Today’s visit to Wheeler Farms was the result of another Wine Spectator review while looking for non-Pinot Noir wines. I’d initially stumbled upon Tor Wines and wanted to try some of their Cabernet Sauvignons. I quickly learned that all of their tastings are held at the Wheeler Farms Custom Crush Facility in St Helena. And, to my disappointment (or so I initially thought), they do portfolio tastings that feature their own wines and a few of their member wineries. Hmmm…I wanted to taste Tor wines.
Like a few others, when making my appointment, they wanted to know my wine preferences and what I was looking for. I honestly can’t recall exactly what I shared. Apparently I didn’t share that I’m a Pinot Freak. Sometimes when I make my appointments, I was purposefully leaving that out if I thought the wines I was hoping to try didn’t include Pinot Noir. I don’t think that’s always a wise decision now that I look back. There’s nothing wrong with being honest and wanting to branch out to try new things!
After being welcomed into their gated facility and figuring out where to park (it’s not overly obvious), I was met in the parking lot by Patrick with glasses of the Wheeler Farms Sauvignon Blanc for us both. He led me on a brief tour of their pretty high-tech crush facility. I learned all of the ins and outs and pros and cons of optical sorting vs human sorting. They also have technology to enable their wine makers to remotely monitor their wines. It’s a very new facility. The owners only purchased the property about 6 years ago and built the facility from the ground up.
Their tasting lounge is contemporary and fresh with a smallish kitchen where they prepare their food pairings. They offer two different tastings – both of which feature food pairings. I believe I must have reserved the Winemakers of Wheeler Farms experience.
Once seated, I glanced at the wine bottles that were sitting on the table and was instantly annoyed. There wasn’t a single TOR wine on the table. The Wheeler Farms tasting experiences are NOT inexpensive. I wondered if I should mention it – ultimately, I spoke up. Patrick explained that he was aware and we would be tasting some TOR wine. Okay. Redeemed. Below is the initial lineup (listed from left to right).
- 2018 Wheeler Farms Sauvignon Blanc
- 2017 Vice Versa Platt Vineyard Pinot Noir
- 2016 Wheeler Farms Rutherford Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2016 Roam Sleeping Lady Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2016 Accendo Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
I was so very excited about the second wine of the tasting – that Vice Versa Platt Pinot Noir. I’ve had other pinots from the Platt vineyard and loved them. Sadly, the winery that had been producing them is no longer getting from that vineyard. I had hoped a Vice Versa wine would be on my tasting menu – and there it sat! I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Next up was the Wheeler Cuvee. I don’t remember much about it. I don’t remember hating it. But, it was quickly overshadowed by the next two. I took my first sip of the 2016 Roam Sleeping Lady and almost fell out of my chair. I quickly declared it to be my favorite Cabernet Sauvignon of the trip – and I’ve had some pretty spectacular cabs so far. But lets first talk about that bottle! It’s probably not evident from the photo, but that is a copper medallion on the front of the bottle. Each one is struck, curved, and attached to each bottle by hand. You can read all about the full process on Roam’s website. If I recall, Roam only produces around 500 cases in total each year. So, it is certainly a very small, limited, amazing wine.
The fifth wine in the official tasting was the 2016 Accendo Cellars Cab. I had also hoped to get to try a wine of theirs. Admittedly, I didn’t know much about Accendo. I didn’t realize it was created by Wheeler Farms owners who previously produced Araujo. The Accendo wines are now produced by the next generation of the Araujo family. I took one sip and forgot all about the Roam I’d just declared as the best wine of the journey. Oh my gosh! It was incredible.
The chef brought out bites at the beginning of the tasting that paired perfectly with the wines I tasted. Because each visit is customized, the menu varies. But, they have a bite for every wine. Unfortunately, the menu recently changed so the first bite was new and I don’t have a description. However, here are the three from left to right starting with the second bite:
- Sonoma Lamb & Spring Vegetable Risotto
- Pork & Duck Cassoulet
- Roasted Beef Short Rib with Garlic Ponne Puree, Garden Broccoli, Thyme Jus & Crispy Onions
Now that Patrick had a better idea of my palate and preferences, we chatted about TOR. Apparently many of their cabs are “punch you in the face” style. That’s not my style. So, he opted to pull out the 2017 TOR Cimarossa Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. I wasn’t overly excited about it. I’m not afraid to say that. It’s just not my style. It made me appreciate that Roam and Accendo even more!
Here’s where it gets dangerous. I had no idea how much any of these wines cost. Well, I knew what the price point was on the Roam because I asked. But, there was no price sheet. No order form. This didn’t feel like the other tasting experiences where I felt like I was in an MLM pressured sales pitch. Apparently that was by design! And I LOVED it. I also loved that I tasted each wine without the knowledge that I should appreciate a more expensive wine over a cheaper wine.
The visit was very comparable to my visit at Spire that I visited a few days ago. Both are higher end, luxury, hard-to-find wines.
I highly recommend a visit to Wheeler Farms. You’ll taste some incredible wines. The experiences aren’t inexpensive but will be waived if you make a large enough purchase. I can’t wait for my next visit – Patrick even seemed to invite me back within the next few weeks while I’m still in the area. He promised to pull out a completely new set of wines. Oh, so tempting!