[review] St. Helena is a fantastic place for a love story. It’s almost impossible not to fall in love with the land, the people, the je ne sais quoi of it all. For the Salvestrins love affair, it all began when Italian immigrants John and Emma Salvestrin fell in love with St. Helena while visiting friends in the early 1920’s. In 1932 they purchased a portion of the historic Crane Ranch, including the Victorian home of Dr. Crane.  Probhibition got in the way for a bit but with the repeal of 1933, they started selling grapes and the industry began to grow again.

Ed Salvestrin, who grew up on the family vineyard, continued to grow quality grapes through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s preserving the family legacy for future generations. He still lives on site and frequently tends to his fruit trees (apples, pomegranates, grapefruit, persimmon) when he’s not helping out in the vineyard.

In 1987, Rich Salvestrin completed his degree in viticulture from Fresno State University. He returned to the family vineyard to help farm and also to expand the families grape growing business to include winemaking. 1994 was the inaugural vintage of Salvestrin Cabernet Sauvignon and in 2001 the estate winery was constructed amongst the family vines.

Today, three generations live on the 26 acre property and look forward to the time that Rich and Shannon’s three young daughters will become 4th generation owners and winemakers.

Sauvignon Blanc Grapes at the Salvestrin Winery in St. Helena

Sauvignon Blanc Grapes at the Salvestrin Winery in St. Helena

Rich spoke to us about the vineyard philosophy and how they approach winemaking. “We believe balance is important in everything we do and that is certainly true in our vineyard. Over the last five years we have been farming our 26 acres according to organic guidelines and have employed sustainable practices for three generations.

There are an abundance of fruit and nut trees planted around the property that provide needed diversity and we use organic compost and annual cover crop for soil building and plant nutrition. By cultivating the soil in spring and early summer, we preserve natural soil moisture which helps achieve proper vine balance and reduces water demand.”

The estate vineyard is composed of two identifiable soil types, Cortina and Bale. Both are well drained and ideally suited to winegrape production. The Cortina series’ gravelly sandy loam makes up about two thirds of the property and is relatively challenging for the vines and contributes to the ripeness we achieve in our Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Zinfandel varietals. The Bale clay loam soils are made up of 18” – 24” of topsoil over gravelly loam and are well drained but with slightly more water holding capacity and fertility which makes for a good fit for our Merlot and Petite Syrah.

To maximize the flavor profile in the grapes, Salvestrin balances sunlight, canopy, crop load and water on a given site. Once the grapes are in the winery we take a minimalist approach with as little intervention as possible. Finding the right combination of barrels is a critical step and then allowing the wine to spend time in those barrels to develop and concentrate requires patience.

One of our favorites from the intimate St. Helena tasting was their 2013 Estate Sauvignon Blanc. 2013 may have been a low rainfall year but it was exceptionally good for Sauvignon Blanc! This wine explodes with vibrant aromas of peach, melon and tropical fruit. On the palate the wine is full and luscious yet balanced with bright acidity. The finish is fresh and lively and just lasts and lasts. Perfect for a sultry summer evening and ready to drink right now!

Bottling Estate Sauvignon Blanc at the Salvestrin Winery

Bottling Estate Sauvignon Blanc at the Salvestrin Winery