Buehler Vineyards Review
Address: 820 Greenfield Rd. St. Helena,California 94574.
Phone Number: 707-963-2155
Tasting Hours: By appt. Mon-Fri 10:00-4:00
Region: Napa Valley AVA, California
Reviewer: Martin D. Redmond
Review Date: 3/10/2014
Reviewer: Martin D. Redmond
On our most recent trip to Napa Valley, my wife and I were looking for a complete different kind of Napa Valley experience. Something weve never done during decades of visiting the Napa Valley. Something that I didnt think existed in the Napa Valley.
Such experiences are few and far between, but they do exist. After poking around the World Wide Web (including AWG), one of the more promising experiences looked to be Buehler Vineyards, a small family owned winery located near the base of Howell Mountain.
The story of the winery dates back to 1971 when current owner, John P Buehlers father purchased the property with the intent of making it into his retirement home (or as John quipped during our tour, “my father needed a tax write-off and I needed a career”). The remote, three hundred acre hillside property had once been home to a pre-Prohibition winery.
In 1972, John, whose ambition it was to be a grape grower planted his first Zinfandel vines. For years he was content to sell his fruit to other wineries while dabbling in winemaking on the side. In 1978, Buehler hand crushed 700 cases of wine and established the Buehler brand. Pleased by the results, he gradually increased production until 1982 when he hired 25-year-old Heidi Peterson Barrett as his winemaker. By the time she left in 1988 production had increased from 6,000 cases to 20,000 cases. Barrett became a rising star and Buehler Vineyards was building a worldwide reputation. Buehler reassumed the winemaking role at the winery until 1993 when he hired current winemaker David Cronin. The winery is definitely a family affair. John oversees every aspect of day-to-day operations, but children Page and Helen, along with a small but loyal team, also help run the winery.
John believes the key to their success is a combination of the unique terroir of their hillside fruit, meticulous vineyard management, and minimal intervention winemaking style that produced wines of complexity and depth that are reasonably priced.
Buehler Vineyards produces the following wine varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Zinfandel. The fruit for the wines are sourced from a combination of estate and purchased fruit.
Tasting Experience:  Because the winery is also home to the Buehler family, tours and tasting are done by appointment only. As good fortune would have it, when I contacted the winery regarding an appointment, I spoke with owner John Buehler, and it was easy to settle on a mutually convenient time a day or two out.
The winery is located about six miles off the Silverado trail, up a winding road near the base of Howell Mountain. Its a beautiful scenic drive that shows the more bucolic, rustic side of Napa Valley.
We arrived about twenty minutes early for our appointment. As our good fortune would have it, we ran into John as we were about to enter the tasting room where his son Page was wrapping up a tasting. He asked us if we wanted a tour of the property. We said “Sure”, and hopped into his truck. Thats when the fun began. John is an affable, humble, and gracious host with a great sense of humor. As we toured the property he regaled us with stories of the “old” Napa Valley, and dished TMZ-style on the real story behind “Two Buck” Chuck. Hes a great storyteller whom I could listen to for hours.
The property itself is quite beautiful, and features gorgeous vantage points of Lake Hennessey in the distance. John knows the property like the back of his hand so hell prompt you for some great “Kodak moments.”
After the 30-45 minute tour of the property, which included the building housing the winemaking operation, we settled in to the quaint tasting room that is just off the Buehler residence. We grabbed a chair at the beautiful wooden tasting bar that dominates the tasting room. As you look out the window behind the tasting bar youre treated to more glorious views of the property.
The Wines:  John Buehler led us through a tasting of seven wines six were under the Buehler Vineyards label, and the other was under their second label, Bon Marche.
Heres what we tasted:
2012 Russian River Chardonnay – $16 (buy at wine.com)
2012 Carneros Chardonnay – $25
2012 Napa Valley Zinfandel – $20
2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – $25 (buy at wine.com)
2011 Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – $36
2011 Papas Knoll Cabernet – $45
2012 Bon Marche – $15
The Chardonnays, which exhibit a stone fruit, tropical fruit, and citrus character, are elegant and fruit-forward. I preferred the Carneros Chardonnay, which was barrel-fermented and offered more vibrant acidity, but both offer very good value.
The Napa Valley Zinfandel, which included a touch of Petite Sirah, was sourced 50% from estate fruit and 50% from Pope Valley fruit. It shows a refined black cherry, vanilla, spice and toasty oak character.
The Cabs were the high point of the tasting. The Napa Valley Cab is made from 20% estate fruit and shows classic black cherry, cassis aromas and flavors; its an easy-to-like pleaser. The Estate Cab shows the same black cherry, cassis character, but is more harmoniously structured with a supple texture. The Papas Knoll Cab named for the landform in front of his late fathers home is their flagship wine. Its the most muscular of the Cabs, showing more depth and concentration. But in addition to the same black cherry, cassis profile of the other Cabs, it also shows some dried herb, plum and spice notes. I thought it was excellent and its a tremendous value for a Napa Valley Cab at $45.
Finally, the Bon Marche is a red blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot and Malbec with a fruit forward, black cherry, plum, spice and vanilla character. And if you like White Zinfandel, Buehler produces one that sells for $8. None was available the day we visited.
I considered all the wines to be very good to excellent. Bottles of the Napa Valley Zinfandel and the Papas Know Cab made their way home with us.
Insiders tip:  Bring your camera! Its a beautiful property with plenty of photo ops, not only on the property, but also on the drive up to the property.