These reviews are based on samples provided by the winery or organization acting on their behalf.



2012 Elyse L’Ingénue Naggiar

2009 Elyse Le Corbeau Hudson Vineyard

2010 Elyse C’est Si Bon Naggiar Vineyard



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“A meal with wine is dining – it’s a conversation, an event.  It’s what wine is all about.”

Ray Coursen, Winemaker & Owner 




Elyse has been one of my favorite wineries since my first visit there in 2001.  I was talking to an employee at Merryvale about the style of wines I liked and that I was on the lookout for leads to some nice Petite Sirah based wines.  All he said was, “You have to checkout Elyse”.  As soon as we got back in the car, I pulled out my guidebook of wineries, and looked them up.  According to the guide, they required a reservation so I called them.  About 30 minutes later we were met by a very gracious and inviting tasting room employee.  We spent the next hour trying just about everything they made.  We left with several bottles for the week and ordered a case to be shipped back home.


Since that day, Elyse has always been the first winery we visit when we make it to Napa.  I always have several bottles of Elyse wine in my cellar.



In case you didn’t notice, even though I love the Bordeaux grapes and a Pinot Noir can be an excellent accompaniment with a meal, my heart lies with the grapes from the Rhone region in France.  I love a nice Grenache or a Syrah but to me, these grapes seem to hit their zenith when used in a blend, such as in these wines.  The grapes complement each other so well, some add dark berry flavors, some cherry, or spice, or black pepper, or earthiness or dried herbs…you get the point, to me the blend is usually greater than the sum of its parts.



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The Winery

Elyse Winery was started in 1987 by Ray and his wife Nancy when they crushed 4.5 tons of Zinfandel from the Morisoli Vineyard in Rutherford to craft 286 cases of their first wine.  While the portfolio has grown over the last 25 years, the focus remains on creating vineyard driven wines that pair well with food.  Total production is currently 10,000 cases and the wines are nationally and internationally distributed.



Ray grew up on a dairy farm in northwest New Jersey and tended various crops before tiring of milk and leaving the roost.  After a two year stint in the army and extensive travel in Europe and Africa, he returned to the states and attended Stockbridge Agricultural College at the University of Massachusetts.  While at school, he worked at a fine wine shop in Boston, and it was here that he discovered fine French wine.  With Coursen’s background in farming and his new appreciation for wine, the idea of making wine took hold.


Nancy is a third generation Californian and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.   Following her graduation from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Occupational Therapy, she worked with special needs children in the educational systems of the Boston area.   It was in Boston in 1982 that Nancy met Ray and shortly thereafter his interest in the wine business brought them to the Napa Valley.



Much more information and Ray, Nancy, Elyse, and her younger brother Jacob Franklin can be found by clicking here.




My line up for this event included these three wines:

Elyse Rhone Ranger Lineup

Elyse Rhone Ranger Lineup




2012 Elyse L’Ingénue Naggiar – SRP $32.00


L’Ingénue, the naïve girl.  According to the winery, “This is a white even a die-hard red wine drinker will enjoy!”


This wine is produced using four white grape varietals best known in France’s Rhone Valley.  This vintage is a blend of 45% Roussanne, 24% Marsanne, 23% Viognier and 8% Grenache Blanc.  The vineyard source is the Naggiar Vineyard in the Sierra Foothills.  After a 15 day fermentation using native yeast, the wine was aged 16 months sur-lie in “experienced” French oak barrels.


This wine has 14.4% alcohol by volume and the bottle is sealed with a natural cork.  The total production of this wine was 541 cases.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a light yellow straw color.  The crisp and fresh smelling nose has apples, peach pits, spices, stony minerals, orange blossoms, pears and tarragon.  This has medium to full body with a creamy texture and good acidity.  On the palate the crisp apples and spice jump out first with minerals and peach pit coming in later.  The finish has decent length with orange zest and pears adding nice depth.  This is a nice white Rhone blend that should pick up some complexity with a bit of time in the cellar.  (88 pts)

2012 Elyse L'Ingénue Naggiar

2012 Elyse L’Ingénue Naggiar




2009 Elyse Le Corbeau Hudson Vineyard – SRP $37.00


“Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe” -from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”.


This wine is the winery’s attempt to make a wine in the seductive and expressive style of France’s Chateauneuf du Pape.  The wine is a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah from the Hudson Vineyard in the Los Carneros region in southern Napa/Sonoma counties.  Following a native yeast fermentation, the wine was aged for 22 months in French oak with 20% of the barrels being new.


The wine has 13.6% alcohol by volume and the bottle is sealed with a natural cork.  There were 355 cases produced.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a nice bright red color.  The inviting nose has plums, raspberries, flinty minerals, licorice, earthy underbrush, candied violets, white pepper and dark chocolate.  This has medium body with moderate tannins and very nice acidity.  Dried berries, plums and baking spices envelop the palate on the front end with minerals and candied violets coming in later.  The finish picks up some white pepper and subtle earthiness.  This is drinking very nicely and would shine with a rich stew.  (90 pts)

2009 Elyse Le Corbeau Hudson Vineyard

2009 Elyse Le Corbeau Hudson Vineyard




2010 Elyse C’est Si Bon Naggiar Vineyard – SRP $28.00


C’est si bon is French for “It’s so good”.  Read on to see I think the wine lives up to its name.


The wine is a blend of 43% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 17% Mourvèdre, 10% Cinsault, 7% Counoise and 3% Viognier from the Sierra Foothills Naggiar Vineyard.  These grapes are indigenous to Southern France’s Rhone Valley, and they are well suited to the terroir of the Sierra Foothills.  After fermentation, the wine was aged for 22 months in French puncheons, 10% of which were new.


The wine has 14.4% alcohol by volume and the bottle is sealed with a natural cork.  There were 1,451 cases of the wine produced.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a deep garnet color.  The intoxicating nose has blackberries, black pepper, raspberries, crushed stones, dried herbs, dark chocolate, baking spices and dried flowers.  This has medium body with soft to moderate tannins and good acidity.  On the palate fruit, minerals and black pepper take over almost immediately, slowly giving way to dried herbs and a touch of bittersweet chocolate.  The finish has good length with the fruit and spice seeming to linger forever.  This is on the young side but promises a bright future.  (90 pts)

2010 Elyse C'est Si Bon Naggiar Vineyard

2010 Elyse C’est Si Bon Naggiar Vineyard



Closing comments

Elyse is one of my favorite wineries.  Their wines, across the board, hit my sweet spot.  In my opinion, you can’t go wrong grabbing a bottle of wine with Elyse (or Jacob Franklin) on the label.


On your next visit to the Napa Valley, I highly recommend a stop at Elyse.  They are about a mile south of Yountville just off Highway 29.  A reservation is required but the visit is well worth the phone call.  More information is available at:




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Notes – I use the “official” Cellar Tracker name for the wines.  I use Cellar Tracker to help manage and organize my cellar.  I highly recommend checking it out at  Loading you existing cellar is a lot less intimidating than it would first appear.  There is a good chance 99% of your wine is already in the system, so you generally only need to enter part of the wine’s name and the system will find it for you.



Prices noted are the prices I paid at the time of purchase.  I don’t shop around to find the best prices, but my local store is usually VERY competitive.  I generally get case discounts, and since I work there part time, I get a 5% discount.  Wines purchased direct from a winery do not include any shipping charges.  None of the prices include the sales tax.



All wines that were sent to me free of charge to sample will be noted and I will show suggested prices when available.