by Barnaby Hughes
The term “library wine” typically refers to a bottle that has been cellared, but I recently discovered a whole new kind of library wine. St. Helena Public Library (SHPL) in the Napa Valley has a small collection of 91 vines on its property. Planted in 2000, it is known as Barney’s Backyard, in honor of Bernard Rhodes, first President of the Wine Library Association. Barney’s Backyard complements the adjacent Library Vineyard, planted between 1880 and 1920. Turley Wine Cellars, which leases Library Vineyard, harvests and vinifies together the grapes from both vineyard plots.
Although most of the Library Vineyard Petite Sirah is sold under Turley’s own label, the winery bottles eighteen magnums of the wine under SHPL’s own Barney’s Backyard label. In each instance, the wine is the same; only the labels are different. SHPL does not sell its eighteen magnums, however, but donates them primarily to charity auctions benefiting education in the Napa Valley.
At the California Library Association Conference in Long Beach, one of these rare bottles of the Barney’s Backyard 2008 Napa Valley Petite Sirah, Library Vineyard was available for purchase in a silent auction. Brought to the conference by SHPL Director Jennifer Baker, the wine sold for $200 and was enjoyed by the winning bidders that night at dinner. According to Turley’s own tasting notes, “The aromas are riveting and consist, in part, of violets, honeysuckle and spice. Chalky tannins back wild blueberry and blackberry fruit.”