Why Library Wines Can Come in Handy

Perhaps you’ve already begun holding back portions of vintages you’re particularly proud of. If you aren’t, Kelly Fleming — owner of Kelly Fleming Wines in Calistoga — said there are certain situations where doing so can be not just a “nice to have,” but a “need to have.”

Having library wines gave Fleming something to release two years after the devastating 2020 wildfire in Napa Valley tanked her vintage for that year.

“I had picked all my fruit and it was in fermentation tanks in the winery,” Fleming recalled. “I had a generator. The fire came through and the tanks continued to be kept cool. Our wine cave stays naturally cool but not quite cool enough, so we have a cooling agent in there that brings it down another three degrees. I didn’t know about the issues with smoke in our cave, but the smoke lasted so long in the area that the coolant brought the smoke into the cave and the barrels became tainted. 

“When we put the juice into our brand new French oak barrels, we still got taint in that wine and that was a big surprise.”

It wasn’t a total loss — she was able to sell the fruit to larger wineries that had enough juice to dilute her fruit to where you didn’t taste the smoke and they could still claim a certain percentage of Napa juice. But she didn’t have any wine in 2022 to sell to her club members or in her tasting room.

Enter the library wines. It was an opportunity to take a rough situation and make lemonade out of lemons, she said.

“It was a great opportunity to take advantage of those beautiful wines and show them,” Fleming said. “So often people don’t have the opportunity to do this, but you can give people the option of buying a nice young wine or sampling a 2011 or a 2013. That’s been over the top for people who are interested in that.”

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