Cliff Lede’s New Releases

USA, California, Napa Valley

Cliff Lede’s New Releases

One of my annual Napa Valley coverage highlights is tasting Cliff Lede’s single-vineyard Poetry bottling, and the upcoming 2021 release didn’t disappoint. Although this vineyard has been making wine since the 1970s, the recent vintages—2018, 2019, and 2021—are jaw-droppers. In October this year, I discussed this fascinating, singular site and the subtle winemaking changes since 2017 with Cliff Lede’s son, Jason, and winemaker Christopher Tynan.

Poetry in Motion

In the early 2000s, Canadian-born construction magnate Cliff Lede purchased sixty acres in Stags Leap District, including a twenty-acre steep hillside vineyard called Poetry Vineyard. This site was a separate purchase from the land and winery site on Yountville Crossroad, yet the parcels are adjacent, located on the opposite sides of the Silverado Trail. The winery’s tasting room is close enough to offer a magnificent view of the vineyard.

Poetry Vineyard extends from above the highest point of Stags Leap AVA (400 feet) down to the valley floor. This is a dauntingly precipitous, west-facing slope composed mainly of a volcanic topsoil layer over fractured Rhyolite rock.

"We wouldn’t be able to plant this site today," Jason Lede informs me. "It’s too steep, and the county wouldn’t allow it."

First planted in the 1970s, David Abreu replanted Poetry Vineyard from 2005 to 2007 to a high-density of heritage clone selections of Bordeaux varieties, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyard is now managed in 25 different blocks based on the changes in clones and rootstock. However, a 1.5-acre block of Cabernet Sauvignon vines planted in 1995 was left untouched because of the caliber of fruit it delivers, usually making up the backbone of the flagship “Poetry” label.

“We get 2.5 tons per acre from these 1995 plantings,” says winemaker Christopher Tynan. “The fruit has that old vine character—concentrated and consistent.”

Christopher started here in 2012. Before David Abreu introduced him to Cliff Lede, he was the assistant winemaker at Colgin for 5 years.

Howard Backen designed the state-of-the-art Cliff Lede winery, completed in 2005. The winery and valley-floor vineyards are across the Yountville Cross Road from Kapcsandy—one of Yountville’s finest estates—but Cliff Lede is outside the Yountville border, and its official AVA is Stags Leap District. Based on tasting, I would find it hard to place the estate wines in either AVA; the wines genuinely have their own signatures.

"There was no need to try to gussy it up."

“Since 2017, we have taken our foot off the gas pedal a bit,” Christopher tells me. “We’re looking to forge elegance and age-worthy wines. 2021 was a nice culmination for us—being in tune with the vineyard and having beautiful weather. All the fruit was so great in 2021, the pressure was on not to screw it up! There was no need to try to gussy it up or anything.”

The 2021 Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. It spent 21 months in French oak, 74% new, and was bottled in July 2023. 1921 cases were made vintage. A delicately styled, vibrant expression of this vintage, the alcohol weighs in at just under 14%, making it an excellent choice for readers looking for Napa Valley collectibles at the fresher, more medium-bodied end of the spectrum. The 2021 Poetry is due to be released in September 2024. 

Article & Reviews by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW
Photography by Svante Örnberg

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