Friday, June 15, 2012

Napa and Sonoma Trip

My trip to Napa Valley and Sonoma
There are 200+ different soil types in Napa Valley which is why the wines are so varied in both style and varietal.
Typically 300 bottles will come from 1 barrel.

Numbers varied from winery to winery but there is somewhere between 600-900+ wineries in Napa Valley and yet it is only 4% of California’s total wine production. Oakville has the strictest laws in Napa, but there is no chapatalization (addition of sugar to the wine) throughout California. Although the wines at Raumbauer will make you think there has been sugar added.

Day 1 - 10am 
Cuvaison: 180 acres of Chardonnay, produces 40,000-50,000 bottles a year, it spends 11 months
in oak of which 20% is new oak. They have been using an Optimal Sorter only 10 made
in the world. This revolutionary new technology made in Switzerland uses laser scans to choose the best grapes, the ones with the best density of juice, ect. Will be using for the 2010 vintage onwards. This was by far my favourite tasting experience and the one I would recommend everyone take the time to stop by and enjoy. They have a beautiful deck from which you can sit, sip and enjoy the beautiful rolling hills Napa is famous for.
Tasting notes
2010 Chardonnay Carneros- Colour: Pale yellow with a greenish tint
Nose: nutmeg, bright nectarine, hint of creaminess
Palate: apricot, lime, mineral
2010 S Block Chardonnay- Coulour: bit darker but still has the greenish tint
Nose: nuttier with a crème brulee
Palate: lemons, cream, bright ocean minerality.
2009 Pinot Noir Carneros – 57 acres planted, and spends 15 months in oak.
Colour: light pinky red
Nose: Raspberry and strawberry
Palate: Fresh strawberries, chalk, sour cherries
2010 Block #5 Pinot Noir – Colour: light ruby red pink
Nose: Cranberry, red currants
Palate: smoky, raspberry, spicy, currants.
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder – 91 pts. Colour: Purple ruby red
Nose: black cherry, blackberry
Palate: chocolate, coffee, black fruits
2009 Brandlin Cabernet Sauvignon – 2000 cases made 92 pts. Colour: Ruby red
Nose: Cassis, black cherry
Palate: Chocolate, pepper, black fruits
Day 1 - Noon
Silver Oak: 25 months in 100% new oak. First winery in Napa Valley to make a single varietal wine (Cabernet Sauvignon) and that is it. Were greatly ridiculed by the wine making community at the time but have proven themselves more than successful.  Tasting room in Napa was ravaged by a fire in 2002, but they rebuilt better than ever. Beautiful grounds and tasting room to walk among. They produce 2 types of Cabernet Sauvignon; 1 from Napa Valley (the more expensive one) and 1 from Alexander Valley in Sonoma. They have also expanded into a new label Twomey that produces varietals like Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Tasting Notes
2007 Alexander Valley – Colour: dark rich purple
Nose: dill and black fruits
Palate: black fruits, cherries, vanilla, dill. Rough tannins.
2000 Alexander Valley – Colour: dark purple
Nose: leather and black fruits
Palate: barnyard, black fruits, softer tannins.

Day 1 - 3pm
Frank Family –Former Disney Executive, had a hand in big movies like Pretty Women, Lion King, Aladin and t.v. shows like Cheers, Taxi and the Golden Girls.
Tasting room is filled with pictures of Rich Frank with famous people like Oprah. They make every type of wine from a Blancs de Blancs Sparkling wine, a Sangiovese, to a decadent dessert Port. This is a huge tourist draw so be prepared to share your tasting with a lot of other people and  truthfully it felt very hectic and not very relaxing at all.

Tasting Notes
2008 Blanc de Blancs- Spends 30 months sur lit Nose: almond
Palate: Apple
2009 Chardonnay & Pinot Noir- Nose biscuit
Palate: Hazelnut, lemon, bread.
2010 Carneros Reserve Chardonnay- Nose: Butter, cream
Palate: apricot, caramel, vanilla, roasted pecans
*Spends 16 months in toasted oak.
2010 Carneros Reserve- Nose: Black currant cranberry
Palate: cranberry, sour cherries, black currants
2009 Napa Zinfandel- Nose: mild bouquet
Palate: chocolate, jammy, black fruits.
2008 Rutherford Reserve Sangiovese- Nose: Sour cherry, gamey
Palate: dry sour cherries.
2008 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon- Nose: black cherry, chocolate
Palate: leather, chocolate, coffee, black berry jam
*decanted it becomes very soft
2008 Winston Hill Rutherford- Nose: capsicum, barnyard, black fruits
Palate: Intense black everything, red pepper, dill.
2009 Petit Syrah – Nose: Violet, blackcherry
Palate: Floral Herbal, black cherries.

