Naumann is a small vineyard located near the top of Monte Bello Road, just down the hill from Ridge. They produce around 700 cases of Merlot and Chardonnay with a reputation for great value. The winery is only open on SCMWA Passport days, but I was invited to join a special tasting organised by the group Friends of the Winemakers.
Don Naumann had been thinking of planting a vineyard in Napa when the opportunity arose to purchase a 10 acre property just down the hill from Ridge. In 1994 he planted just over an acre of Merlot on the steep, rocky hillside, adding a second acre in the following years. He also manages a neigbour's Chardonnay vineyard and has recently taken over a nearby Cabernet vineyard.
The property enjoys spectacular views across the valley; on a clear day you can see from Mount Diablo all the way around to the Lick observatory on Mt. Hamilton. The hillside is so steep that the back of the house is at least 20 feet above the vines, and looks down on the treetops that surround it.
From 1997 to 2005 the wine was produced under a custom crush agreement at Burrell School; starting with the 2006 vintage production has transferred to Fernwood Cellars. The wines are aged in a combination of new and used French oak barrels.
2006 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains $18
Light, oaky nose showing some vanilla and sherbet. Creamy with notes of lemon curd and mineral, and a quick finish. 86
2005 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains $18
Shows less oak on the nose than the 2006; on the palate there's lots of fresh lemon, good acidity and a longer finish. Recommended 90
2004 Estate Merlot, Santa Cruz Mountains $26
This has a rather smoky blueberry nose. It's rich and fruity with good acidity, and a tart, tannic finish. 87
2005 Estate Merlot, Santa Cruz Mountains $26
Showing less smoke than the 04, with plums as well as blueberries. Overall it's richer still and more balanced. There's good structure and just a little heat on the long finish. Recommended 90