AWG Correspondent

Tom Riley

Failla Wines Photos

Failla Wines Review

Regions: Napa Valley AVA, St. Helena AVA, California

Reviewed: August 6, 2014 by Tom Riley
Published: August 21, 2014

If you spend too much time in certain corners of the Napa Valley, you start to believe that in order to make great wine you need to have a Great, capital G, winery. One with a tasting room tricked out in stone and steel, glass and marble. Paneled rooms filled with fine collectibles and walls covered in original art. Parking lots filled with limousines and luxury sedans.

That is until you visit Failla. At Failla, you are reminded that, at the end of the day, it's the wine that matters. The rest of the other stuff? Not so important.

Failla's tasting room can be found inside a small, yellow, wooden house that, once you enter, seems more hunting lodge-cum-frat house than a winery hospitality center. The bookshelves that line the walls are filled not just with books on California and the history of wine but with empties from producers around the world. The walls themselves are a collection of oddities, where antique prints fight for space with deer antlers and cow horns. The Lodge, which is the building's actual name, is charmingly eclectic, inviting, and comfortable.

When I arrived for my scheduled tasting, I was surprised to be met by Dan, who I had met a few years back when he was working at another top Napa winery. The familiarity with which he greeted me made me that much happier to be at Failla. I could not have felt more at home.

I was joined for my tasting by three young couples, all visiting Napa from various parts of the country. We gathered around the living room's coffee table in an assortment of stuffed chairs and couches, the Lodge's homey vibe getting stronger by the minute. As he poured our first wine, a 2012 Sonoma Coast chardonnay ($34), Dan began to give us a detailed background on the winery's history and the career paths taken by winemaker Ehren Jordan (Neyers, Marcassin, Turley) and his wife and business manager Anne-Marie Failla (Wall Street, Beringer, Chappellet) that led them to Failla. The chardonnay was bursting with aromas and flavors of lemon and apple and wet stone, and the bright acids, medium body, and long finish were in impressive harmony.

Next up was a trio of pinot noirs, all made with fruit sourced from various parts of Sonoma County. The lead-off wine was a 2012 Sonoma Coast ($34), followed by a 2012 Pearlessence Vineyard (Sonoma Coast, $45) and we finished with a 2012 Keefer Ranch Vineyard (Russian River Valley, $48). Each wine offered seductive aromas, a silky mouth-feel, complex flavors and a perfumed, lingering finish. Each wine is approachable and delightful now, but the concentration and depth of the two single vineyard wines suggest that it will be several years before they reach their peaks.

Dan surprised us towards the end of our visit with an off-menu offering, Failla's 2012 Hudson Vineyard Syrah (Napa Valley, $56). Up until then, I thought Ehren Jordan worked only with chardonnay and pinot noir. Talk about having a card up his sleeve! This small production wine, only 300 cases, stole the show. Full-bodied, with layers of black pepper, roasted meat and rich red fruit, with fine tannins and a long, sleek finish, it was the perfect end to a relaxed and memorable afternoon.

Is Failla a Great, capital G, winery? I'll let you decide. Trust me, though. When you leave after your tasting, you're not going to be thinking about how much you missed the marble tasting bar. You're going to be thinking about the wine. It's the wine that matters.

Address & Contact Information: 3530 Silverado Trl. St. Helena, California 94574. Telephone: 707-963-0530, email:, website: Tasting Hours: By appt..

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