Cliff Lede Vineyards: The Winery Where Music, Art, and Wine Collide in Napa Valley

By Published On: February 25, 2024

Credit: Bob McClenahan

Cliff Lede’s journey to Napa Valley winemaking began rather unexpectedly, sparked by his grandmother’s home winemaking hobby in Edmonton, Canada.  A transformative visit to Napa Valley on a business trip in the 1990s during his construction career sealed the deal.

The allure was undeniable: breathtaking landscapes, world-class wines rivaling his beloved Bordeaux, and a vibrant community mirroring his Canadian roots. After months of searching, he found his perfect terroir in the prestigious Stags Leap District, setting the stage for his dream of crafting exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon. This unique confluence of inspiration, passion, and meticulousness, honed during his construction career, laid the foundation for Cliff Lede Vineyards, a winery infused with music, art, and innovative winemaking practices.

Forget Napa Valley reveries. In Cliff Lede’s vineyards, magic brews beneath the surface. Two distinct sites play starring roles. Poetry Vineyard, perched on a dramatic hillside, offers a perfect ripening for late-maturing grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon. This tough environment forces the vines to fight, yielding intensely concentrated berries.

 Rhythm Vineyard takes a subtler and more nuanced approach. Situated near the winery and sloping gently towards the Napa River, its diverse soils shift from gravelly loam to heavier clay. This less demanding stage allows the vines to flourish, producing Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties with distinct personalities. Each meticulously planted block, for specific clones and rootstocks, expresses the unique terroir through its fruit, resulting in ripe tannins, wines built to age gracefully while remaining captivating young.

Jason Lede. Credit: Cliff Lede Vineyards

Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignons are crafted from low-yield grapes selected from distinct sites, each bottle embodies the characteristics of its vineyard site. Minimal intervention in the winery allows the true voice of the land to shine through.  These Cabernets aren’t about brute force; they balance full-bodied structure with vibrant acidity and a hint of oak influence.  Possessing remarkable aging potential, vintages like the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon from Poetry Vineyard offer a sophisticated yet complex journey over decades, rewarding patient collectors with ever-unfolding layers of flavor.

Their Marla Blanc white blend is a deliberate exploration of Semillon’s potential, transcending personal connections. It’s an ode to Semillon’s complexity and aging potential, with its unique character subtly influenced by old-vine Semillon. Unconstrained by varietal bottling, Semillon takes center stage, allowing the winemaking team to prioritize each vintage’s individual expression. The result is a wine of elegance and profound depth. The blend, limited to only 60 cases in 2022, which underscores Marla Blanc’s uncompromising quality standards.

Napa’s booming competition isn’t just raising the bar for Cliff Lede Vineyards – it’s fueling their creative spirit. Jason Lede, sees opportunities where others might fear homogenization, pushing boundaries with new single-vineyard expressions like “Rhythm” Cabernet Sauvignon. This isn’t just about experimentation; it’s about capturing the soul of their diverse vineyard holdings and offering nuanced portraits of Napa Valley’s potential.

Improving inclusivity in the Napa Valley remains a work in progress, but Lede is actively involved in initiatives like Dream Work Napa, bridging the gap for aspiring winemakers from diverse backgrounds. This commitment reflects a deeper truth: despite corporate giants, Napa’s heart still beats in family-owned wineries like theirs. Their shared passion for the land fosters a collaborative spirit, ensuring that rapid growth doesn’t erase the region’s unique charm.

Grace Kelly by Tony Scherman in the winery. Credit: Cliff Lede Vineyards

Cliff Lede Vineyards is more than a winery; it’s a steward of the land and a pillar of the community. Their commitment to sustainability is evident in their use of solar power, organic farming practices, and water conservation. They’re not just pushing the boundaries of eco-conscious winemaking, but also extending their philanthropy beyond the vineyard, actively supporting a variety of charitable causes. This spirit of environmental and social responsibility is deeply ingrained in their ethos, ensuring a legacy that goes beyond the production of exquisite wines. 

The wines featured in the Wine Recommendations section were provided by the winery for the purpose of review. The selection and tasting of these wines were independently conducted. No compensation or incentives were provided for inclusion in the story. As always, the top priority is to provide readers with informative reporting.

Wine Recommendations

2021 “Rhythm” Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District- this is an extraordinary wine displaying all the attributes expected of a classic Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap with  intense aromas of black cherry, currant, mocha, and  hints of cedar, graphite, and cinnamon. The palate is rich, and layered, with a velvety texture and a long finish. The balance between fruit, acidity, and tannin is impeccable, and the wine shows great potential for aging.

2021 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon- displays a deep ruby color and a complex bouquet of blackberry, cassis, and spice. The palate is full-bodied, rich, and layered, with a velvety texture and a long, persistent finish.

2022 Sauvignon Blanc- aromatics of citrus fruits, grapefruit, lemon, and white flowers, complemented by subtle notes of honeysuckle. The palate is crisp and refreshing, with a lively acidity. The flavors echo the aromas, adding layers of complexity and depth. The finish is long and rewarding, with a touch of minerality

About the Author: Joe Campbell

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Located out of the Sierra Foothills of California, Joe Campbell provides color commentary as well as insight within the wine industry both from the lifestyle consumer and business segments of the industry. He can be reached via email at : joe@winebulletin.net .