Day 2 - 10am

Chateau Montelena-3 soil types (1) Alluvial (2) Sedimentary (3) Volcanic. No malolactic
fermentation. Famous for being the winner of the Paris tastings 1976 and 2006,  and it is the setting for the movie “Bottle Shock”. Had a slight disagreement with our guide here when she kept trying to tell me that Chateau Montelena Chardonnay's were of a Bordeaux style. I said 'Surely you mean Burgundy, as it is the home of Chardonnay in France not Bordeaux'. But she kept to her guns so rather than embarrass her I let it slide. But trust me their Chardonnay is made in a Burgundy style, Chablis to be more exact. Which means more minerally less buttery.
Tasting Notes
2010 Sauvignon Blanc- Colour: almost clear
Nose: lime, green apple
Palate: melon, pineapple, spicy, green apple
*Great with Thai and Sushi
2009 Chardonnay- Colour: Straw yellow
Nose: crème brulee, lemon
Palate: lemon, lime
* barely any oak aging.
2009 Zinfandel – Colour: brownish ruby
Nose: violet, black cherry
Palate: blackberry, blueberry, jammy
*Good with BBQ, pizza, pasta
2007 Petite Syrah – Grown at Oakville block
Colour: dark purple
Nose: plum, baked cherries
Palate: velvet, green pepper, plums
2009 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon – drink right away
Colour: dark purple
Nose: black cherry, cranberry
Palate: cassis, eucalyptus, mint, cedar
2008 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – can age up to 35+ years
Colour: bit lighter
Nose: more chocolate, plum, black cherry
Palate, mint, black cherry, bit of chocolate
2004 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon- it was a drier year
Colour: garnet, brown
Nose: leather, plum
Palate: velvet, leather, black berry
2005 Esate Cabernet Sauvignon
Colour:bit darker garnet
Nose: plum, black cherry, blackberry
Palate: stronger tannins, black berry

Day 2 - Noon

Pine Ridge – 4 labels underneath them; (1) Pine Ridge (2) Seghesio (3) Forefront used
only for wholesale (4) Fortis. Winery started originally by Olympic skier Gary Andrus who was inspired by the Bordeaux region. They use gravity fermentation for their Oregon Pinot Noir. They are 1 of only 4 in Napa Valley that use a technique called ‘Oxell’ where the barrels are spun instead of being battonaged.
Next to their tasting room is a demo vineyard that the staff tend to, and that guests can
have a closer look at all the different types of vines. The leaves of a Malbec vine are very big and
have a 3 pronged arm on their leafs, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon has a 5 pronged leaf.
Tasting Notes
2011 Forefront Pinot Gris- Colour: straw yellow
Nose: floral and honeydew
Palate: melons, honeysuckle chamomile, citrus
2011 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier- Colour: almost white
Nose: green grass, pineapple, lime, green apple
Palate: tropical fruits, fresh
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Barrel sample- spends 16 to 20 months in oak.
Colour: purple ruby red
Nose: tomato leaf, tobacco
Palate: tomato, cranberry, tannic, cheesy quality
2008 Pine ridge Merlot- Colour: light red, cranberry
Nose: black cherry, plum
Palate: chocolate, cherries
2009 Forefront Cabernet Sauvignon – Colour : light ruby
Nose: cranberry, sour cherry
Palate: mocha and cassis
2009 Pineridge Cabernet Sauvignon – Colour: ruby
Nose: blackberry, cherries and plum
Palate: plums, chocolate, cassis. Blackcherry pie
* this was my favourite from Pine Ridge
2007 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon Pine ridge – Colour: ruby red going on purple
Nose: vanilla chocolate, black cherry
Palate: velvet, cocoa, chocolate, plum
2008 Pine Ridge Stag’s leap Cab Sav – Nose: Bacon fat
Palate: black fruit
2007 Fortis Cabernet Sauvignon – can age 10 – 15 years
Colour: purple ruby
Nose: plum and leather
Palate: plums, blackcherry, chocolate
2008 Fortis Cab Sav – Colour: purple ruby
Nose: Cherry sauce
Palate: chocolate and plums

Day 2 - 3pm

Tuck Beckstoffer, now this was a bit of mis-communication because we ended up at Tuck's actual office (very stylish) not his tasting room, but Tuck was kind enough to not only open up some bottles right there for us at the office but he even gave us all the bottles of wine he opened to take with us, which we thoroughly enjoyed over the next few evenings. I love these wines!! The names are creative and there is something for every taste. They are fresh, crisp with just the right amount of fruit. The best part they are affordable, and can be every day wines.

