I have previously used up all the exclamations in my computer to describe the wines made by Celia Welch. They leave one speechless, as they do exclamation-less.
There is something otherworldly about Celia’s wines, which are unlike any other in Napa Valley. The thing her wines have is TEXTURE. More than aromatics, more than attack, middle palate, or lingering finish, the thing that sets her wines apart from every other wine is quite simply T-E-X-T-U-R-E.
Celia’s wines are supple, elegant, hauntingly fresh, silken, velveteen, velours-like, satiny, sensual, and regal, reminding one of the color, and feel, of the robes of nobility.
In short, they have the swagger, the iconoclasm and textural impact of one of those images of Elvis on Black Velvet, which you used to be able to buy at a five-and-dime. Though today, her wines will take many fives and dimes to purchase.
I was fortunate to have a one-on-one tasting session with Celia last week as she prepared to release her 2007 Corra, a sensual admixture of Cabernets from Pritchard Hill (50%), Rutherford and Oakville (25% each). Like every wine, which Celia makes, this one has the texture of velvet, scents of vanilla, chocolate and ripe red and black fruits. There is nothing out of balance on the nose, nor on the palate. This is pure liquid poetry. In short, Celia’s wines are the potable transmission fluid of life.
As her wines have a bit of the textural juiciness, which Michel Rolland achieves in wines, which he claims to “micro-oxygenate,” I asked Celia if she follows his practice.
“No, I don’t micro-oxygenate my wines. Not for Corra, not for any of the wineries to whom I consult (of which there are six – but more about this in a moment).”
“The secret to make wines, which are not tannin-invasive, is simply to have patience. We are trained as winemakers to jump into the wine-making process at the drop of a hat; I prefer to stand on the sidelines and wait for the ideal moment to act.”
In this respect, she sounds a bit like famed French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who spoke of “the decisive moment,” identifying the exact moment when to trip his camera shutter. Celia speaks, instead, of the decisive moment when to pick grapes.
“It’s what you don’t do that is important! In the fall, I taste grapes on the vine every day, sometimes two or three times a day, to determine their EXACT moment of ripeness. Then, when making the wine, I liberally pump over and rack often to further help soften the wine.”
The 2007 Corra, which retails for $125 and of which there are 350 cases, is a stellar wine. Like most of Celia’s efforts, this one is sure to get a high-90 score, likely in the 94-97 range.
Corra is Celia’s own label, named in honor of the Celtic deity representing prophecy and harvest. According to Celia, the deity came to earth in the guise of a crane – hence the image on the label.
“Being Irish, I turned to this name and image for inspiration,” says the winemaker.
You will find striking textural similarities in the wines, which Celia makes for six wineries in Napa Valley. I was fortunate last year to taste 2006 Cabernets from all these wineries together and concluded that if any of them were dropped into a blind tasting of Napa Valley Cabs, they would easily be spotted out as being Celia’s – her textural handiwork is evident in each of them.
The texture in Celia’s wines is like a large tattoo on the cheek of a pretty woman – you can’t miss it, even if you aren’t looking for it.
Celia’s client list (alphabetically):
Hollywood & Vine
Where’d Celia get her interest in wine, anyway?
“I grew up in Medford, OR. My father was a hands-on, home-winemaker. As a very young child, I was exposed to the intricacies of making wine,” she says.
At a public tasting session last weekend, I was fortunate to meet Celia’s dad, Jack Welch, visiting from Bend, OR. I pushed for additional details on his home-winemaking practices.
“I had a neighbor in Medford who convinced me that paying $3 for a bottle of commercial wine was too much, so we agreed, in 1961, to start making our own! We planted ten different varieties on our property and they all did well, except for Chardonnay. We made wine for 15 years. I suppose this influenced Celia,” says her 90-year-old dad, Jack.
This past weekend, to honor the release of Celia’s 2007 Corra, 750 Wines, in St. Helena, hosted a small reception for what can only be called ‘Corraficionados.’
In addition to offering guests a taste of her 2007 Corra, Celia poured her equally stunning 2004 Corra, her first vintage.
Interested in trying 2007 Corra yourself? A few cases remain at 750 Wines. Speak with David, or Monica, at 707-963-0750.