Posts belonging to Category Napa



Champs of Sports ::: Champs of Wine

Dom Moulin Aux Moines

Domaine Moulin Aux Moines

Baseball fever is here. 100 point scales for ratings wines are dumb. Can these claims be related? YES. Baseball is dreary for 162 games then suddenly it is wonderful to watch. Most wines are bad. Until you hit on one that you know will be good but it is, in fact, remarkable. Why slog through the long hot summer when you can tune in to exciting play on the diamond come October? Why slog through plonk upon plonk from TJs or Costco – and they are the best of the worst – when every bottle of wine can be like watching at least a divisional playoff game?

BUT… does the best of every region offer the same quality and excitement? We have answers.

Forget wine’s 100 point scale for “scoring” wines. It is more useful and far more interesting – not to mention more defensible methodologically – to rank regions/varietals.

RIP RnR Animal

RIP RnR Animal

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Cabernet/Pinot/NFL Showdown: Hello September!

Saddle Peak Sorbet served on ice block

Saddle Peak Sorbet served on ice block

Which MINDSET will dominate? Big bold Napa Cabernet, New and Old World Pinot Noir or the NFL season debut? If I hear one more network announcer ask an athlete about his mindset I will slash my wrists with a rusty cork puller from Safeway. While we LOVE college football it seems the nation loves the National Football Greed. If Dotoré did not buy into a season long pool we would have zero reason to track any of it. (more…)

Wine Hunter Deja Vu: New Eyes on the Old Town

fieldmousecityWEBThe Field Mouse came to town, as the story goes, and found a new world. In our LA world our Field Mouse returned to LA for an extended visit and, being the natch’l born wine hunter that he is, went cruising for wine shops. When you are a tBoW wine snob this is how you spend your unscheduled time: hunting for that remote unsuspecting wine shop that will house an unusual label or a rare wine find; where at least we will encounter a knowledgeable owner who knows what he has on his floor and why it is there. In the case of the King [ed. alt Field Mouse name] the hunt these days is for Roussanne. He ain’t picky. Domestic or international will suffice. The best part of the hunt is knowing he stalks the rare and unusual wine. (more…)

Napa 2013: Land ‘O Cab Discovers… Pinot Noir??

2000 ft above the Napa floor

2000 ft above the Napa floor

The Napa Valley is where the greatest Cabernet wines in the world are grown and produced. Move over Bordeaux. Lafite, Petrus and Mouton do not command any greater prices than Shrying Eagle or Harlan Estate or a host of ever newer Napa grown ultra-exclusive collectors’ labels. Napa is home to The French Laundromat where a meal for $600 is considered fair market among the 1%ers that populate the valley. Napa has all the excess to match the best that Bordeaux and Michelin have. Robert Mondavi, godblesshim, realized his dream with a vengeance.

Imagine our surprise when we learned that a new wave of non-Cabernet wines has swept through quite a few of the valley’s better know and longer established wineries. We realize that the legacy grapes, i.e., Charbono, Petite Sirah, Zinafandel, planted by the original international farmers have always had a warm spot somewhere in the back of the cellars. And Carneros still grows and produces pretty darn good Pinot Noir. But who knew that Viognier, Sangiovese and Chardonnay were back in the Valley. Or even moreso, that Pinot Noir and Alsatian style white wines are being sourced from the cooler Anderson Valley to the north? Oh yeah. And these wines are very good.

FionaHalCROPWEBLet’s begin with Barnett Vineyards. You will not find a nicer couple atop Spring Mountain than Fiona and Hal Barnett. And you will not find a more spectacular view from their “tasting patio.” They selected their vineyard home in the 1980s, cleared rocks the size of small tractors, and planted Cab and Merlot. The first vintage of Rattlesnake Hill [ed. they encountered 33 rattlers clearing the land] was awarded 96 points by Parker and their maillist filled up. Maybe they got bored with Cab blends. Maybe they figured it was a good winery idea to offer Pinot Noir. I think Fiona and Hal like Pinot Noir. Sometime in the 1990s they started sourcing juice from Donnelly Creek and  Savoy Vineyards in the Anderson Valley and Tina Marie Vineyard in Green Valley. They make between 6,000 and 8,000 cases a year. David Tate is the winemaker.

2011 Barnett Vineyards Tina Marie Vineyard Green Valley Pinot Noir $45: Technically this is Russian River Valley although it is at the northernmost end. Lots of cherry fruit, definitely New World style. But fruit is not so ripe. Sweetness like baked yams. Best of all is the alcohol level is 13.2%.

tasting "patio"

tasting “patio”

2011 Barnett Vineyards Anderson Valley Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir $45: More lean, brighter acid, charcoal toughness. Great style for Pinot. 13.5%

Pride Mountain Vineyards is 500 feet further up the road form Barnett. No winding single-lane driveway here as the winery straddles the main drag on the Sonoma/Napa County line. Pride Cabernets are highly collectible. The place is less haimish than Barnett. They also have a strong maillist. Barnett and Pride are highly “collectible” earning mid-90 scores from whoever awards these vintage after vintage [ed. in the trophy wine world today’s 90 is yesterday’s 87]. And on that score they are downright cheap at $60 and up. However, we found a white wine to be the most seductive.

