Whitehall Lane Winery & Vineyards is located is right on Highway 29 (the winery ‘strip’ in Napa Valley). We’ve visited twice, a few years apart, and both trips were highly enjoyable due to the tasting room staff and especially the wines!
I’m admittedly more of a fan of wineries which are “off the beaten path”, b/c I think that they generally offer more character and value than the mass market wineries. However, Whitehall Lane hasn’t been tainted by it’s location, and it still operates – both in the character of the people AND the wines – like a smaller boutique winery focusing on quality and value.
While I believe that WHL has decent annual production, you don’t see it everywhere on the east coast. Due to this, it’s admittedly a winery that kinda fell off my radar for a while. Whenever I see it as I troll the aisles, I do actually think “I like those guys”, but I just never think to pick it up. This is a big mistake on my part, and tonight I fixed that by buying the 2006 WLH Cabernet Sauvignon.
This wine is 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, and 5% Malbec. Now let me preface this entire review with the fact that I am NOT a malbec fan. To me, it is too sugary and too tannic. It’s just too much of everything, and not enough of the others. Because of this, I am sensitive to it and it can ruin a wine for me. Luckily, this is NOT the case with the ’06 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon b/c the Cabernet and Merlot fruit have really made up for it.
There is essentially 2.5 “stages” to the wine:
- Up front there is a big, round, fruity, and friendly Napa Cab
- The 0.5 stage is the Merlot that bridges the gap with softness
- Lastly, the Malbec takes over for structure and finish
There is a great core of Napa Valley ‘floor’ Cabernet fruit here. Luscious and well-rounded, it’s very appealing from the first sip and beyond. There is a nice oak touch to it as well – not intrusive, but it is definitely a primary element to the wine up front.
The Malbec is *very* tight upon opening, which adds a dark, tannic, and black licorice nose to the wine. This subsides over the course of an hour or so, and the Malbec begins to simply add body and tannic structure. You can still taste the Cabernet and Merlot ‘underneath’ the Malbec, and it comes to life as the wine opens.
All in all, I miss my friends at Whitehall Lane, and I’m glad we reconnected again! I’m looking forward to drinking more and more of their wines soon.
UPDATE: 24 hours later – it’s much more fruit driven, and the Malbec’s bitterness has subsided and been replaced by a subtle and nice white pepper bite. There is a new cherry ‘tartness’ associated with it now too, it’s nice. This wine definitely benefited from some air, which confirms for me that this wine needs a few years (not too many) to really find it’s peak balance of drink-ability – and I’d expect nothing less from a nice Cabernet from Napa Valley. Great work.