Tasting Notes
2011 Hogwash Grenache Rose- Colour: light pink
Nose: rhubarb strawberry
Palate: fresh, lively, red fruits
*1500 cases made
2011 ‘75’ Sauvignon Blanc – 75 is the date the family first moved to the Napa Valley
Colour: light white, greenish tint
Nose: lime, kiwi, grapefruit
Palate: gooseberry very clean beautiful finish
2009 Siempre Pinot Noir – first year this wine was made
Colour: light cranberry colour
Nose: cranberry, sour cherry
Palate: sour cherry, banana, little bit of spice, very elegant
2010 ‘75’ Cabernet Sauvignon- can age 20+ years 100% cab Sav
Colour: dark ruby, chocolate
Nose: bit of an alcohol smell, dark rd fruits
Palate: Leather, chocolate, nutty finish with some bramble in there too.
2008 The Sum 75%Cabernet Sauvignon 15% Petite Syrah
Colour: dark red, purple, rich
Nose: cherry, plum
Palate: bacon fat, black cherry, plum
*Rated 92 pts, but Tuck has said he will never raise the prices of his wine if they get a
good rating he prices them according to what he thinks it is worth and then sticks to it

Day 3 - 10am

Nickel & Nickel
30 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. This is the winery that the guide seemed like he had
drank way too much coffee so I wasn’t able to take as many notes as I wanted
to. But maybe it was just the early hour after spending the previous 2 days drinking wine. They use 100% Cabernet but feel that aging them is not necessary. They get 3 tonnes
per acres and have a very low yield policy. This was one of only 2 wineries out of 11 that provided a little snack of delicious cheeses alongside the wine. (Quintessa was the other)
Tasting Notes
2008 C.C. Ranch Colour: Ruby red, purple
Nose: black cherry, nutmeg
Palate: juicy, jammy, black cherry, velvet tannins, maple syrup came out after 10 minutes
2008 Copper Streak- Colour: softer colour
Nose: bit of Jalepeno, bit more coffee,
Palate: capsicum, black cherry
* both these spent 18 months in French oak ½ new ½ 1 year old
2008 Rock Cairn Vineyard- Nose: red fruits
Palate: red fruits, jalepenos, green pepper
2008 State Ranch – Nose: fruit bomb
Palate: blackberry, cherries, plums

Day 3 - Noon
Duckhorn – Started with Duckhorn famous for their Merlots, you can even see framed dinner menus from White House events in which Duckhorn was the wine of choice. Then they expanded into Decoy a value brand focusing on the same varietals as Duckhorn, then came Paraduxx focusing on Zinfandel, then Goldeneye focusing on Sonoma Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley,
then Migration focusing on Sonoma Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley. They were extremely generous with us letting us try so much wine in their beautiful garden, but sadly we were on a bit of a time constraint and couldn't stay. (Although if I had known how the next tasting was going to go I would have stayed at Duckhorn)

2011 Napa Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc- Colour:light white with a green tint
Nose: Very light slate and mineral scent
Palate: spicy pink grapefruit, pineapple, melons, flint and slate.
2010 Migration Chardonnay Russian River Valley
Colour: light straw yellow
Nose: butterscotch
Palate: spicy, lemon, crème brulee
*70% malolactic fermentation
2009 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir- Colour: light pinky ruby
Nose: cranberry, strawberry, hard cherry candy
Palate: hard cherry candy, red fruits, clove spice
2009 Napa Valley Merlot – Colour: dark ruby
Nose: red licourice
Palate: spicy red candied fruits
2009 ‘3 Palms’ vineyard – Colour: ruby
Nose: cherry, plum
Palate: tobacco, cinnamon, earthy and grassy
2009 Decoy Merlot- Palate: chalk black cherry, under ripe plum
2010 Decoy Cabernet sauvignon – Palate: ripe red fruits like cherry and a bit of tobacco
2009 Duckhorn – Palate: more bacon fat leather, and tobacco
2009 Paraduxx C Blend – Palate : maple, black cherry, butterscotch, black fruits
2008 Duckhorn ‘the discussion’ Merlot/Cab. Franc/Zinfandel blend only the 3rd vintage
Palate: black fruits, tobacco
Will age 15+ years

Day 3 - 3pm
Raumbauer- Same family as ‘Joy of Cooking’ author. Has the nickname of 'crack for
cougars'. This tasting room sitting high atop a a beautiful hill with some exquisite gardens surrounding it is a great place to walk around, but that is it. Do not expect any kind of special attention or even a passion about the wine, they pour let you taste and that is it. Plus what you are tasting is incredibly sweet, if that is what you like, by all means enjoy. I would have liked something more from the guide there though instead a simple here is your wine. Some wines have become so popular they don't even try anymore that is the sense I got from this tasting room.

