A while back, I went to a cabernet tasting sponsored by the California Cabernet Society. All the usual cabs were there, but for me a few stood out, so I took their names and numbers and resigned myself to go to see where the wines were made.
I call these producers “personal wineries,” which are family wineries that are usually built under the private home of the owner. The wines are sold from friend to friend, by word of mouth. The French call these “garage wines,” and they are rare and of high quality — if you can find them. One of these local such wineries is Allora Vineyards, which is owned by a “grown and raised in the valley” local boy, Terry Klein, and his wife, Nancy.
Terry Klein has seen or built it all. As an apprentice, he worked for Napa Valley Plastering. Robert Mondavi, Sterling, and Tra Vigne are all part of his works. He left Napa Valley Plastering to start his own business, Klein Plastering. Today with the new mandate of energy-efficient housing a lot of people are coming back to the idea of cinderblock and plaster a la the south of France. I know from personal experience that you don’t side a “hill topper” house with cedar. In the Calistoga heat, the siding just peeled off the house I built and needed constant repair. I should have called Terry first.
“Allora” is an Italian name for the phrase “and then what?” The French use the word, “alay,” and the Americans say, “whatever.” The Allora Vineyards are perched not 50 yards from the Napa River, in back of Ehlers Lane. The setting is unmatched and through the wrought iron gates, lies a 10-acre piece of serenity. I was met there by Kelly, Terry’s daughter, who manages the brand with her sister, Cortney and brother, Christopher. Terry joined us later.
Dan Duckhorn talks a lot about the alluvial fan of the Napa River. That’s why Duckhorn Winery is where it is on land that may be some of the best soil for growing grapes. It is one of the reasons Napa Valley has such a high rank on the world stage of wine. The Allora Vineyards are on sandy loam and gravel soil with great drainage. Allora is planted 80 percent in cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent in cabernet franc and 10 percent in petite sirah. The cab clone is from the old Mont Rosso on 10114 rootstock for low yield and good vigor. Their first harvest was in 2002.
The primary wine from Allora is a reserve, 100 percent cabernet sauvignon called “Lusso,” which means luxury. Originally, the winemaker was Dennis Johns, who was then at Ehlers Lane; now he is at the just-sold White Cottage Winery. The current winemaker is Rudy Zuidema, who has consulted with Johns since the beginning. The wine is custom crushed and brought to the house for barrel storage and bottling.
The tour is quaint and very personal. The wines are well put together and are good ones to stash in your cellar.
Available are the following wines:
• 2005 Lusso, which is 100 percent cabernet sauvignon, all estate grown;
• 2005 “Tresca,” which is 90 percent cabernet sauvignon and 10 percent cabernet franc, all estate grown;
• 2006 Petite Sirah, an estate blend with 6 percent cabernet sauvignon;
• 2006 “Cielo,” a Super Tuscan, made of sangiovese, petite sirah, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc;
• 2006 Cabernet Franc, a blend with 24 percent cabernet sauvignon.
All are available through their Web site, www.alloravineyards.com.
While there, ask about their personally designed wine glasses and decanter. You can reach Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 963-6071 for a tour.
(Phil Toohey is a food and wine purveyor who lives in the Napa Valley. He has been an industry insider and a vintner for the past 25 years. He enjoys finding and reporting on new food and wine experiences throughout the Napa Valley.)