Ehlers Estate: Fine Wine and a Larger Purpose
Apr 30, 2020 07:43PM
By Fran Miller
BY FRAN ENDICOTT MILLER
Beyond its velvety Merlots and full-bodied Sauvignon Blancs, Ehlers Estate is defined as much by a love story as it is by its finely crafted wines. A hint is evident in each Ehlers Estate wine label. Take a closer look. Can you see the tiny, hidden heart?
Although decidedly dedicated to phenomenal wines, the Napa Valley winery also holds a larger purpose. Ehlers Estate is owned by the trust that supports the Leducq Foundation, a prestigious private foundation dedicated to supporting internationally collaborative research in heart disease and stroke. The foundation was established in 1996 by the founders of Ehlers Estate, Jean and Sylviane Leducq.
By the turn of the 21st century, the Leducq’s had created the 42-acre, organically farmed St. Helena property, the heart and soul of which continues to be original founder Bernard Ehlers’ stone barn, built in 1886, and serving as the winery’s beautiful and welcoming tasting room. (below) Developing the winery had become a project of love for Jean and Sylviane, who, in addition to their shared passion for wine and food, were active and devout philanthropists who had established a foundation and trust that supports international cardiovascular research.
As an asset of the trust, the mission of Ehlers Estate, at the behest of the Leducq Foundation, is and has always been, to simply to make the finest wine possible with utmost care for the land, the people that tend to it, and the generations that will follow them. The Leducq’s love for one another and their strong connection to heart disease are reflected in the heart hidden in the label on Ehlers wines, created by the negative space in the Ehlers ‘E.’
Today, Winemaker and General Manager Laura Díaz Muñoz manages the 42-acre, organically farmed estate and carries on the tradition of Jean and Slyviane’s love for old world wines and their dedication to the land. Muñoz assumed the role in 2018; with each growing season, she strives to bring both the farming of the estate and her work in the cellar to its highest potential. For her, winemaking is a process of discovery; a journey to understanding the needs of each individual barrel and vine. Her vineyard journey has ranged from extensive soil studies and replanting, experimenting with different clones, and reconfiguring row orientation and vine height. She’s also brought in smaller fermenting vessels so she can work with smaller lots, as well as a cement egg which is used to ferment a portion of the Sauvignon Blanc.
Muñoz’s passion lies in Sauvignon Blanc and she believes it is one of the most difficult fine wines to make well. In each bottle she strives to strike a balance between aromatics and varietal character in order to capture complexity as well as brightness. While she enjoys tackling the challenges of Sauvignon Blanc, she has the most fun in the cellar with the Ehlers Estate Sylviane Rosé, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc fermented slowly in a mix of stainless-steel drums to preserve freshness and minerality and once-used barrels to allow for the development of a beautiful creamy texture.
Ehlers Estate, just as with all other Napa Valley wineries, is currently closed to the public during California’s shelter-in-place order. Enjoy selections from Ehlers at home by ordering online.
Photos courtesy of Ehlers Estate.