The Buehler wine story starts in 1971, when John Buehler Sr., retired from 20 years in the Army Corps of Engineers and another 20 at Bechtel Corp.
Along with his wife, Helen, John bought a remote Napa Valley hillside property that had been the site of a “ghost winery” before Prohibition. As Buehler built his retirement home, his son, John Jr., began to fulfill his life-long ambition to grow grapes for wine.
Another key ingredient: Heidi Peterson Barrett became head winemaker from 1983 to 1988.
Along with Buehler, Peterson has been responsible for notable cult wines from vineyards in Napa, including Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle Vineyards and Paradigm Winery.
Now, decades later, the Buehler Estate vineyard has become one of the valley’s foremost producers of cabernet sauvignon.
Nestled in the mountains above the Conn Valley, the Buehler vineyards spread across steeply sloped hillsides with eastern exposures. The area is earthquake prone, which has created faults and variances in soil types.
Along with special soil and climate, the Buehler operation has maintained a family atmosphere, with employees always looking to the long-term, said Helen Buehler, the founder’s granddaughter.
“Our most recent hire was 18 years ago,” said Helen, explaining that this includes everyone from winemaking to operations and office workers. “We are a family!”
The weather can yield distinctive fruit as is the case with the 2016 vintage.
That year, yields across the Buehler Estate were down an average of 20% or so from 2015. Average daytime temperatures were also slightly below average making for slower, more even ripening resulting in robust, well-developed grapes.
2016 Buehler Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($32) is 10% merlot. This well-structured cab has robust, fruit-forward aromas of plum, black cherries and dark berries, a rich and full-bodied palate, silky smooth tannins and a long, juicy finish.
2016 Buehler Russian River Chardonnay ($15) is born in the heart of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley from two vineyards, Wood Vineyard straddling River Road and the River Vineyard on East Side Road. The nose is rich and complex with tropical fruit, spice and floral scents and a silky-smooth body is complemented with flavors of mandarin and white peach leading to a clean and crisp, toasty finish.