Some Recent Winery Visits…

Catching up on some recent visits to the Sparkling Houses of Napa with my thoughts:

  • Domaine Carneros – the Napa HQ for Tattinger’s U.S. endeavors. What a bustling location, tons of visitors. We were able to sit in the cafeteria style lounge and have some food along with a tasting of some of the latest offerings. The caviar was a treat. I’m still honing my sparkling wine critique’s, but I enjoyed everything. Nothing was too cloying for my palate. I ended up taking home two of the Late Disgorged La Reve’s and two of the Vermeil Demi-Sec’s. 4/5
  • Mumm Napa – the Napa location for G.H. Mumm & Cie. Nice location, and the outdoor seating was very pleasant on the spring day. I especially liked the flexibility of the tasting setup – three of their highly regarded labels, and a fourth of your choice. Some interesting wines in the tasting, but opted to not purchase any. If I were, I would like to start collecting the DVX label. 3.5/5
  •  Domaine Chandon – the LVMH conglomerate’s sparkling house for Napa. The setup here was more for accommodating large parties and not for a serious tasting. I will have to revisit with an appointment for that, I think. The “workflow” here needs improvement – as they expect you to hang out in a line at the bar top to get your glass, and go elsewhere for tasting that glass. Again, it felt as if you were at a bar and not a winery tasting. The wines were okay. 2/5

I Passed!

So….. it’s been a while. With the end of the year activities, I’ve been busy. Nonetheless, here’s the update:

I took the Guild of Sommelier’s Introduction to Master Sommelier course and exam at the beginning of November and passed. All in all, I felt with the two day cram it was a pretty easy exam. I left learning that I need to work on my deductive tasting — fortunately the GoS offers a Deductive Tasting Workshop to help students hone that skill. I wanted to take the Intro course and exam before deciding if I would proceed to the second level, and I determined it will be a goal I will work towards. I’m just in waiting mode until the workshop comes back to my region.

Elizabeth Spencer, Heitz Cellars, Corison

Labor Day weekend found us visiting some places in the Rutherford and St. Helena AVAs. Since it was hot out, I was seeking some nice chilled white wines to add to my cellar.

  • Elizabeth Spencer – Rutherford AVA, wines sourced from various regions. I had visited E.S. a few years ago, back when they were first getting started in their current location of the old Rutherford Post Office. They have grown since then, and the current staff has this place riding high on my list of wineries to recommend. Tracy and Dave were excellent hosts, and had me feeling like they were that favorite aunt or uncle of yours that could get away with saying anything and had a great humor to boot. E.S. has a Mendocino County Sauvignon Blanc that was good, with a hint of oak on it. They also had a Rosé of Pinot Noir from Sonoma that was crisp and refreshing. Easy drinking wines all around. Overall, their wines are 3.5/5.
  • Heitz Cellars – St. Helena AVA, this winery is a hallmark in Napa. Tracy from Elizabeth Spencer recommended we try their Grignolino, an Italian varietal known for its wild strawberry profile. Heitz makes a red and a rosé with this, and holy cow was it delicious. And cheap! $21, 4/5.
  • Corison – One of the top winemakers in the valley today, Cathy Corison is running a no-nonsense operation that’s putting out some very delicious wine. The portfolio isn’t huge, but these days I have come to see that as more of an asset. Cathy knows cabernet sauvignon, and with the estate vineyard in the St. Helena AVA, her cabs are firing on all cylinders, in my book. There’s a reason her Kronos is garnering rave reviews and awards. She concentrates her cabs using the saignée method, a French term describing the bleeding off of some of the grape juice to enhance the skin to juice ratio. Fortunately, the juice that’s bled off makes a very lovely Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon. $30, 4/5. She also puts out a dry Gewürztraminer that is just as delicious. $30, 4/5.

Mondavi and Pride Trip Report

Some thoughts on the visits to the Robert Mondavi and Pride wineries…

I setup a tour and tasting at both these wineries for a relative of mine who was visiting with his wife. Both are still new to the world of wine, so I thought it would be a good idea to have a day of contrasting examples: commercial vs. ’boutique’, valley floor vs. mountain fruit, old heritage vs. newer. I was also taking the opportunity to finally pay a visit to the Robert Mondavi winery – up until now I’ve somehow managed to miss. (I know, it seems like an egregious affront to not pay homage any earlier to this venerable name in American wine history.)

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Upcoming Trip to Napa – July 9th

I’ll be finally making a trek to pay homage to the “Father” of Napa’s winery: Robert Mondavi. I also have a Summit Tasting scheduled at Pride Mountain Winery – my 3rd Summit tasting with them. It should be a good day, as I will be hosting my cousin and his lovely wife.

With the outstanding wine and perfect weather, it’s so easy to impress company that visits…

Anyway, I’ll report back with my thoughts on the wines.