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.