It goes without saying that Napa Valley is a trove of exquisite estate wines—wines that reflect the unique character of a producer’s very specific part of the valley or the mountains flanking it. Collectors can settle on the estate vineyards they especially love and fill their cellars with bottles they know will deliver on that familiar enjoyment every time.
For the more adventurous, there’s another approach: relying on a trusted winemaker who searches out multiple great sites to make a diverse portfolio of wines. And when that winemaker has already been making stellar estate wines, it’s a pretty good bet that the bottles they craft from vineyards beyond the estate will be terrific too.
Wesley Steffens’s new Correlation Wine Company—launched in 2017 with his wife, Jess—is just such an adventure. A winemaker alongside Martha McClellan at the family’s Vineyard 7 & 8 estate (founded by his parents in 1999 high atop Spring Mountain) who received high praise from the critics and loyalty from mailing list members, Steffens was ready to work with vineyards and growers throughout the valley and to play with other varieties and other appellations. “By launching Correlation Wine Company outside of Vineyard 7 & 8, I am able to honor the wines that come from my family’s vineyard but also honor and support relationships well beyond just one property, with a brand that can tell multiple stories.”
The relationships Steffens brings to the table were forged along a unique journey of working in both food and wine in the valley at the likes of The French Laundry and Harlan and BOND estates. They are the starting point for the very definition of the name he gave his new brand. “A correlation is a mutual relationship between two or more things,” he explains. “This can be the people involved, the different places the fruit comes from, the varietals, the process by which a great bottle is made, even how that bottle of wine is enjoyed.” With that thought, Correlation Wine Company is Steffens’s celebration of what Napa Valley and wine are all about.
The 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (the first vintage of Correlation) has a complicated and appealing nose of dusty berries and plums, dried florals, cedar, espresso, and white pepper, with a stoniness underneath. The flavors on the palate are all about vibrant red fruit with grippy but polished tannins and an impressively long finish.
Steffens’s goal with these wines is to always over-deliver on a reasonable and approachable price point ($85 for the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon). His audience? “It’s for the collector of Vineyard 7 & 8—a wine they may enjoy sooner upon release” (although he’s quick to point out that a Correlation Cab still has plenty of structure and integrity to age gracefully). “But it’s also for the newer, younger generation just beginning to learn about the art of collecting fine wine and beginning to build cellars of their own.”
Correlation wines can be tasted at The Wine Thief, a small tasting collective in downtown Napa at 708 First Street. It’s open 11 am to 6 pm daily.