Whitehall Lane Winery
Napa Valley AVA
Whitehall Lanes' New Team Hits the Ground Running
San Francisco wine merchant Tom Leonardini, Sr. had just a casual interest in owning a winery - a causal interest, that is, until 1993 when he heard that Napa Valley winery Whitehall Lane was up for sale.
Tom was well aware of Whitehall Lane. The original founders, architect Art Finkelstein and plastic surgeon Alan Steen built the winery in 1980. The two purchased the property in 1979 and completely replanted its 21-acre vineyard that was developed before the turn of the century and not well suited for the growing region. By 1985, they started to blend their new estate grapes into their wines, resulting in a string of impressive Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons. These two varietals quickly emerged as flagship wines upon which Whitehall Lane's early, high quality reputation was built.
In 1988, Japanese businessman Hideaki Ando approached Art and Alan with an offer to buy the winery at a price they couldn’t turn down. Foreign investment in California real estate was still running rampant with many overseas investors buying up everything in sight, while counting on double-digit real estate inflation to justify their top-dollar purchases. As the economy worsened, the all-too-familiar story of not being able to service the debt started to slow things down.
To make matters worse, the winery was being managed remotely from Japan, and it began to suffer from lack of focus and direction. It wasn’t long before the winery became available for sale, and Tom Leonardini, who knew of Whitehall Lane’s reputation for great wines, jumped at the opportunity to purchase the estate in 1993.
Immediately, Tom made sweeping changes in both the physical plantings and strategic direction at Whitehall Lane. Not only did he completely renovate the property and bring in state-of-the-art winemaking equipment, he adjusted the vineyard plantings to take advantage of the ideal soil composition for each varietal. Over the next few years, additional vineyard land was acquired to strengthen the already formidable estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot programs.
The winery now owns eight prime Napa Valley vineyards and two Sonoma vineyards that are the cornerstone on which Whitehall Lane's wines are produced. Over the years, three Whitehall Lane wines have been rated among the Top Five in the World by Wine Spectator magazine and Whitehall Lane has been named Winery of the Year by Wine & Spirits magazine an unprecedented five times. Napa Valley Life Magazine has also rated their tasting room as the Best Tasting Room in Napa Valley. While Cabernet Sauvignon is certainly the wine that etched Whitehall Lane's reputation into California's wine lore, it is important to note that the winery also crafts limited amounts of Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir that are earning significant praise and recognition from may of the top wine periodicals and competitions as well.
Whitehall Lane Winery is also dedicated to using sustainable practices and is Napa Green Certified, which represents a soil-to-bottle approach to environmental stewardship and winemaking, integrating holistic management practices at every step of the process.
The acclaimed winemaker for Whitehall Lane is Jason Moulton, who started with the winery in 2016. He was excited to join the Whitehall Lane team because of the Leonardinis' commitment to their sustainable traditions in their vineyards and winemaking and he has since immersed himself in the nuances of the ten estate vineyards, energized the winemaking team, and elevated the overall wine quality of the winery. He also brought with him a keen interest and understanding of environmentally sensitive and sustainable winemaking, as well as worldly winemaking experience from Napa Valley, Russian River, Canada, New Zealand, Bordeaux, and South Africa. He has even worked with renowned winemakers Philippe Melka, David Ramey, Kale Anderson and Ashley Heisey along the way. Jason Moulton's ultra-premium, sustainably-driven wines have made him a fantastic addition to the Whitehall Lane family.
Whitehall Lane is committed to improving quality even beyond what it is today. We are thrilled to offer their latest achievement to our Platinum Wine Club members. Please enjoy it to its fullest. Cheers!
Map of the area
Dear Platinum WIne Club Members,
We are very pleased to share our 2016 Leonardini Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and hope you enjoy drinking it as much as we do!
Not only does this wine share our family name, but we sourced the fruit from three of our six Napa Valley vineyards, and made the wine at our Rutherford winery, making it ‘Estate.’ Along the way, we utilized Napa Green practices in the vineyard and at the winery to make this exceptional bottle of wine.
When we bought the winery in 1993, our family was determined to make the finest wine in Napa Valley. We knew it all started in the vineyard and so we replanted the winery vineyard and focused our energies on finding the highest quality fruit. We purchased five additional premium Napa Valley vineyards starting in 1994 and replanted many of those properties along the way. We also utilize modern viticultural science to grow the highest quality wine grapes every single year. If you said 27 years ago that we would use moisture probes, pressure bombs and computers to grow grapes, we would have said you were crazy. But, it helps in the vineyard and gives our winemaking team a head start in making our world-class wines.
We very much enjoyed making our 2016 Leonardini Estate Cabernet Sauvignon for all of us, and are also proud to continue our 26-year relationship with Gold Medal Wine Club.
Thomas Leonardini, Sr., Tom Leonardini II, & Katie Leonardini
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
Please enjoy our 2014 Leonardini Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. I take great pride in all of our wines, but our Estate wine is truly special. Not only does it bear my family’s name, but it is also a shining example of our commitment to quality.
We grow 100% of our Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in five of our six Napa Valley vineyards. The Estate Cabernet displays a wonderful combination of the power and elegance found in the fruit grown in our various vineyard blocks. This 2014 wine was made from grapes grown in three vineyards, including our Millennium MM Vineyard in Rutherford with its ripe, fruit-forward qualities, the Leonardini Vineyard in St. Helena that has concentrated fruit flavors and amazing structure, and our Oak Glen Vineyard that displays some brooding power and earth notes.
