’s Collection Chardonnay and Merlot in 2000. Today, nine varietals make up the Vintner’s Collection, which sells a million cases annually. A few years ago, Sterling began crafting “Reserved" wines and has established a dedicated winery for that production.
The Chardonnay is barrel-fermented for 12 months resulting in its oaky aromas and crisp mouthfeel. The pallet is composed of melon, pineapple and citrus with a rich hint of spiciness on the finish. This full-bodied wine is wonderful with grilled chicken and seafood. Retails at $14 a bottle.
The Cabernet grapes are hand-sorted before undergoing barrel fermentation of 12 to 24 months in the wine caves. Cerise and pepper on the nose lingers with hints of cedar before the flavors of plum, berry and cherry deliver a full pallet surprise. And a touch of chocolate tantalizes at the finish. With its rich texture and supple body, this is one Cab that delivers all it promises. Excellent with roast pork; also serve with grilled meats and hearty autumn dishes. Retails at $32.00 a bottle.