Who: Liana Estates
Liana is a new project of the Peju family, of Napa Cabernet fame. The Pejus purchased the old Acacia winery after the brand was acquired by Constellation. The renovated tasting room was opened in late 2016. Liana is a portmanteau of the first names of the Peju daughters, Lisa and Ariana, who oversee the winery.
Where: Carneros, 2750 Las Amigas Road, Napa
Wine: Bubbly, Whites, and Limited Reds
Liana's focus is on sparkling and white wines, and they do it very well. The two reds (a Cab-based Vintner's Blend and a Pinot Noir) need some improvement.
The Liana Bubbles Club is their sparkling brand, which yields a Blanc de Blanc, a Brut, and a Rose. All of them were enjoyable, especially the Rose with strawberry and brioche aromas, crisp high acid, but balanced with body.
Liana offers a wide selection of quality whites, including Viognier, Dry Orange Muscat, Chardonnay, and a Vintner's White Blend (Viognier based). The Viognier and Muscat really stood out.
The 2015 Viognier is really floral driven. Green apple and jasmine aromas accented a full body and a long finish. This is a solid Viognier and will please anyone who appreciates the varietal.
The 2015 Orange Muscat (formally Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains) is thankfully totally dry. This varietal is known for the famous Moscato d'Asti and the horrendous-sweet-cheap Moscato that flies off American supermarket shelves. Liana's Muscat is elegant, with intriguing aromas of orange blossom (hence the Orange Muscat moniker), honeysuckle, and Persian lime zest. It's got big acid and a medium body. It finishes on the palate like crushed flowers trampled in dirt, but in a really alluring way. If you drink Rhone Viognier or Bordeaux Muscadelle, you'll love this wine.
The 2014 Pinot Noir tasted like Cheerwine. If you're from the Southeastern US, you'll understand the reference. If not, Google it. Enough said.
The 2014 Vintner's Red is a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with Cab Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. It drank like a light Merlot or dark Pinot Noir. It had nice acid, but lacked in tannic structure and complex aromas. It's nice to see a departure from big Cabs and a contrast to the Peju Province wines, but this Cab blend needs some retooling.
Why: Great Whites and Hospitality
Normally I'm skeptical of large Napa wineries. The mindset of those located on Highway 29 is different than any other CA wine region. It is swayed by copious tourism, cult cabs, and the pursuit of points. There are things about Liana that I dislike. They sell their wine on Amazon, which leads me to believe their goal is big volume sales. The outdoor space is poorly planned - dominated by their parking area - and only the private 3rd floor banquet room takes advantage of the stunning Carneros views. There is a comfy covered patio opposite the entrance, although there are only two tables and a tree-obstructed view.
Napa prejudice and architectural critiques aside, I truly did enjoy the experience at Liana Estates. The interior ambiance is modern and spacious. Taylor, who guided our tasting, and Santiago, the GM, were exceptionally welcoming. They took us on a tour of the facility, including the new special events building, which piqued Lindsay's wedding planner interest.
In the end, hospitality and architecture are just window dressing for the wine. And the whites at Liana are terrific. I recommend a visit when you're in Carneros, especially as a departure from the Pinot-centric neighbors. I'll return to keep the Muscat flowing.