FEL Wines produces some of the best Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays coming from the Anderson Valley. The story of FEL Wines begins with Cliff Lede from Napa Valley. I had the opportunity to chat and taste FEL wines with Jason Lede and Ryan Hodgins.
FEL is the sister label to Cliff Lede Wines. FEL Wines began with its first vintage in 2012, though its history goes back to Breggo Cellars where Ryan Hodgins was the founding winemaker. In 2011, Cliff Lede acquired Savoy Vineyards and they decided to rename and rebrand the winery to FEL Wines.
The name FEL is a tribute to Cliff Lede’s mother, Florence Elsie Lede. Florence was a home winemaker and made wine in her basement in their Alberta Canada home. Jason shares that there were no grapevines in Alberta and that his grandmother made wine with any fruit(i.e. cherries, raspberries) she could get her hands. Florence came from humble beginnings and now they have come a long way with Cliff Lede Vineyards in Napa Valley and FEL Wines in Anderson Valley.
Owning a Napa vineyard was Cliff’s vision and dream. His love for wine was ignited by his mother’s home winemaking. He fell in love with wine and became a huge Bordeaux enthusiast. Cliff started collecting Bordeaux wines in his late 20’s and early 30’s. So when he decided he wanted to make wine in Napa Valley, he knew Bordeaux varieties would be his main focus. Cliff Lede Vineyards is built on Cliff’s love for Bordeaux wines and FEL Wines is their Burgundian complement with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as their focus. Savoy Vineyards is their anchor to creating elegant and site-specific wines at FEL.
Ryan Hodgins – FEL Winemaker
Ryan Hodgins is the founding winemaker at Savoy Vineyards. Since 2005, Ryan has been working with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the Anderson Valley. With a burning desire to make wine, Ryan came to California in 2002. He got his master’s degree at UC Davis and later put down his roots in California’s Anderson Valley.
Ryan grew up in Oregon, right outside of Willamette Valley and so those were the first wines he was introduced to. He says the Anderson Valley is the “tipping point between the Willamette Valley and the rest of California.” The wines have the lightness and elegance of Willamette Valley and also some of the ripeness and fruit that is more California in style.
Savoy Vineyards – Anderson Valley
Anderson Valley is California’s northernmost and coolest wine-growing region. The wines of Anderson Valley are a bit lighter and are not as full-bodied or muscular as other wines from California. There is fruit forwardness, concentration and elegance in Anderson Valley wines; the best of all worlds. Savoy Vineyard is a benchmark vineyard in the Anderson Valley, and its fruit is highly sought after.
Savoy Vineyard is on an optimal site in the Philo area. With gently sloping southwest fields, they experience cool nights and warm days. The vineyards were originally planted by Richard Savoy in 1991. Ryan says, Richard was of an “artistic mind’ and in 1967 founded Green Apple Books in San Francisco, which he later sold to his employees in the late ’80s.
Richard’s next venture was to grow grapes in the Anderson Valley. He was a Burgundy lover and so he planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. He farmed row by row depending on his clients. Today 43 acres make up Savoy Vineyards with 34 sub-blocks. There is a lot of diversity in the vineyards with a variety of clones planted, giving Ryan Hodgins a wide selection to work with.
Ryan Hodgins says, “the Savoy Vineyards are the waist of the Anderson Valley.” The “waist” being the midpoint of the valley. Savoy Vineyards lie along Hendy Woods State Park, which is the narrowest point of the valley. It is here, in these prized vineyards that you get wines with concentration and elegance. Many highly regarded neighboring wineries have contributed to Savoy’s reputation like Littorai, Radio Coteau, Auteur, Failla, and Peay.
FEL Anderson Valley Chardonnay 2018
Fresh, vibrant and elegant. This wine is made from a sampling of Anderson Valley vineyards. There are notes of Meyer lemon, Asian pear, and floral notes. The bright acidity charges the palate with great energy.
FEL Savoy Chardonnay 2018
The Savoy Vineyard Chardonnay is a blend of Wente and Prosser clonal selections. There is nice tension, brightness and freshness in the wine with notes of green apple, lemon zest and hints of brioche. This wine displays the perfect balance of California’s richness and the tension of a Willamette Chardonnay. This is a very focused and well crafted Chardonnay.
FEL Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2018
The Anderson Valley Pinot Noir has notes of black cherries, cola, and dark fruit, that is light in body. It is bright and lively but at the same time intense with fruit, spice and tobacco.
FEL Savoy Vineyards Pinot Noir 2018
Savoy Vineyards has long been considered a benchmark vineyard in the Anderson Valley. This wine is a blend of clones including several Dijon selections, Pommard, Martini, and Calera. It is fragrant, floral and spicy with soft tannins and lively fresh acidity. This is a wow wine, that is balanced, bright and well structured.
** Photos Courtesy FEL Wines **