Ehlers Estate Winery
Ehlers Estate produces world-class wines that are a reflection of the land from which they come. Operating as a small family farm, Ehlers Estate adheres to a core set of values: quality, sustainability, and community. The historic and diverse vineyards of Ehlers Estate are certified organic and biodynamic, and are meticulously farmed to produce a small portfolio of exceptional estate-grown wines.
Wine grapes have been growing on this rocky, loamy, northern St. Helena benchland since the mid-1800's and today these prized vineyards are at the core of our commitment to quality.
In 1985, French entrepreneur and philanthropist Jean Leducq began acquiring small parcels of vineyard land in Napa Valley’s acclaimed St. Helena appellation. A dedicated vintner and wine lover, his goal was to found a contiguous Napa Valley estate—in the classic French style—capable of producing wines with the power, grace, and sophistication of the great Bordeaux houses. To this end, Jean Leducq worked with renowned enologist, Jacques Boissenot, to select land with the characteristics necessary to produce fruit capable of creating powerful, complex, wines. The land they chose possessed a rich winegrowing tradition dating all the way back to the mid-1800s, and had once been home to the historic vineyard of Bernard Ehlers.
By 2001, Jean Leducq had joined the original 14-acre Ehlers Estate property with contiguous vineyard parcels to create a 43-acre estate. At the heart of this estate is the historic stone winery built by Bernard Ehlers in 1886. As a tribute to the site’s long winemaking history, Jean Leducq and his wife Sylviane revived the original Ehlers Estate name beginning with the winery’s inaugural 2000 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon. The following year, Ehlers Estate produced its first Merlot, and with the 2002 vintage, the winery added its flagship, estate-grown"1886" Cabernet Sauvignon bottling to its portfolio of handcrafted Bordeaux-varietal wines.
But 2002 also marked the passing of Jean Leducq. A committed philanthropist, Jean left Ehlers Estate in trust to the non-profit Leducq Foundation that he and Sylviane had founded in 1996. Today, the Foundation continues to award over $30 million annually to directly support international cardiovascular research. This visionary union of estate winery and philanthropic foundation has defined Ehlers Estate ever since, giving the winery a unique sense of purpose and mission that combines the pursuit of excellence with a sense of social responsibility. This mission has also brought together and inspired an exceptional team of experienced professionals who take pride in their work—making great wines while making a difference.
In keeping with the winery’s marriage of quality and conscience, Ehlers Estate is at the forefront of environmentally aware farming practices. Guided by Winemaker Kevin Morrisey, the Ehlers Estate viticulture program embraced organic farming in 2004, and adopted biodynamic farming practices in early 2005. These hands-on methods help to preserve the purity and character of the estate’s mosaic of 25 vineyard blocks, each of which are individually fermented and aged. Beginning with the 2005 red wine vintage and the 2007 white wine vintage, all Ehlers Estate wines have been crafted exclusively from this stellar palette of certified organic, estate-grown grapes.
Kevin Morrisey’s approach to winemaking is an extension of his connection to the land and his passion for winegrowing. His greatest joy in the craft lies in creating site-specific, terroir-driven wines of impeccable structure, balance, and complexity. After graduating with a Master of Science degree in Enology from UC Davis, Kevin went to France to intern in Pomerol with the legendary Jean-Claude Berrouet at Château Pétrus.
From that experience he returned to the Napa Valley and joined Stags’ Leap Winery in 1998 where he quickly rose through the ranks to become Associate Winemaker, making Petite Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay. In 2003 he was recruited by a personally important mentor, Tony Soter, to serve as his winemaker for Etude Wines, where he spend two years immersed in exceptional Pinot Noir and more top tier Cabernet Sauvignon. Then in 2005, when Robert Brittan retired from Stags’ Leap, Kevin was asked back to take over the top job as Winemaker and General Manager where he played an instrumental role in further building the reputation of that historic property.
