Last month, Lancaster Estate released their 2009 Lancaster Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Proprietors, Ted and Nicole Simpkins, and their staff, lived up to the standard they had previously set for first class food, wine and fun at a vintage release party. This 53 acre rolling estate is truly in the heart of Sonoma County wine country. Its vineyards are in the Alexander Valley American Viticulture Area (AVA) very close to both the Chalk Hill and Knights Valley AVAs.
Upon arrival for this later afternoon event, wine club members and guests were greeted by a professional and very energetic valet service. Exuding an attitude of fun and confidence one had no qualms about handing your keys to one of these young drivers. The check in process was seamless with Emery checking off your name, handing you a Reidel Bordeaux style glass and slipping a stretchable wrist band color coded to your status of wine club member or guest.
While the live music provided by a classic rock band offered dancing or listening pleasure, the newly opened picnic grove was the site for Hog Island Oysters accompanied by the 2011 Estate Samantha’s Sauvignon Blanc. This is a perfect late summer pairing and with temperatures rising into the 90s and the grove offering tables, chairs and shade, it was the most popular venue among the 4 offered for the event. The aromatic Samantha’s offered a melon and citrus bouquet and flavors of ripe pear and grapefruit. Chilled and crisp, this was a perfect beverage for most of the afternoon.
The featured wine and the raison d’être for this gathering was the 2009 Estate Cabernet. This flagship wine consistently meets Ted’s vision of a world class Cabernet made in the image of the great Chateau houses of Bordeaux. Always blended with the 4 other classic Bordeaux grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, this vintage is both rich and flavor filled. Deep color and textured tannins it reminds one of fine velvet and kid leather. Only time can make this wine better than it is right now but it is not necessary to wait. The food paring was beef and cheese sliders on the softest small buns. Elaine Bell Catering cannot be out done for events of this type. Elaine trained at the Culinary Institute of America and has been offering gourmet catering in wine country for over 30 years. They lived up to this event and stood proudly next to this great Cabernet Sauvignon.
The wine cave and the area just outside offered the last two venues. The cave was beautiful lit with candles (battery of course) and the standard cool lights used in normal operations. The small tasting room inside the cave was arranged as a photography studio and guests were having their pictures taken. The pictures were printed and framed almost before you walked out the door. Exceptionally well done! The wines being poured were the 2009 Sophie’s Hillside Cuvee and the 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cuvee was paired with a Fried Chicken and Waffles dish with Maple Syrup. Beautiful!! The savory chicken just melted in the mouth and the Cuvee was a real compliment. Sophie’s Cuvee is both fun and serious and is principally Cabernet Sauvignon. Sometimes it is blended with Merlot and or Cabernet Franc. Very pleasant on the palate and great with food.
The 2005 Estate Cab was being poured in a side by side comparison. Some was decanted from a large format (1.5 liter) bottle and the other was poured from a 375 ml bottle. Some participants commented that the decanted large format had lost some of its fruit while the half bottle remained bright and flavorful. Each person’s palate is different and it is not surprising to have this difference of opinion but it is more typical that a large format maintains acidity and fruit flavors longer than even a 750 ml bottling.
Outside the cave, Elaine Bell had arranged a beautiful set of serving tables with the fried chicken, savory beef and cheese sliders, several savory doughnuts with special sauces and a separate area with wonderful house made cookies. Just plain yum!! Bar height tables with umbrellas were scattered around to facilitate the enjoyment of the food. Jesse Katz (since early 2010) and Dave Drake (over 10 years), Wine maker and Assistant, were very accessible for questions and answers about the wine and this years harvest. Equally engaged and always accessible to their guests were Ted, Nicole and for the first time, perhaps, twin daughters Sophie and Samantha were present and adorable.
As this perfectly executed 3 hour event was winding down, it was important to compliment Ted Simpkins and Nicole on this first class event made infinitely better by their team of tasting room, event, winemaking and hospitality staff. Damon, Emery and Andrew (among many others) continually impress with the knowledge, friendliness, personality and just plain personal engagement. At the risk of leaving others out, these three people truly stand out and deserve to be singled out. Thanks to to them and, of course Ted and Nicole, for hosting this wonderful cannot miss, annual wine country event!!
At the time of this posting it was reported that the Simpkins were closing or have closed a deal to sell the estate to the Foley Wine Group, adding this gem to their collection of premium wineries which includes Chalk Hill, just down the road from Lancaster, Altvs, (Napa Valley), Firestone Vineyard (Los Olivos) and EOS Estate (Paso Robles) among several others. We wish Ted, Nicole and the children all the best in their new adventures.
Lancaster Estate is located at 15001 Chalk Hill Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448. They offer private tours and tasting by reservation only. Contact 707-433-8178 ext 209. It must be pointed out that Nicole and the Proprietors Home, a 6000 square foot former residence, were featured on recent episodes of the Housewives of New Jersey.