Cliff Lede Vineyards
Established in 2002, Cliff Lede Vineyards encompasses sixty acres in the famed Stags Leap District. Owner Cliff Lede, Vineyard Architect David Abreu, and Winemaker Chris Tynan have come together to form an unrivaled team, making the most of this remarkable property.
Completed in 2005, the gravity-flow winery boasts a berry-by-berry sorting system and conical tanks commissioned using a design inspired by the tanks of Château Latour. One tank per vineyard block ensures each lot evolves at its own pace and acres of caves with single-layer barrel storage ensure access to each barrel at all times. No corner has been cut.
The winery produces Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The flagship, Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon, is crafted from the steep hillside portion of the estate. The land, the talent, the tools, and the passion: Cliff Lede Vineyards, a notable addition to the Stags Leap District.
Cliff Lede has spent a career building great things. Years ago, in his homeland of Canada, his focus was on buildings; as head of a construction company, he put together plans for skyscrapers and more. Today, as owner and founder of the eponymous Cliff Lede Vineyards, Lede (pronounced lay-dee) is the man behind a portfolio of stellar wines, and a winemaking philosophy that takes its cues from the land itself.
Wine has always been a big part of life for Lede. He was born in Edmonton, and grew up making “basement wine” with his mother. In his late 20s he began hanging around a local wine store and talking with its owner, who gave Cliff his first taste of Bordeaux, a Ducru Beaucaillou. What was born as a preference for Bordeaux blends matured into zealotry, and Lede became a huge fan of the style of wine. He collected it. He read everything about it. He bought futures of it. He looked for deals on it. On one trip to the Bordeaux region, he remembers thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a little bit of this for my own?”
In 2002, he made that happen, purchasing the quiet and strikingly beautiful, 60-acre property in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. It wasn’t a coincidence that the parcel was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petite Verdot—the very same red varietals that comprise the Bordeaux-style blends that Lede likes so well. Considering his passions, the mission was clear: To take Bordeaux to a whole new level.
To accomplish this goal, Lede has assembled an unrivaled team of winemakers, winemaking consultants, and others to run the show. Over the years the team has included viticulturist David Abreu, consulting winemaker Philippe Melka, and Winemaker Michelle Edwards. Today, Abreu is still in the mix; newcomers include Director of Winemaking and Viticulture Remi Cohen, Winemaker Chris Tynan, and Master Sommelier Jennifer Heuther.
For Lede, this teamwork is a differentiator; it’s what sets Cliff Lede Vineyards apart from every other in the Napa Valley. Naturally, it’s also a source of great pride.
Winemaker Christopher Tynan credits much of his success in the wine business to his degree in English. “Like most English majors,” he says with a big laugh, “I was unemployable after graduation.” He continues, “It was fortuitous that I ended up running a fine dining restaurant after graduation and that’s when the wine “fire” was first lit. As wine buyer for the restaurant, he got to taste wines from every corner of the wine world. Inspired by what he tasted, he began collecting wine for his own cellar.
After an especially memorable tasting of well-cellared 1974 Napa Cabernets, Christopher was inspired to pack his bags for California. “I remember thinking to myself, “I have to go to Napa and learn how to make this. And I want to do it at the highest level.” So he did.
He spent his first summers in Napa doing cellar internships at Cain Vineyards and Blankiet Estate and doing irrigation management for vineyards all over Napa and Sonoma. In 2006, Christopher brought his tireless work ethic and commitment to excellence to Colgin Cellars. “The philosophy at Colgin was low yield farming and no compromise winemaking. It was an inspiring place to work.”
It’s that same lofty philosophy that led Christopher to Cliff Lede Vineyards in the summer of 2012. Christopher brings exceptional experience in making artistically hand crafted world class wines to Cliff Lede Vineyards and he promises, despite his English major yearnings, not to reference Melville or Dostoyevsky in our company tasting notes.
Our sixty acres of vineyards stretch from our valley floor Twin Peaks Ranch to the steep hillside terraces of the Poetry Vineyard. The valley floor vineyard that encircles our winery is known as the Twin Peaks Ranch. More varied in soil type than our hillside property, we farm small bespoke blocks comprised of a selection of root stocks, clonal selections and varietals. This property forms the backbone of the Cliff Lede Cabernet program.
The steep, southwest-facing hillside portion of the property is known as the Poetry Vineyard. Reaching from the highest elevation of the Stags Leap Appellation down to the valley floor, this is a high exposure site. These blocks boast a gritty combination of shallow soils atop fractured shales with low-yielding old vines of Cabernet Sauvignon.
We are in the midst of a long term and comprehensive replanting of our property. When we brought on David Abreu to oversee the project, we were confident that he would be able to coax excellence from the land. His efforts have had a dramatic effect on these vines…each vintage brings continued advances in fruit quality.