A Visit To Dana Estates (Pics and TNs)

Dana is the old Livingston-Moffett property on the Rutherford Bench near Whitehall Lane. The owner is Lee Hi-sang (hope I got that right,) who is a major wine importer in Korea. He bought the property in 2005. It is amazing it has all been put together in just 4 years. The name is a Sanskrit word pronounced “DAH-nah” and means “spirit of generosity.”

I remember liking a few of the old LM wines back in the 90s. Of course now it has appeared on the radar of many collectors due to the Parker reviews. I finally got a chance to visit the place and thought I would share some pics and a couple of tasting notes.

Six of us arrived in the rain and went inside right away. The property is 40 acres, with five planted. They also own two vineyards, one in the Eastern Hills of St. Helena (Lotus) and one on Howell Mountain (Hershey.) The estate vineyard in Rutherford is called Helms. Here is a view of the winery facility looking up to the Mayacamas. The Helms sits right on the apex of the Rutherford fan.

The winery is seamlessly constructed around an old stone structure from 1883 by uber-Napa architect Howard Backen, who did Harlan. They have three different fermentation rooms in the winery structure, one for each vineyard. Generally, the Lotus gets cement tanks, pictured here…

The Helms gets oak tanks…

And the Hershey gets barrel ferments, here. Yes that is not their barrel cave, that is the fermentation room. Hershey vineyard is their largest and the fermentation room is larger to compensate for the potential volume that vineyard might produce.

From there, the wines are stacked one-high in their cave, which winds between the fermentation rooms.

After looking around, we went to their hospitality room, a nice sit-down area with a view into the courtyard of the old structure the winery was built around. The estate is very calming and tranquil and the structures give the impression of being around a lot longer than it’s two years. The whole place is both awesome looking and elegant at the same time. The architect deserves major kudos.

We sat down to try two wines, the Helms and the Lotus. The Hershey is just a barrel or two at this point and I think it is all gone. Here are my notes…

2006 Dana Estates “Lotus Vineyard” Napa Valley, $275
Opaque purple-ruby color. Full bodied but not too big. Seemed a bit riper than the Helms. This comes from a hillside vineyard off Crystal Springs Road that gets heavy afternoon sun. Stacked flavors of red and black fruit, spicy, racy and just a bit linear in the mouth. Good balance and quite tannic. This will improve with about 5 years on it. Excellent.

2006 Dana Estates “Helms Vineyard” Rutherford, $275
This is the bomb. From the estate vineyard formerly known as Livingston-Moffett on the Rutherford Bench. Full-bodied. Voluptuous, with a good spine of structure and integrated but grippy tannins. Tremendous nose of earth, black fruit and licorice. Excellent balance. Very Californian in all the good ways. No excess or showiness. A classic California Cab. Bet this goes 15+ years. Outstanding and one of the best 06’s I’ve had. I just kept coming back to the nose. Belongs in the same breath as Hewitt, Staglin and Scarecrow as one of the stalwarts of what a Rutherford Bench Cab should be.

Both wines were balance and very polished. My scores for them are similar to Parker’s except I think the Helms is the better of the two. I can’t wait to see what the 07s are like. The consulting winemaker is Phillipe Melka and this, along with Hundred Acre, is his best work. Major props to Cameron Vawter, Phillipe’s former assistant winemaker, who is the full-time winemaker at Dana. These wines are made very naturally, and are left very much alone, just getting a couple of pumpovers a day during fermentation and maybe two rackings in their 19 months in barrel. They typically see about 70% new oak.

Everyone will have to make up their own mind about the price, but there is no doubt that they have created excellent wines, are doing everything they can to make them as good as possible, owning their own fruit sources and have built one of the most phenomenal, detailed winery and hospitality structures in the Valley.

Very impressive but I am afraid that the prices are way over what I would spend on CA reds. Do you know if they export a good bit of their production to Korea/Asia?

Don’t know.

Wow, that’s a beautiful estate!

No wonder the wine has to be so pricey…

I am a fan of Livingston Moffett wines of the 90’s - they are a fantastic bargain when you can find them.

Roy, nice report, even if the world does not need another $275 untested Cabernet from Napa. deadhorse


How many cases do they produce per year? That would be a nice venue for a party. Berserkerfest II Napa Style! newhere

Nice report…doubt this will sell at $275…but who knows…

Didn’t one of these wines just nail the magical triple digits from the anointed one?


(Just looked it up)

The 2007 Lotus got 100…

In NY, wholesaler is bathing in (small quantities of) 2005 and 2006…I am negotiating :wink:

Though the place looks great, this is exactly what I have issues with regarding Napa. I mean you are spending $275 not for the wine but for their lifestyle. Could there be anyway a producer could stay humble and put out the same juice for $70???

I know there are a few out in Napa, but this type of winery just makes me sad…

BTW, who still sells their wine for $275 and sells out…not many left…

Yes! We will call it “Berzerkerfest II Napa ‘Animal-House’ Style.”

Of course…if that’s ok with you Kimberly.


The space begs for it T-Bone!

It looks like they pulled out all the stops on this one – very impressive indeed. But at that price, Dana becomes Nada to me.

My feelings exactly.

I think the correct translation of “dana” is “Spirit of conspicuous spending”.

Thanks for the report and pictures Roy. I would just as soon eat kim chee as spend $275 for one bottle of wine. I’m afraid their timing was a smidge off for that kind of investment seeking it from the minimal sales of wine they produce. Why make wine lovers pay for their dreams when all we want is a bottle of fermented grape juice, not a piece of their debt service.
Parker’s triple may help them for a while but I think they might have bitten off more than they can chew.

This is all good and well that a successful person can live his dream. But I don’t fully understand why people believe buying a bottle of the wine puts them in that dream world. I like reading about the old Napa, where vintners actually did something other than throw capital at a problem. The new Napa is ugly, like some kind of garish wine Disney Land. They all do the same thing–they purchase a highly rated consulting winemaker to act as a lobbyist to WA and WS. A high score follows based on a mixture of high quality and cronyism, then the vintner sticks his name on the finished bottle.

I’d like to drink more Napa wine (even knowing the style trend), but so much of the price of anything from there is paying for someone else’s lifestyle it’s not even funny. Yet there are still wealthy consumers that are interested in being at the bottom rung of these pyramid schemes.

I would have thought that until I went there. Now I don’t. I am pretty taken in and I can’t afford to buy a single bottle. Obviously the price is not for everybody, and in fact it is for very few. But over the next several years as more people come there, they will quietly build up a loyal following. Although I have not met the owners, I get the feeling that they have a VERY long-term outlook there and realize it will not be an overnight success. Apparently they were importers for many of the big wines in Napa for 20+ years and are quite connected and received advice from those who came before them. But Parker’s scores will shorten the time window significantly. Maybe I can find a way to trade for a bottle with them? flirtysmile

You just did. [swoon.gif]