Interview with Jason Lede, Director of Communications for Cliff Lede Vineyards and FEL Wines
Cliff Lede founded his namesake winery on 60 acres in the famous Stags Leap District of Napa Valley in 2002.
With a vision to create wines that rival the best in the world, Cliff invested in replanting the vineyards and worked with some of the best in the business to maximize the potential of the estate. Dramatic hillside and rocky valley floor vineyards planted to Bordeaux grape varieties provide intensely concentrated fruit for the range of Cabernet Sauvignon and red blends.
The unique combination of critically acclaimed wines, gorgeous vineyard views, and excellent music make Cliff Lede Vineyards a fun and memorable wine tasting experience. We interview Jason Lede, son of Cliff and Director of Communications to learn more.
What type of wine do you specialize in?
Jason Lede: Cliff Lede Vineyards specializes in what Napa Valley is best known for, Bordeaux-style wines based on Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
In addition to Cliff Lede Vineyards in Napa Valley, we also produce cool climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Anderson Valley under our sister label FEL Wines.
What’s a popular tasting experience?
Jason Lede: Guests love tasting our wines in our Backstage Tasting Lounge. It is our art gallery that features artwork from artists related to the world of Rock and Roll.
We’ve hosted work from Jerry Garcia, Grace Slick, and Bernie Taupin to name a few. As cool as the space is, the wines are the stars of the show. We pour our best in this tasting, which can include our flagship wine, Poetry.
We pour our FEL Wines portfolio at the Cliff Lede Vineyards tasting room as well, so we really have something for everybody.
What makes your wine unique?
Jason Lede: For both wineries we have exceptional vineyard sites that are unique to their appellations.
Our estate vineyards in Stags Leap District span the width of the appellation, giving us diversity of soil types and a broad range of elevations from the valley floor to the highest points in the AVA. Our location enables us to grow all five of the Bordeaux red grape varieties for the Cliff Lede Vineyards wines.
FEL Wines is anchored by our estate Savoy vineyard, a 44-acre site that was planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the early 90s. The diversity of geography and clonal selections throughout the Savoy vineyard make it unlike any other in North America.
What’s one thing you wish more people knew about your winery?
Jason Lede: I wish more people could see how much passion and hard work goes into our wines. From our viticulture and winemaking teams to our sales and marketing teams, everyone does their utmost to uphold the integrity and quality of our wines.
Behind every bottle is a team of people that care deeply and are passionate about Lede Family Wines.
How did you get started in the wine industry?
Jason Lede: Shortly after my dad founded Cliff Lede Vineyards, I began spending summers working in the vineyards and cellar.
I instantly developed a strong interest in wine, so I worked with my dad to develop a plan to gain a broad experience across the industry. I was inspired by the passionate people I met along the way that loved their careers and the lifestyle they were able to enjoy while working in wine.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the winemaking process?
Winemaking is an art form. Anyone can do it, but not everyone can create a masterpiece. Just like writing a song, painting a picture, or playing an instrument, it requires talent, patience, and practice. It’s also a lot of hard work!
Describe your winemaking philosophy or approach.
Jason Lede: At both Cliff Lede Vineyards and FEL Wines, our approach is rooted in New World innovation with a deep respect for Old World traditions. We employ technologies that enable us to operate utilizing gravity flow, minimal intervention, and optimal aging conditions to produce wines that have an unmistakable sense of place.
Do you have a favorite story about working at your winery?
Jason Lede: I don’t have a specific story to share, but my favorite part of working at the winery is being able to make people happy. Whether it is hosting an outing for the team, pouring a special wine for members, or touring new visitors through the vineyard, I love playing a part in creating a special connection to our winery.
Favorite Food and Wine Pairing?
Jason Lede: I love the Cliff Lede Vineyards Rock Block Series. It represents our estate vineyards in the Stags Leap District and ties in our fun-loving Rock and Roll spirit.
Each year, our winemaking team creates a “mashup” of two of the Rock Blocks to create a limited-edition Cabernet Sauvignon. We name the wine after the two blocks involved, creating blends like “Imagine Rhapsody” and “Magic Nights.” My favorite pairings with the Rock Block Series Cabernet Sauvignon are grilled ribeye steak, osso buco style short ribs, and truffle popcorn.
FEL Wines Anderson Valley Chardonnay is a staple in my house. It is clean and crisp style of Chardonnay that includes fruit from our estate Savoy Vineyard as a primary source, as well as fruit from other top vineyard sites across the region. It is the perfect balance of refreshment and elegance.
My favorite pairings with the FEL Wines Chardonnay are lobster risotto, lemon pepper chicken, and Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam triple cream brie.
Do you remember the first time you fell in love with wine?
In 2007, I had the opportunity to work harvest at Cliff Lede Vineyards. Learning the process of making wine and seeing how much work it takes to go from vine to bottle was incredibly gratifying.
As hard as the work is, at the end of the day you realize that you will be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor for years to come.