This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is an attractive wine with jammy fruit from start to finish, chewy texture on the mid-palate and a long, lingering, brilliant finish that keeps me wanting another sip! We very much enjoyed making the 2014 Leonardini Estate, and we hope you enjoy drinking it as much as we do.
Thomas Leonardini, Sr.
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
Please enjoy our 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. I take great pride in all of our wines, but the Reserves are truly special. In 2005, we isolated a few vine rows in our Leonardini Vineyard in St. Helena and in Rutherford’s Morisoli Vineyard to create this delicious wine.
Our goal is to make a Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon that marries elegance and power. Too many Cabernets today are crafted to make a statement: too much science and not enough art, too much structure or oak and not enough fruit. We make an elegant Reserve wine that tastes great by balancing jammy, ripe fruit with dark, structured grapes. In this 2005 Reserve, the elegance shines through with a nice underlying layer of tannins that, at six years old, are just starting to melt away.
I would like to remind you that you don’t need a corkscrew to open this special bottle. Simply cut the capsule below the drip right and remove the ‘glass cork.’ We started using the stylish Vino-Seal as an alternative to cork and synthetic stoppers. Designed to look like a decorative decanter stopper, this innovative closure provides an ideal seal that ensures the wine will retain its purity of flavor and aroma when you choose to drink it.
We very much enjoyed making the 2005 Reserve, but we enjoy drinking it even more. I hope that you will also enjoy this classic offering.
Thomas Leonardini Sr.
Gary Galleron - Winemaker
One of the first things owner Tom Leonardini did after acquiring Whitehall Lane Winery was to call Gary Galleron. Tom had met Gary a couple of years earlier at a dinner party. That night he met a guy with high energy, someone he knew was a hard worker and intelligent about winemaking. He already was aware of and respected his track record for making some of the best Cabernet Sauvignons made in California.
Gary has worked in the wine industry since 1976 after earning a degree in Viticulture and a minor in Enology at Fresno State. He went to work right away at Château Montelena, studying under Mike Grgich. After nine years, Gary left to become winemaker for Lenz Winery in Long Island, New York. He came back to California in 1988 and worked briefly again with Mike Grgich at his Grgich Hills Winery. But it was primarily during the following five years that Gary earned his solid reputation for crafting stellar wines at both S. Anderson Vineyards and at Grace Family Vineyards.
Tom quickly offered Gary the winemaker job at Whitehall Lane and he took it. Gary has already made a huge impact on the quality of wines coming out of Whitehall Lane. Although both the 1991 and 1992 vintages were in the barrel when he arrived, his influence in the final product is apparent. He introduced both wines to additional oak then expertly blended each to reflect his own style. The 1993 vintage will be the first wine made exclusively by Gary, so look for that one to set yet another high standard for Whitehall Lane wines.
Tom Leonardini - Owner
Tom Leonardini turned the tables. Seven years ago he claimed back a bit of California real estate from foreign owners by buying Whitehall Lane Winery.
Whitehall Lane's owner was Japanese businessman Hideaki Ando. The winery proved to be too much of a cash drain to his real estate investment company in Tokyo where a recession hit as hard as it did in the U.S. The company's cash crunch together with poor management of the winery fueled the sale of Whitehall Lane. Tom successfully negotiated a deal with Ando to purchase the winery. Success, though, is not new to Tom Leonardini.
Tom was born and raised in San Francisco. He attended college nearby at the University of San Francisco where he studied business accounting. His mother's family had founded major car rental firm, National Car Rental. After graduating, he worked there as their northern California General Manager. He left two years later at the ripe old age of twenty-four to start his own car rental service which he called Pacific Car Rental System. Then five years later sold his interest in that company to start yet another car rental company!
He named his new venture American International Rental Car. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Tom grew his new car rental company to 16 offices throughout California. In 1985 he again sold his company, this time to Capital Southwest, headquartered in Dallas, Texas.
He muses about how he and his wife Karen used to buy a lot of Ruffino Chianti when they were married almost 30 years ago. They graduated to finer wines after they bought a new house that came with a small makeshift wine cellar. "The ‘cellar' was cooled by a Sears air-conditioner. We used to fill up the cellar up then give the wine away as presents to our friends and family,” he says smiling.
Over the years his palate grew more discriminating. So much so, that after he sold his American International car rental company, he opened up a fine-wine shop in downtown San Francisco. His wine shop, the Napa Valley Winery Exchange, gave him convenient access to some of the best wines in the world. Accordingly, he built a home wine cellar as impressive as his wine collection. His state-of-the-art cellar has motion and temperature detection devices, complete with smoke and fire sensors that are wired directly to the fire department! A few years back The Wine Spectator even wrote a full-page article telling about it.
Tom and Karen Leonardini live in the community of Hillsborough just south of San Francisco. He goes up to the winery during the week and is back home again on the weekends, often commuting several times during the week. Tom Jr., the eldest of their two sons was brought on recently as Whitehall Lane's National Sales Manager. Kristen, the oldest of their three daughters opened up their retail wine shop in San Francisco. Another daughter, Kimberly, recently joined her father to manage the winery's tasting room. The Leonardini's other children, Katie, and Tony, are not presently involved in the wine business. "We're not your typical new winery owners who only spend weekends at the winery,” insists Tom. "This is not just a hobby. We're committed to making superior wines.”