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Kelly's Cave

A Big Pour at Kelly Fleming Wines



Stop me if you've heard this one before, because all of the wine writers recently invited to a tour of Kelly Fleming Wines reached for their pens when the proprietress told the story of how Big Pour got its name.

Kelly Fleming's 2012 Big Pour Napa Valley Red Blend ($75) is the 230-case winery's entry-level red, a juicy Bordeaux-style blend with plum fruit and a note of tobacco on the nose. Each vintage features new label artwork: the 2012 label sports Ms. Fleming, with one of her dogs (not the all-black, Slovakian, police-trained German shepherd that barked at me from the second story of this Provence-inspired, stone winery as I walked up), and a vintage shotgun. Among other animals in Fleming's care are four rescued donkeys—the gray one is named Clooney.

But back to the story. It's so easy to lose the thread here, especially in the mist-shrouded wine caves, where rows of stage-lit wine barrels on either side lead to a central chamber of exposed rock walls. The cave took two years to dig, out of solidified volcanic ash. It's crumbly, that's for sure, and required buffering with sprayed-on concrete.

And here, also, there's a table of charcuterie and olives, perfect with a sip of 2014 Kelly Fleming Rosé ($36). Fleming has a bright young team working with her, including winemaker Becky George and winery manager Bryan Timonere, who explains that the rosé is made mainly from a saignée of Cabernet Sauvignon (a reduction of the juice before fermentation, which helps concentrate the Cabernet), with a soupçon of Syrah. For my taste, I'd reverse that formula—but one can't help but admire the confidence that setting this price point for rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon demands.

The 2012 Kelly Fleming Cabernet Sauvignon ($110) is as well priced as any of its near neighbors. A young Cab that keeps you guessing, it finishes on a juicy, cola-and-black-cherry note after sidetracking the nose through dusty, desiccated fruit, cranberry and cassis, and a chocolatey nutmeg aroma that evokes something fanciful: an oak cookie.

I'm not sure if I prefer it over Big Pour—ah, yes, the wine inspired by Kelly Fleming's tour of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in Burgundy, the legendary house of Pinot Noir that she only need refer to—in present company—as "DRC." Because of her poor command of French, Fleming says, the host, thinking that she wanted more wine, reluctantly poured more in her glass. Another visitor melted the frost by announcing, "I want to stand next to 'Big Pour'!"

Kelly Fleming Wines, 2339 Pickett Road, Calistoga. Tours and tastings by appointment only, limited to eight persons per day. Tasting fee, $60. 707.942.6849.

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