Winery Review

Stony Hill: Unconventional White Wines

Photo: Gabrielle Lurie

Unconventional White Wines

Stony Hill is the rare Napa winery that's focused on white wines rather than reds. Though they now produce a small amount of Cabernet, the wine program remains Chardonnay-driven, with a supporting cast of Riesling (still called “White Riesling,” a holdover from an era when that needed to be distinguished from “Johannisberg Riesling”) and Gewurztraminer. Fred and Eleanor McCrea bought and planted the property in the 1940s, in search of terroir that could achieve something like white Burgundy. Their granddaughter Sarah now runs the business; Mike Chelini has been the winemaker since 1973.

A visit here will take you on a walk around the lovely, bucolic property, often led by one of the McCreas, before tasting wines on the porch of Fred and Eleanor's former home. If there was any doubt in your mind that Stony Hill's are unconventional Napa Chardonnays, just wait until you see the crusty, ancient-looking demi-muids in which the wines are fermenting and aging in the cellar. How old are these barrels? You'll ask. "Oh, maybe 20, 30 years old," the staff will answer. Guess that answers the “new oak” question. –February 2017

  • WHAT TO TRY: Stony Hill has long distinguished itself for its unconventional Chardonnays, and its style is timeless: mineral-driven, firmly structured, tense yet still generous. And if you’ve been Riesling-averse, Stony Hill’s honeyed, floral version may convert you.
  • INSIDE INFO: Be sure to catch a glimpse of the octopus-like 50-year-old Riesling vines near the front of the vineyard.
 

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Stony Hill Vineyard