At the end of the 2008 vintage, Kevin accepted the “dream winemaking position” at Ehlers Estate. One of the few Napa Valley certified organic and biodynamic wine estates, with Bordeaux varietals growing on a fine bench-land deposit of Bale and Perkins loam soils, the historic property found its steward.
The Ehlers Estate vineyard is located on an historic winegrowing site in the northern part of Napa Valley’s acclaimed St. Helena appellation. Grapes have been cultivated on this coveted site since the mid-1800s. The vineyard was replanted using a diversity of clone and rootstock selections under the guidance of renowned enologist, Jacques Boissenot, in 1995, 1996 and 1997. Today, under the leadership of Winemaker Kevin Morrisey, the Ehlers Estate vineyard, which is the source of exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Sauvignon Blanc, is farmed with strict adherence to organic and biodynamic farming standards.
The Ehlers Estate vineyard benefits from a unique Old World layout that is quite rare in California. The historic Ehlers winery building is located in the center of the contiguous estate vineyard. The farthest point on the property from the winery is approximately 600 yards, allowing the Ehlers team to have complete control over every aspect of the viticulture program, leading to greater focus and quality.
On July 1, 2008, after three years of verifiable organic farming, Ehlers Estate was awarded organic certification from the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). Biodynamic certification from Demeter USA became official in 2011.
As part of a vineyard-focused, socially responsible approach to winemaking, the Ehlers Estate vineyard is farmed exclusively using earth-friendly organic farming methods. These methods help to preserve the purity and character of the estate’s fruit, leading to stellar wines reflecting an authentic sense of place. No chemical herbicides, pesticides, or synthetic fertilizers are used on these pristine vineyards.
The contiguous 42-acre Ehlers Estate vineyard offers a remarkable diversity of soils, clones, and rootstocks, and is approached as a mosaic of small vineyard blocks. Because of several factors including the Estate’s varietal differentiation, clone and rootstock selections, and a range of vine ages and soil types, there is usually an entire month between the picking of the first and last grape. This, combined with the fact that the vineyard surrounds the winery, makes it possible to pick all the grapes at ideal ripeness, which in turn helps to produce wines with beautifully articulated flavors.
The property is located at the Napa Valley’s narrowest point, between the Mayacamas Mountains to the west and the Vaca Mountains to the east, and it benefits from a unique local microclimate. This location allows for constant airflow through the vineyard, which brings fog in the morning, but clears it out in the afternoons, giving the vineyard ample sunshine, mediated by cooling breezes. These breezes also moderate heat spikes, allowing for excellent, even ripening of the fruit.
Morrisey, Vineyard Foreman Francisco Vega, and Ehlers Estate’s fulltime, seven-person vineyard crew work to honor the diversity of the vineyard. In practice, this means that each of the site’s 25 sub-blocks benefits from farming techniques tailored to its combination of soil, clone and rootstock. All hedging and canopy management is done by hand, and depending on the varietal, vines can receive up to six passes of pruning and thinning to limit yields. Instead of setting arbitrary yield limits, the team works to limit total clusters. The number of clusters varies based on block, soil and varietal, with an overall average of 14 clusters per plant.
In the spring of 2005, Ehlers Estate began practicing biodynamic farming, a holistic, chemical-free approach to agriculture that is practiced by several of the world’s oldest and most respected wineries. Based on the work of Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolph Steiner, biodynamic farming is a comprehensive alternative to industrialized agriculture that approaches vineyards (or farms) as complete living organisms in order to achieve greater vineyard health and fruit quality. Winemaker Kevin Morrisey has worked with various biodynamic experts and consultants to ensure that Ehlers Estate embraces all of the strict criteria and practices of biodynamics farming, including the generous use of compost, application of various soil and foliar treatments, and adherence to the biodynamic calendar and the natural cycles of the Earth.
One of the elements that makes biodynamic and organic viticulture so successful is the intimate, hands-on attention given at every stage of winegrowing. Simply put, the wines of Ehlers Estate are made from estate-grown grapes that come from healthy, happy, chemical-free vines.