Kelly Fleming Vineyards & Winery
approaching Kelly Fleming winery
In the Northern portion of Napa Valley, East of Calistoga, Simmons Canyon holds 12 acres planted to Cabernet at Kelly Fleming Vineyards & Winery. In 1998, Fleming purchased the then-undeveloped property selecting the blocks appropriate for planting. As she explains, she’d considered Oregon as well but she loves Cabernet, and both she and Cabernet love sun. North Napa Valley was the spot.
By 2003, Fleming was able to relocate to Simmons Canyon, also releasing their first vintage.
The Kelly Fleming label focuses on Cabernet, sourced from the estate vineyards, but also makes Sauvignon Blanc from the Oakville region in a lighter, more mineral focused style. The 2011 offers a balance of textural interest with crispness and good juicy length. As of 2011, the label has also started producing a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon rosé captured during production of the red wine. The 2012 gave a smooth palate presentation with a fresh light focus on dried rose, and herbal touches. Pleasant.
Alongside the 100% Cabernet program, the label produces a red blend meant to offer wine in a fun, flavorful style. To preserve brand clarity, the blend is offered under the Big Pour label. BIg Pour also offers the winery the opportunity to preserve the quality of the Cabernet program by selecting the best quality barrels, then integrating other barrels into Big Pour program. The Cabernet comes entirely from the Simmons Canyon property, and as a result has offered new insight into previously undeveloped ground. Fleming participates in blending trials and enjoys the shifts in vine maturity reflected through vertical tastings. As the vines have aged, the wines have shown more sophistication and age-ability. In 2012, the label made their first reserve wine.
As Becky George, assistant winemaker, explained, 2012 was a unique vintage in terms of growing conditions, but some of the blocks simply showed a new level of maturity and prettiness they didn’t want to blend away into the Estate. The expectation is to find a similar effect with 2013, but they will decide on producing a Reserve once the wines have begun to show later in they year. Tasting through the wines in bottle and out of barrel, the character of the house maintains a focus on pretty while earthy elegance, a balance of plush flavors with graphite lines.
I was charmed by this little Martian tank fermenter. We’re going to hang out later.
The vineyards are organized into 4 blocks with 6 Cabernet clones on 5 different rootstocks, all surrounded by the walls of Simmons Canyon.
The canyon gives an old alluvial fan, with boulders mixed throughout. In block-3 an old oak marries a large rock outcropping the team planted around.
Colleen and Kelly Fleming with their pups, Lesko and Sally (I love this photo)
Colleen has been working with her mom directing hospitality for the winery the last two years. The overall winery team is small, keeping the focus on a handful of people managing the operations.
After visiting some of the vineyards, I asked if Kelly would show me her gardens, and bees. The hives are protected from canyon bears by a little electric fence-house and rests near a mix of forage acclimated to the site (rather than heavily watered). The honey from the site arises from a rotation of seasonal blossoms–almond and apple trees, Manzanita and Madrones, plus the vegetable garden. When we visited the bees were dancing through the flowers surrounding the vegetables as well, lavender and sunflower. Kelly harvests honey once during the year in Fall to ensure the bees have enough for winter. Here Kelly explains almond blossoms to almond fruit. It turns out the green husk is edible (dude) though the almonds were not yet ready.
Thank you to Kelly Fleming, Colleen Fleming, and Becky George.
Thank you to Julie Ann Kodmur.
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