2011 Pride Mountain Vineyard Mistrelle de Viognier $42: Served chilled. Bright yellow color with a slight spritz. Quince flavors from free-run Viognier juice. The wine is sweet and refreshing given the solid acid spine. But it is NOT late harvest. What a delight. This could give any summer Moscato a run except you could buy 4 bottles of Moscato for the price! I think it may only be available at the winery. You need a collectible mentality to seek this out… and pay for it! 14.1%

anne_grapesWEBAnne Moller-Racke [ed. pronounced ahna molar rake] is the winemaker for three labels: Donum Cellars, Stemmler Vineyards and her own Blue Farm label. Driving out to the Donum estate is a bit like driving through that Wyeth painting Christina’s World. Rolling hills of grass and vineyards. We passed a guy outside his car who was watching a very large snake on the roadside. Wish I had  stopped and taken a picture! It was all forgotten as Anne told us about herself and poured tastes from five bottles of Donum Gold Label Pinot Noir [ed. black label less costly and presumably for earlier drinking]. She is a farmer who manages the vineyards for several clients including those mentioned. She grows and cooks her own produce and raises cheep. Vigneron, farmer, gardener, cook. Think Renaissance Woman.

These Donum wines were highly extracted and very intense. They were all light to middle weight and dark red. The last domestic Pinot Noir wines I can recall like these were the East and West Block vineyards from Rochioli. I was a bit embarrassed when she finally asked me after I commented once again “so intense” whether I liked the wines.  I told her if I had these wines I would not touch them for 5 years. They all tasted like Pinot Noir which is not the case for similarly structured Central Coast Pinot Noir wines which almost uniformly taste like Syrah [ed, Jim Clendenen’s Pinot Noir wines being the exception]. Donum Estate produces about 2500 cases a year. Usually sold out by now.
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2010 Donum Estate Carneros Pinot Noir ~$70: Earthy, spicy character. Dark chocolate color and flavors. Blockbuster. 14.5%

2010 Donum Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ~$72: Intense flavors, dark color. Needs aging. Reminds me of Bergstrom from Ribbon Ridge in the Willamette Valley. If the Carneros is dark choco with the softer fruit this is milk chocolate. 14.5%

2010 Donum Estate Carneros East Slope ~$80: Extracted. I have never tasted a Pinot Noir this s-e-r-i-o-u-s from Carneros. The antithesis of Sainstbury. If McKenzie-Mueller is rustic this is regal. Both need time to mature. Bob Mueller’s Pinot Noirs always pay off after 8 to 10 years. I am certain these will as well. 14.5%

2010 Donum Estate Carneros West Slope Pinot Noir ~$85: The MOST intense and extracted wine yet. Dark, brooding. Rhubarb and red beet flavors. She says they dropped a lot of fruit for this batch. My fave. 14.5%

2010 Donum Estate 10th Anniversary Pinot Noir ~$90: A blend of the best three barrels from the vintage. Anise on the nose and in the mouth.  Maple syrup and pancakes. Yummy good. The most approachable wine form the top fruit. Two barrels came from West Block parcels. 14.5%

Napa is where you can count on finding great wines and Big Reds. It is also still a wine region where things are still changing. Kirk Venge told us there is a “changing  of the guard” taking place in Napa. We visited Charles Krug and you do not get more old-school-stuck-in-their-ways than that. However, the brothers Mark and Peter Jr. have assumed the reins and have made several big moves including building a new storage facility/tasting center. Most importantly, they hired Stacy Clark away from Pine Ridge Vineyards. She had been there for 30 years.

Napa felt more settled this visit. Do not go to Napa for value. Go for the unexpected. Now there’s a change.

in memoriam: tBoW webmeister Al Stone has moved on to a better place. I came across a cartoon he sent me once with the recommendation to use it at an appropriate time. No time like now.

physician-bloggersWEB

Napa Trip and Golf Wines

if I drank Cab it would be Regusci

I never drink Cab but if I did it would be Regusci…stay thirsty

It may surprise the reader that Napa and golf attract similar wine hounds. Napa is the Land O’ Cab and many goffers we know do love a big rich Cabernet or Cab blend. tBoW was on assignment for Elegant Living magazine in Napa a few weeks ago; a trip followed by another plunge into hedonistic darkness a couple weeks later in a four day country club tournament. Next stop: the sanitarium.

