My day at the exclusive Sloan Estate winery:
On a pleasant Friday morning, the sun was shining, there were a few cumulus clouds and a light breeze. I started my usual Napa Valley day trip, but this one was unlike any other. This is the mysterious Sloan Estate, it has always been so since its inception, private and exclusive, it is not open to the public for tours or testing. Their website is only accessible by their members and their published address is a PO Box number. It defines Swanky and it definitely is.
After several emails and phone conversations with Marsha Chandler, Guest Relations Manager, Martha McClellan, Winemaker and Stuart Sloan, Owner, an arrangement was made for us for a tasting / tour of the Sloan Estate. Martha emailed me for the directions and we were on our way. She pointed out how difficult it is to get to the Sloan Estate, looking at the map and reading the directions it felt manageable as I know Napa Valley very well I was wrong.
The Sloan Estate is located in a very secluded part of Napa, hidden off the beaten track. We went up a gentle incline, slowly and carefully, on narrow roads that were difficult to negotiate, especially when another car was coming in the opposite direction. We headed for the domain. I first discovered Sloan Proprietary Red when it was awarded the perfect score of 100 by Robert Parker, Jr. for the 2002 vintage. Sloan Estate shares the same plateau as some of the best wineries in the world on the list of 100 Perfect Wines by Robert Parker Jr. This list includes, but is not limited to, Bordeaux power plants in France; Château Lafite, Château Haut Brion, Château Latour, Château Mouton -Rothschild and Château Margaux which are the complete representation of Premier Cru. An impressive who's who in the wine business.
The estate was acquired in the mid-1990s by: Stuart Sloan, a Seattle businessman who had the talent and established a reputation for taking small businesses and turning them into giant entities. His track record has been proven and documented by Wall Street as well as Main Street. There was no doubt that Sloan would achieve his ultimate goal of making a great Bordeaux-style wine sooner or later. After all, when you start a business surrounding yourself with the best talent and the best location, you are sure to be successful. Stuart Sloan had the vision and experience to lead a talented team in his new place of business. It was surprising how quickly he was able to achieve his desire to produce a world class wine, a perfect score of 100 points per RP. Sloan & # 39; s team is made up of dedicated individuals, consultant oenologist Michel Rolland, David Abreu, Vineyard Manager / Winemaker and Martha McClellan as Winemaker.
Martha McClellan was the Harlan Estate winemaker before joining Sloan. She lived in Germany for 10 years, while there she studied and graduated in enology as well as viticulture. She is an avid marathon runner, although small in stature, she is too successful, motivated, and successful for perfection. It took a little while for her to warm up and feel comfortable in our conversation, but when she did, Martha was charming, passionate, and articulate.
We arrived at Sloan Estate through a closed double rod iron gate, with the push of a button the doors opened. We drove on the winding road through the well maintained property. Approaching a traditional French chateau style building, adorned with an elegant ivy-covered tower that overlooked the vineyard. We were warmly greeted by Martha in the gravel driveway before where she led us to the English mansion garden abundant with brightly colored roses, which was very well maintained with meticulously maintained hedges.
We were in the garden for about 15 minutes. talk about Martha's winemaking philosophy. She is motivated by her personal pride and geared towards perfection. I could feel her passion for winemaking and do what she really loves! She led us to the cellar through beautiful thick and thick wooden doors, into the fermentation room which was lined with stainless steel vats. These tanks are replaced by more sophisticated technology, a temperature / humidity control system has been installed to help during fermentation. We walked over to a small touchscreen panel hanging on the wall, Martha demonstrated how she is able to control and maintain the different temperature and humidity areas of the cave by venting the airflow. electronically from this panel. We continued down a hallway where all the walls and ceilings were lined with used European bricks imported from Austria during the cave construction phase which ended in 2002. We reached the chamber where barrels French lined the cave walls and housed the grape juice in the middle of it's long journey (aged for 24 months in new oak barrels before bottling) to achieve the delicate and gradual ripening process. These are the molecular changes known to take place involving the gradual interaction of oxygen and wine. Simple chemical compounds break down and recombine into more complex forms called polymer phenols. The acidity and alcohol sweeten.
The larger compounds – the hard astringent tannins – drift down into a carpet of sediment, taking the ink-saturated pigments with them. They leave behind a sweet, unfathomable flavor and a brick red tint. Everything intertwines, resolving itself into an ever finer complexity expressed in a fragrant way in the bouquet of the wine. But it doesn't start there, it starts early in the vineyard, with careful pruning, calculated fruits by falling by cluster position then harvesting according to the Brix number and fruit tasting and finally picking the fruits by hand. to select the best. There is no crushing of the fruit in Sloan, then the selected berries are placed in the fermentation tanks for about 60 days. During this period, the juice is extracted from the fruit mainly by gravity and the sheer pressure of its own weight on each other in stainless steel tanks with a capacity of around 2 tons. This is a very time consuming and labor intensive method of operation, during which the juice has to be monitored and processed continuously. At the end of fermentation, the premature wine is placed in new French oak barrels to begin the evolutionary process of maturity, as if it were a fetus in a womb. ; a mother is a living organism in constant evolution, growth, construction of structure and complexity. After bottling, the wine is aged for a further 12 months before it is placed on the market. Sloan produces two labels; their flagship product is the Sloan Proprietary Red and the other is the Asterisk label. Both are in the classic Bordeaux style. It is a careful blend of a few Bordeaux grape varieties and is produced in very limited quantities (less than 500 Cs per year).
We tasted the 2006 vintage of Sloan Proprietary Red: Massive like a sweet giant, with an extraordinary nose like candied violets with a deep dark purple color, rich notes of black fruits, blueberry, blackberry, roasted coffee intertwined with subtle smoky oak, and rich spice, intense, complex, well balanced with a long lingering finish, I predict this wine will peak after 15-20 years and stay on this plateau for another 10-15 years before declining. If you're not a member of Sloan's mailing list, which is currently closed, but can join their waitlist by visiting their website, you won't find their wines readily available. The most likely place where you can experience the taste of Sloan & # 39; s Proprietary Red is in a fine restaurant or in a very rare high end wine library across the country. I was very impressed with the thoroughness and quality of the upkeep of the Sloan Estate, from the vineyard to the cellar. In my opinion, Sloan started his effort with a strong performance from the start. After all, getting to the top is easier than keeping it. Visiting and experiencing firsthand how Sloan operates their estate to strict measures of high quality standards, I have no doubt in my mind that they are on the right track to continue to grow. Here in Sloan, grapes are king and wine is king. You'll be happy to know that we've been able to negotiate an allowance for our Sloan Proprietary Red members, starting with their next release. We will announce it as soon as it is available. I am sure you will enjoy owning this trophy wine.
Until next time,