Wine X Staff
Wine X Online Edition
Tucked away in the historic Napa Valley, Whitehall Lane Winery has carved out its place as one of the region’s best-kept secrets, captivating wine junkies with its story, journey, and dedication to cranking out consistently exceptional wines from some pretty amazing vineyards. From its humble beginnings in 1979 to its current standing as one of the few family-owned premier Napa wineries, Whitehall Lane has woven a tale of passion, innovation, and a commitment to quality that deserves a groupie following….. Wine X is already in the front row. It’s time y’all get on board. 🙂
So, just being honest, it’s totally in the Wine X psyche to go the opposite direction of the crowd. We aren’t ashamed of that, and we say it publicly every so often. Our angle on this is not so controversial: There’s a lot of great wine being produced, and if all you do is follow the crowds, you’ll get into a cycle of good but likely premium-priced pours. So, in our brash opinion, it’s cooler to bring forward bottles that have history, provenance, and standing, combined with insane juice inside….. the kind that you order for a table, and by the end of dinner, everyone is taking out their phones and snapping pics of the label. That’s Whitehall Lane.
Nestled amidst the breathtaking Rutherford AVA, the winery was founded by Art Finklestein and Alan Stein in 1979 on the 25-acre site that had first been planted back in the 1800s. In 1993, Tom Leonardini Sr. and his wife, Karen, purchased the property and established their vision to create their own expression of Napa Valley’s terroir, crafting elegant, honest wines that would surpass expectations & make you take notice.
As the 1980s dawned, Whitehall Lane’s aspirations expanded. Acquiring additional vineyards, including the esteemed Leonardini Vineyard in St. Helena and the captivating Estate Vineyard in Rutherford. Despite vineyards situated in the most revered AVA, the world mainly remained unaware of the treasures quietly fermenting within the Whitehall walls. Great wines, though. That’s what matters.
With Leonardini’s purchase, Whitehall Lane embarked on a transformative journey, seeking to modernize and innovate while honoring the essence of their vision and the best expression of its vineyards. The winery embraced cutting-edge technology, enhancing its winemaking facilities and embracing sustainable practices harmonizing with nature. They also focused on defining the personalities of its appellation-specific bottles from Rutherford, St. Helena, and Oak Knoll. And through those years, the fanbase steadily grew. As the 2010s unfolded, Whitehall Lane’s commitment to crafting extraordinary wines significantly caught the attention of wine critics and fans. The winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and several other varietals earned rave reviews and accolades. While the label surely had a loyal following from its opening, it was in those years after the new millennium that it became a fan favorite. It’s been that way consistently ever since.
Today, the next generation of the Leonardini family carries the torch, continuing the legacy forged by Tom Leonardini Sr. Katie Leonardini and Tom Leonardini Jr. navigate the vineyards and cellars, driven by a consistent & unyielding passion for producing wines that stay true to everything that their father worked so hard to build. Over the years, Whitehall has accumulated six distinctive Napa vineyards. In addition, they’ve added two exceptional vineyards in Sonoma, one at the base of the Mayacamas that makes excellent Cab, and another smaller plot in the Petaluma Gap that produces excellent Chard and Pinot from vines that grow from the cuttings of some of Burgundy’s most revered vineyards.
At the heart of their offerings lies a range of majestic Cabernet Sauvignon bottles; many are vineyard-designated. We were able to spend some time with the 2019 Leonardini Estate Cab, constructed like a left-bank Bordeaux, adding Merlot, Malbec, Petite Verdot, and a little Cab Franc. It’s a bold, extracted cabernet that drinks like a bottle 3x its price. Its opulent aromas of dark berries, cassis, and hints of mocha seduce the nose, while the velvety texture and complex layers of black cherry, plum, and spice pass the baton to each other on the palate. It’s a giant complex monster of a bottle that will blow your mind.
Whitehall Lane’s lineup also includes a captivating Merlot that acts almost as a fraternal twin to the Cab we tasted. If the Cab was left bank, there’s a lot of right bank going on with its 2019 Merlot. Flip the percentage of Cab vs. Merlot in the recipe and drop the cab franc, and uses about half of the new oak, and you’ve got a wholly different expression and crafting from Whitehall’s estate. The Merlot weaves a tapestry of elegance and depth, emphasizing elegance. The nose is busting out with a big bouquet that exudes red currants, blackberries, and a subtle touch of vanilla. On the palate, its supple tannins and luscious flavors of ripe cherries, plums, and hints of cocoa create a flavor profile that leaves a lasting impression of refinement and balance. If the Cab was a monster, the Merlot is a symphony.
Whitehall Lane’s Sauvignon Blanc is a true delight for those seeking the refreshing allure of white wines. With its vibrant aromas of tropical fruits, citrus blossoms, and a touch of fresh-cut grass, this wine captivates from the first encounter. On the palate, crisp acidity intertwines with flavors of grapefruit, passionfruit, and a delicate minerality, culminating in a zesty and refreshing finish. Whitehall Lane’s Sauvignon Blanc is a radiant expression of Napa Valley’s cool breezes and sun-kissed vineyards.
Lastly, Whitehall Lane’s portfolio wouldn’t be complete without a graceful Rosé sourced from the pinot from its Petaluma Gap property. This enchanting bottle invites you in with its delicate hue and enticing aromas of summer berries, rose petals, and a whisper of citrus zest. On the palate, vibrant flavors of ripe strawberries, red apples, and watermelons intermingle, creating a harmonious and refreshing experience. With its bright acidity and silky texture, Whitehall Lane’s Rosé effortlessly captures the essence of a sunny Sonoma afternoon.
Know someone who has included Whitehall on their Napa dance card? If you do, they’ll tell you it was one of the surprising stops, and they’ll go on and on about the range of their offerings. The winery is a personal favorite, which isn’t changing anytime soon. We’re not alone in that feeling. Whitehall Lane Winery remains one of Napa’s cherished secrets and a fun bottle to share with others who have yet to dive.