On a pleasant Friday morning the sun was
shining brightly with a few cumulus clouds and
a light breeze. I started my usual Napa Valley
journey of the day, but this one was like no
other. This is the mysterious Sloan Estate,
which has always been this way since it's
inception. Private and exclusive, it's not open
to the public for tours or tastings. Their
website can only be accessed by their
members and their published address is a
post office box #.
After several emails and telephone conversations with; Marsha Chandler, Customer Relations Manager,
Martha McClellan, winemaker, and Stuart Sloan, proprietor, an arrangement was made for us for a tasting / tour of the Sloan Estate. She
emphasised how difficult it is to get to the Sloan Estate. Looking at the map and reading the directions it looked manageable to me, since I
am very familiar with Napa Valley. I was wrong.
The Sloan Estate is located in a very secluded part of Napa, hidden away off the beaten path. We drove up a gentle hill, slowly and carefully, through some narrow
roadways that were hard to negotiate. We navigated our way to the estate. I first learned about Sloan Proprietary Red when it was rated a perfect 100 score by Robert
Parker, Jr. for the 2002 vintage. Sloan Estate shares the same plateau as some of the world's finest wineries on Robert Parker Jr's list of 100 perfect score wines. This
the full representation of Premier Cru. An impressive company indeed of who's who in the wine world.
The estate was acquired in the mid 1990 by: Stuart Sloan, a Seattle businessman who had a knack and built a reputation of taking small companies and transforming them
into giant entities. His track record has been proven and documented by Wall Street as well as Main Street. There was no doubt that Sloan would achieve his ultimate goal
of making a great Bordeaux style wine sooner or later. After all, when you start a venture surrounding yourself with the best talent and location you are bound to succeed.
Stuart Sloan had the vision and the experience to lead a talented team into his new business venue. It was surprising how quickly he was able to reach his desire of
producing a world class wine, a perfect 100 point rating by RP. Sloan's team consists of dedicated individuals, consulting oenologist Michel Rolland,
David Abreu, vineyard manager / viticulturist and Martha McClellan as the winemaker.
We arrived at Sloan Estate passing through a closed double rod iron gate. With a touch of a button, the
gates opened. We drove up the winding road through the well manicured property.
Approaching a traditional French Château style building, ornamented with an ivy covered elegant tower that
overlooked the vineyard. We were cordially greeted by Martha in the front gravel driveway where she led us
to the English manor garden abundant with vibrantly colorful roses, and that is very well groomed and
We were in the garden for about 15min. talking about Martha's wine making philosophy. She is self motivated by personal pride and driven to perfection. I could sense her
passion for wine making and doing what she really loves! She led us to the cellar through beautiful thick heavy wooden doors, into the fermentation room which was lined
with stainless steel tanks. These tanks are being replaced with more sophisticated technology, a temperature / humidity control system was installed to aide during
fermentation. We walked to a small touch screen panel hanging on the wall, Martha demonstrated how she is able to control and maintain the cave's various zones for
temperature and humidity by venting the air flow electronically from this panel. We continued down a hallway where all the walls and ceilings were lined with European used
bricks imported from Austria during the cave's construction phase which was completed 2002.
We reached the chamber where French barrels lined the cave's walls and housed the grape juice in the midst of it's long journey (aged for 24 months in New Oak barrels
prior to bottling) to reach the delicate and gradual maturity process. It is the molecular changes known to unfold involving the gradual interaction of oxygen and wine.
Simple chemical compounds break down and recombine into more complex forms called polymeric phenols. Acidity and alcohol soften. The largest compounds-the harsh
astringent tannins-drift down into a carpet of sediment, taking with them the saturated, inky pigments. They leave behind a mellowed, unfathomably subtle flavor and a
brick red hue. Everything knits together, resolving into an ever finer complexity expressed fragrantly in the wine's bouquet.
But it does not start there, it starts early in the vineyard, with careful pruning, calculated fruit dropping by cluster position then harvesting according to Brix count and fruit
tasting and finally picking through the fruits by hand to select the very best. There is no fruit crushing at Sloan, then the selected berries are placed in the fermentation
tanks for approximately 60 days. During this period, the juice is extracted from the fruit mainly by gravity and the pure pressure of it's own weight on top of each other in
approximately 2 ton capacity stainless steel tanks. This is a very time consuming and labor intensive method of operation, during which the juice must be monitored and
catered to constantly. At the end of fermentation, the premature wine is placed in new French oak barrels to begin the evolving process of maturity, as if it were a fetus in a
mother's womb it is a live organism always changing, growing, building structure and complexity. After bottling, the wine is aged for another 12 months prior to market
release. Sloan produces two labels; their flagship is the Sloan Proprietary Red and the other is the Asterisk label. Both are in the classic Bordeaux style. It is a careful
blend of a few Bordeaux varietals and is produced in very limited quantity (under 500 cs. per year).
We tasted the 2006 vintage of Sloan Proprietary Red:
Massive as a gentle giant, extraordinary nose like crystallized violets with dark deep purple color, rich dark fruits, blueberry, blackberry, roasted coffee notes interlaced with
subtle smoky oak, and a wealth of spice, intense, complex, well balanced with a lingering long finish. I predict this wine to peak after 15-20 years and stay at that plateau
for another 10-15 years before declining. If you are not a member of Sloan's mailing list, which is currently closed, but you can join their waiting list at;
www.Sloanwine.com, you will not find their wines easily attainable. The most likely place that you will be able to experience the taste of Sloan's Proprietary Red is at a fine
restaurant or a very scarce upscale wine library across the country.
I was very impressed of how meticulous and well kept the Sloan Estate was from the vineyard to the cellar. In my opinion, Sloan started his endeavor with a strong
performance early on. After all, it is easier to reach the top than maintain it. Visiting and experiencing first hand how Sloan operates his estate under strict measures of
high quality standards, I have no doubt in my mind that they are on the right path for continued greatness. Here at Sloan The Grape is King and wine rules.
You will be pleased to know that, we were able to negotiate an allocation for our members of Sloan Proprietary Red, from their next release. We will announce it as soon as it
becomes available. I am sure you will appreciate the possession of this trophy wine. Until next time,
Martha McClellan was the winemaker for Harlan Estate prior to joining Sloan. She lived in Germany for 10
years, while there, she studied and earned a degree in oenology as well as in viticulture. She is an avid
marathon runner, she is small of stature, over achiever, driven and thrives for perfection. It took her a little
while to warm up to us and feel comfortable in our conversation but when she did, she was charming,
passionate and articulate.
Martha McClellan (right) and I (left)
Friday, May 28, 2010
Temp. 70 F, Sunny
Sloan Estate, Winery
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