Laura Díaz Muñoz Is New Winemaker at Ehlers Estate
by Elizabeth Smith, PhD, WSET Advanced
Ehlers Estate may be the best winery in the Napa Valley whose name might still be unfamiliar. However, that is about to change with the arrival of new winemaker Laura Díaz Muñoz, who brings with her over 15 years of international winemaking experience, including her native country, Spain, as well as Chile, New Zealand, and the United States. Muñoz is also no stranger to the Napa Valley, having previously been the associate winemaker for Cardinale, Lokoya, Mt Brave, La Jota, and Galerie.
Ehlers Estate is located just north of the town of Saint Helena off Highway 29 on Ehlers Lane. Originally founded by Bernard and Anna Ehlers and operated under Ehlers ownership until Prohibition, the winery has a rich and storied history dating back to 1886, including ownership by bootleggers, until French entrepreneurs and philanthropists, Jean and Sylviane Leducq, purchased the Ehlers parcel and surrounding vineyards over the course of 14 years, from 1987 until 2001.
When Sylviane passed away in 2013, she left the winery in trust to the Leducq Foundation, a global cardiovascular research foundation established in 1996. The loving stewardship of the land reflects this unique philanthropic proprietorship.
Ehlers Estate follows the estate model of operation, meaning no grapes are sourced from outside vineyards. Under the watchful eye of longtime vineyard manager Francisco Vega, who lives on the property, and his full-time, year-round vineyard and cellar crew, the team grows and produces organically farmed Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Sauvignon Blanc from the approximately 39 planted acres. From these five grape varieties, eight wines are made, including three Cabernet Sauvignons at varying price points, Merlot, and a red blend named Portrait. Ehlers Estate also makes a few Napa Valley rarities: 100% Cabernet Franc, a Rosé of Cabernet Franc, and a 100% Petit Verdot from its precious one acre of that variety.
Muñoz says that she plans to “let the amazing terroir and personality of the site to shine by itself” and adds, “Francisco and the Ehlers vineyard team have been pampering the organic Estate vineyards for years and having full control over them is key to making outstanding wines. I am so lucky to be able to continue the excellent legacy of Ehlers Estate.”