These red wines were 20 years in the making; or rather, the grape vines took two decades to develop. Whitehall Lane joined forces with Dr. Andrew Walker of UC Davis and Dr. Paul Skinner of Vineyard Investigations in Napa Valley and planted these experimental grape varieties because they are highly resistant to Pierce’s disease. Pierce’s disease is caused by a bacterium spread by leafhopper insects called sharpshooters. It infects grape vines across the US and costs California grape growers more than $100 million per year.
“These varieties will hopefully make viticulture much more sustainable and provide a high-quality wine that the industry will welcome,” said Walker. Whitehall Lane owner Katie Leonardini agrees with Walker adding, “Rather than trying to manage the sharpshooter with insecticides and potentially harming other beneficial insects, these new rootstocks dovetail into our sustainable and green practices. And the wine is outstanding too!”
Whitehall Lane bottled the 2019 Camminare Noir and 2019 Paseante Noir wines as single, distinct varietals. These grapes from the winery’s Oak Glen Vineyard were harvested on October 15, 2019. Winemaker Jason Moulton kept the two small lots separate saying, “It was amazing how distinct these two wines were from color to flavor to texture.” He continued, “As they developed in our custom American oak barrels, it was evident that these were excellent stand-alone wines.” The special American oak barrels were designed by Nadalie Cooperage in Calistoga, CA to specifically suit the characteristics of these new American wines.
The Camminare Noir profile is a cross between Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon and the wine has aromas and flavors of blackberries, raspberries, cherries and a dense tannin profile. The Paseante Noir is a combination of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon and delivers flavors of cassis, coffee, and berry. Fewer than 25 cases of each were made and are available at the winery.
Whitehall Lane planted the two rootstocks in 2016 in their Oak Glen Vineyard. Dr. Walker, professor of viticulture and enology at UC Davis, developed the rootstock, creating grape varieties that provide high-quality wine while elevating the level of sustainable grape growing. “Whitehall Lane was constantly replanting dead vines infected by Pierce’s disease,” said Dr. Skinner. “I knew the Oak Glen vineyard was a perfect location for Walker’s experimental varieties.”
Whitehall Lane Winery is a family-owned and operated winery in Napa Valley’s historic Rutherford Appellation. They are dedicated to growing and making premium Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines from their eight estate vineyards. They provide friendly hospitality at their Napa Valley winery and are Napa Green winery and vineyard certified with sustainable practices.
Dr. Walker is a faculty member of the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. His lab is actively involved in breeding wine grapes for resistance to Pierce’s disease.