This Week’s Wine Tasting

Sterling Vineyards


Sterling Vineyards is a winery near Calistoga, California. The winery achieved international recognition when its wine won first place in the Ottawa Wine Tasting of 1981. English expatriate Peter Newton founded the company in 1964, with the first year of production in 1969. He planted Merlot and Chardonnay, now very common in Napa Valley, at a time most vineyards were focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon. Under long-time winemaker Ric Forman (later of Abreu Vineyards), they released California’s first vintage-dated Merlot. The Coca Cola Company bought the winery in 1977, in a short-lived attempt to enter the wine market. Seagram bought the winery in 1982, and was in turn purchased by Diageo in 2001. Sterling Vineyards farms 1,200 acres (486 ha) of vines in various parts of Napa Valley. Production emphasizes Bordeaux and Burgundy-style wines, and is split in several tiers: the entry-level “Napa Valley” wines for which it is most famous, “Reserve” wines (their highest level), “Single Vineyard” wines (specialty wines for enthusiasts), “Vintner’s Collection” (value wines for restaurants and mass distribution), and “Cellar Club” (limited production and eclectic wines for their wine club members).”

“The Sterling Vineyards winemaking team believes that our wines should express true varietal character. We craft each wine with this in mind, choosing gentle techniques tailored to bring out the aromas and flavors that each Napa grape variety develops in the terroir it likes best. The resulting wines have exceptional quality that shines anywhere, with intriguing complexity that brings out the best in a wide variety of cuisines.”


White winemaking– “After grapes for Sterling Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are harvested during the coolest hours, they go directly to press as whole clusters. The majority of Sauvignon Blanc is cold fermented in stainless steel to retain bright fruit character, with the small balance fermented in barrel for richness and complexity. The majority of Chardonnay, on the other hand, is barrel fermented in a selection of oak for rich depth and texture. Sauvignon Blanc may age for several months in stainless steel to fully marry the bright fruit and crisp acidity. Chardonnay ages for 12 months or more in barrel on its yeast lees. Select portions of Chardonnay for the blend may undergo malolactic fermentation, in which harsher malic acid is converted to softer lactic acid. Continual stirring of the lees gives our Chardonnay wines a creamy, toasty mouthfeel that complements their elegant, fresh fruit aromas and flavors.”

Red winemaking– “Grapes for our Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Shiraz wines are harvested at full ripeness and brought to the winery in small boxes. After careful hand-sorting, grapes move through the crusher-destemmer machine and on into oak tanks—or in some cases stainless steel tanks—and are inoculated with native yeasts for primary fermentation. After primary fermentation, the wines are transferred to oak barrels. Here the wines undergo malolactic fermentation in which harsher malic acid is converted to softer lactic acid. Following malolactic fermentation, wines are gently racked from barrel to barrel, leaving their sediment and lees behind. Depending on the varietal, vineyard, and vintage, winemakers give the wines 12 to 24 months of aging in carefully selected oak barrels. Barrels range in type of oak, in age, and in levels of toast—and each variable imparts different characters that interact with and complement a wine’s aromas and flavors. In 2008, we finished a new state-of-the-art winemaking facility to give our Reserve wines kid-glove treatment. The new 10,000-case facility located across from our caves features the finest red winemaking techniques, including whole-berry fermentation, barrel spinning for cap management, and much more. The resulting wines will reflect their terroir with a bold yet elegant intensity.”


Sterling Vineyards Vintners Collection Pinot Grigio 2014– Central Coast, California. “Refreshing and bright, our 2014 Pinot Grigio offers lovely aromas of fresh pear, lemon and red apple graced by fragrant honeysuckle. On entry, the flavors are silky and rich, with green apple and preserved lemons that pick up a lively minerality and mouthwatering acidity as the mouth evolves. Long and bright, the finish primes the palate for food. Pair the vibrant nature of this Pinot Grigio with similarly expressive offerings such as light summer appetizers, Asian dishes, or fresh seafood.” $10.99

Sterling Vineyards Vintners Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2013– Central Coast, California. “Our 2013 Sauvignon Blanc has an irresistible charm that begins with vibrant aromas that leap from the glass, combining tropical fruit, lively citrus and fragrant lime blossom. Lean, angular lines construct the framework of the palate, which is light in body and dazzles with lemon grass, grapefruit and honeydew melon. Sur lie aging adds a distinct roundness to the texture, giving the wine its balance and approachability. The finish is crisp and clean with a mouthwatering acidity that begs another sip.” $10.99

Sterling Vineyards Vintners Collection Chardonnay 2013– Central Coast, California. “Perfectly balanced, our 2013 Chardonnay delivers an intensity of bright, refreshing flavors in a juicy, supple style. White peach, fresh tropical fruits and fragrant orange blossoms are layered with spicy vanilla oak. Winemaker Jim Corkin chose to barrel ferment a portion of the wine, which gave just the right amount of weight and complexity to the vibrant fruit flavors. The result is a dynamic palate that evolves as it progresses, lingering with a long finish of citrus and baking spices. Enjoy this wine with light pasta dishes, grilled seafood or roast chicken.” $10.99

Sterling Vineyards Vintners Collection Zinfandel 2013– Central Coast, California. “Our 2012 Zinfandel captures everything we love about this varietal. Extremely approachable and thoroughly enjoyable, it combines rich berry fruits, pleasant spices and deep, smooth body. Brambly dark fruit is framed by sweet oak spices. The palate is juicy and long and the tannins round and supple. A dash of Petit Sirah provides inky color, supporting the fruit with mouth-coating chocolate notes.” $10.99

Sterling Vineyards Vintners Collection Meritage 2012– Central Coast, California. A blend of 52% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Petit Verdot.”Our Meritage is a classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from some of California’s best appellations. This richly textured wine has flavors of cherry, chocolate, black raspberry and vanilla, which lead to a full, lingering finish. Enjoy our Meritage with grilled or roasted meats and hearty vegetables.” $10.99

Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012– Napa Valley, California. “Intense aromas, led by toasty oak and spice, unfold with layers of cardamom, cedar, dark chocolate and anise over briary fruit. Velvety, plush and round, the palate delivers style and sophistication with enjoyable, rewarding accessibility. Layers of red fruit, brown sugar, and black licorice are joined by chocolately tannins that melt into a long finish. The cooler vintage left a lift of acid that makes it perfect for pairing with food. Try with a hearty mushroom tart, roasted pork loin or grilled meat.” $22.99

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