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.
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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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.
This past Saturday I took a group to visit Napa and our first stop was Ram’s Gate Winery. This winery has a great presence – gorgeous architecture and appointments, and a decent view. Unfortunately, the experience with the employees leaves me wondering what the mission of Ram’s Gate is: a winery producing very good wine to share with potential customers – or to be a close destination from San Francisco to have a mediocre experience, and pay through the nose for it.
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The following wineries were visited in the May 2015 trip:
- Scribe – Great story here with the two brothers starting the winery. Their whites are delicious, and they even produce a Sylvaner – a rare bird in the New World. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any of the Chardonnay fermented on it’s skins to pour this time around, a wine I was looking forward to revisiting. The morning was cool and crisp, and the provided wool blankets were welcomed. The cheese plate was very well paired. Just a great casual vibe and good wines. 8/10
- Nickel and Nickel – I had been wanting to check this place out for a while now, since I see their wines on almost every wine list. The location is absolutely gorgeous, and the proprietors have done an outstanding job assembling the buildings. The wines were classic Napa styled and good. Admittedly, by palate lately has been favoring the whites and rose’s due to the season, so any huge red’s placed in front of me weren’t really grabbing me. Seems that this winery was one of the forerunner’s for single vineyard bottlings. 7/10
- Viader – One of my mainstay’s, and I took the opportunity to rejoin the Viader family on this trip. I much prefer mountain grown wine over valley floor grapes. Every tasting at Viader goes a little different, and this time we had the pleasure of a nice stroll through the cave to see the barrels and operation. 9/10
- Chappellet – I first came to know Chappellet via my uncle, who said it was one of his favorites. The founding winery of Pritchard Hill, they keep turning out quality and not charging a ton for it. While I tend to stay with sub-10,000 case/year wineries, I make an exception with these folks. As usual, the tour was great, and it’s nice to have a glass of the rare chenin blanc to start things off with. 8/10
- Ehler’s Estate – Another mainstay for me, and the producer of my “epiphany wine” – the 2005 “1886”. Always a great tasting and the current wines are all tasting well… especially the Sauvignon Blanc and Rose of Cabernet Franc. 10/10
The group of us, at Ehler’s Estate.