The Napa trip included a spectacular site on top of Spring Mountain [ed. that would be Barnett Vineyards], a super collectible site also on top of Spring Mountain [ed. that would Pride Mountain Vineyards], a new hot shot R’n’R winery off Silverado Trail [ed. that would be Cliff Lede, look for the magazine], and an oldest of the old guard wineries that is undergoing a much anticipated transformation [ed. that would be Charles Krug]. There were others however I may save for a future post. In the meantime, should you find yourself in Napa I highly recommend a stop at any of the aforementioned.

The Goff Tournament was another matter. If Napa is decadent then the golf tourney is indulgent to a fault. Three days of official competition and one extra day of a warm up round added up to 81 holes in a row. Two days in matching knickers and plus fours. Add to that about 10 stogies and numerous life-giving Bloody Marys (call out your vodka) and you have a floating 12 Step program waiting to happen. It might have ended somewhat poorly if my partner and I had not backed into the Champions Derby by the logo on our balls only to lose by a quarter inch in a chip off. All this goff talk may only make sense to the goffers among tBoW readers.

Stacy Clark

Krug windfall!

What everyone will understand is that we were handed a bundle of cash for reasons we could not comprehend. And we’re going back next year just for aggravation’s sake!

Here is what we learned in Napa…about white wines! Sorry. You already know about the red wines from these houses and if you don’t you can find them written up by adoring Parker/Suckling wannabes everywhere.

Charles Krug Winery is the oldest in the Napa Valley. Peter and Robert Mondavi had the most famous Napa family spat in the last 100 years out of which Robert became world famous and Peter lived in a house on his 150 year old estate making good old Napa Cab that very few people cared about. NOT ANY MORE! The sons (brothers who get along) are building a monster new storage facility with a giant window in the adjacent tasting room where we normals can sip the new Krug blends made by super-winemaker Stacey Clark. While watching the magnificent casks that will probably be stacked 10 high! Stacy Clark was the winemaker at Pine Ridge for 30 years. I think all our readers know that the tBoW tasting team is not wild about Cab blends unless they come from Bolgheri. This does not take anything away from the absolute truth that the best Cabernet is grown in Napa. Stacy Clarke is also a superb winemaker. If this was golf someone would say “nice rescue.” While at Pine Ridge she oversaw their fantastic white wine blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier. Krug-2011SBWEBAt $14 it was and is a steal. We tasted her first wine for Krug and it shows the same style and pedigree as the super U20 Pine Ridge white.

2012 Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc $14: Wine made form estate fruit. Floral nose with pears and bright flavors. Super acid spine and tones of pear fruit. The non-alcohol version would be a terrific breakfast drink! The 2011 is still on the shelves at Total Yawn but they are supposed to call me soon as the 2012 arrives. Buy it. 13%

Pride_ViognierCROPWEBPride Mountain Vineyard Mistelle de Viognier $40: Pride probably makes THE BEST VALUE collectible wines in Napa. People just love these red mountain wines. tBoW is not qualified to judge them. However, this white beauty is impressive. It has so much fruit and acid it came off like a dessert wine. But it ain’t. It is a just another crazy ripe mountain white. They make it as free run juice meaning there is no time on the less to get color or tannins. It is not late harvest but you may be fooled into thinking it is. Yummy. 14.1%

Mamie and Monica werkinit!

Mamie and Monica werkinit!

2011 Regusci Mary’s Cuvee Carneros Chardonnay $36 (at the winery not available anywhere else): This is one of our must stop wineries in Napa. The place which is a so-called ghost winery is too cool with all the rock and the 19th century legend over the arch. Te ladies behind the long tasting bar are usually tons o’ fun [ed. Monica and Mamie to the right]. Unlike many counterparts or neighbors Regusci does not make many labels. They make a big Napa Cab of course. Notes say “if I drank Cab it would be Regusci.” They also farm properties for many other labels. Check the website. We did not see this wine coming. Mamie or Monica said “white burgundy” and we thought “sure it is. Every Chard in Napa has Burgundian character.” But this has no malolactic fermentation and spends 5 years in neutral oak. It is Burgundian. Bought it. Now if only they used a different shipper I would be tasting it this Saturday. Only 252 cases. 14.2%

Isosceles08WEB2008 Justin Isosceles Reserve $250: Here is the red wine provided by The Ranch Bishop as our team shot its way into the finals while three-putting and hitting balls OB. We have always recognized Justin makes the ebst Cabernet blend in Paso Robles. In fact, we have openly wondered how they tricked it up to remove the green bell pepper character often found in Paso Cabs. We still don’t know their secret. We do know this wine is delicious. Poured into a plastic cup on a fairway one can still pick up the lovely seductive nose waiting to hit. Balance is perfect, Tannins not in the forefront at 5 years. Whatever tobacco pollution might have overwhelmed a lesser red was handily seduced by this wine. 14.3%

The Napa settings were stupendously spectacular. Justin is in the NW corner of what we consider the loveliest wine country in California. Have a great Memorial Day holiday drinking whatever wine you like.

Carl played by Bill Murray comes up with a good idea about course maintenance.