Canadian-born Cliff Lede has made his mark in the Napa Valley, beginning with his 2002 purchase of a 60-acre estate in the Stags Leap District. He hired David Abreu, Napa’s foremost vineyard manager, to cultivate the property for him. He also renamed each distinct vineyard block after one of his favorite rock songs or albums, from My Generation to Dark Side of the Moon. The Lede wines focus on Bordeaux grape varieties and culminate in a limited-production Cabernet blend called Poetry.
In 2009, he branched out into Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with the purchase of Breggo Cellars in Anderson Valley. That project was enhanced in 2011 with the acquisition of the Savoy Vineyard, one of the jewels of California wine country. Fruit from Savoy is now sold to stellar wineries such as Littorai, Failla, Auteur and Radio-Coteau. He named his Anderson Valley winery for his mother, Florence Elsie Lede—a touching gesture on several levels, as it was her passion for home winemaking that sparked his interest in the subject.
The 2017 FEL Anderson Valley Chardonnay ($35) has a bright gold color and a muted nose with whiffs of citrus and minerals. The wine is clean and compact, entering the mouth forcefully and displaying flavors of lemon, ripe pear, stone fruit and quince. It gains in texture and amplitude the longer it stays on the palate. This is a Chardonnay for white Burgundy lovers, a taut yet expressive wine with both character and charm. The finish is long and lush.
The FEL Pinot Noir offerings span a wide range, beginning with an Anderson Valley bottling ($40) and including vineyard-designated wines such as the flagship Savoy Vineyard. The 2016 Ferrington Vineyard Pinot Noir ($65) hails from a plot of land outside the town of Boonville, in an area sheltered from the maritime breeze. It has a dense purple-ruby color and a fragrant nose with scents of grape skins, black plums and toasty oak. The wine is ripe and lush in the mouth, with excellent acidity and flavors of black raspberry and Bing cherry. The texture is thick and luscious, yet the acidity gives the wine a freshness that makes it sing on the palate.
The nose of the 2016 FEL Donnelly Creek Pinot Noir ($65) is redolent with aromas of blackberry, Damson plum, anise and mint. Rich and concentrated on entry, it exhibits a coulis of ripe black fruit flavors on the palate, balanced by acidity, pinpoint tannins and a fine peppery edge. This is a wine that could easily pair with wild game dishes or slow-cooked stews, yet it has enough fresh fruit character to drink on its own. If you’ve started to find some upscale California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to be overblown, come to the Anderson Valley and discover FEL.
Mark Spivak specializes in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He is the author of several books on distilled spirits and the cocktail culture. Friend of the Devil, his first novel, was released in 2016; his second novel, The American Crusade, a political thriller set during the invasion of Iraq, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.