2007 Diamond Select Cabernet Sauvignon- Nose: olive, blackberry
Palate: spicy, strong tannins, mocha, blueberry, blackberry. Very rich
2010 Carneros Chardonnay- Nose: butter, lots of it, cream
Palate: butter cream, bit of almonds, biscuit, melons
2010 Zinfandel- Nose: jammy black fruits
Palate: blackpepper, spicy black fruits, chocolate, velvet tannins
2009 Napa Valley Zinfandel- Nose: vanilla, black plums, raspberry
Palate: brown sugar, jammy fruits
2009 Fiddletown Zinfandel – 100 year old vines
Nose: violets, black fruits
Palate: nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar
* more of a dessert wine
Ruby Port – Palate: raisin, figs, very mellow

Day 4 - 10am
Quintessa – They use stainless steel and cement to ferment. First vintage was in 1994.
The Huneis family owns it Augustin and Valeria, same people as Concha y Toro. Family
the land belonged to before them made a contract with them saying ½ needs to be kept
as forest land can’t all be vineyards. So 170 acres are planted with vines the other 100 is
left unplanted they have 15 owl homes. It is also a biodynamic farm. They have rituals
to ask the gods for good weather. Fava beans, sweet peas, and other legumes are planted
throughout the vines to help the nitrogen flow. They drop 50% of their fruits to insure the
best quality. Terroir is very important to them. They use a Meritige blend (not meritage,
refuse to use the French pronunciation) and use Carmenere instead of Malbec as their
Bordeaux blend. They must use only 2 out of the 5 varietals allowed, but there has never
been a year without Cabernet sauvignon. Every vintage is different. They use gravity
fermentation, and also have a optic sorter. The winery itself was carved into the land.
There are 15000 feet of caves. Fruit to glass takes 3 years 2 in new French oak, and 1 in the bottle. If you prefer more than just a Meritage you can try one of their other 6 labels. Illumination makes a zesty Sauvignon Blanc, Saldo The Prisoner an inventive Zinfandel blend, Flowers the classic Chardonnay and Pinot Noir we all love, Neyen and Veramonte for something outside the USA comes from Chile and both produce a wide range of varietals, but if you love Cabernet and just Cabernet look no further than Faust.
Tasting Notes
2010 Illumination Sauvignon Blanc- Colour: bright yellow
Nose: Pineapple, melon, honeydew, gooseberries
Palate: very smooth green apples
*60% from Napa Valley 40% from Sonoma
2009 – Colour: Dark ruby purple
Nose: black cherry plums, sweat and leather
Palate: bit astringent, coffee, sweat, leather, chocolate, fruit is mild
2008- Colour: purple, ruby
Nose: nutmeg, cinnamon, black cherry
Palate: bit more fruit, but all dark fruit, cassis, finish of leather
2007 – Colour: same as 08
Nose: mocha, and cheese
Palate: violet, sweaty, cheesy, black fruits, leather

Day 4 - 3pm
Peter Michael - Now this was a tour my connections as a Sommelier earned me. It lasted almost 4 hours and was lead by none other then acclaimed winemaker Nicolas Morlet. He took me all the way up to the top of the Knights Valley (some 2000 ft up) in Sonoma that Peter Michael's incredible wines grow upon. They sat with me and did a personal tasting of their entire line plus 2 special wines chosen from the library. They have 620 acres but only 120 acres are planted. Between 520ft- 2000ft above sea level. Family has a 100 x 100 plan to have the winery in the Michael family for 100 years to develop a reputation on the same level as the vineyard specific grand crus of Burgundy. Let me tell you I don't think they are too far off already. They have a great climate, and very rocky soils for good drainage. They spend $2 on each cork to ensure the best quality and can guarantee the wine can be aged without worry over the cork. There are little pockets of marine air that heats the vines. The Cabernet Sauvignon is planted at the bottom, La Carrière is the steepest vineyard. Belle Côte is in a spoon shaped bowl of 15 acres. Ma Belle Fille, a Hudson clone is at the top of the mountain 2000ft above sea level, it is south facing and provides great minerality, and boy do I mean great. Chateau Montelena ain't got nothing on these babies.  Mon Plaisir is comparable to Montrachet. Mon Plairsir and La Carrière have thicker
soil while Belle Côte and Belle Fille have thinner soils. 2006 was the longest growing
season for Esprits. 2009 was the first vintage of Ma Danseuse soucred from the Sonoma
Coast. Each wine is vineyard specific. They never do any finning or filtering because it
increases the wine’s aging time and it’s length. They do whole cluster gentle pressing,
and all the fermentation occurs in 100% French oak barrels, that Nicolas has selected
himself as being the top quality. Nicolas also believes it should never be manipulated, so
no acidification, adds very little sulphur. He says ‘no Quasimoding it’. Solar powered, 3
springs provide the water. You can see the different colours of the soils when you look at
two different sites. 2/3 of their wine goes to their mailing list, therefore if you love wine and have the money to invest in it (because these are priced like the great Crus of Burgundy are) I strongly recommend you get on that list!

Tasting Notes
2009 Mon Plaisir- Colour: straw yellow
Nose: lemon, cream, crushed stone
Palate: honey, spicy, cinnamon
*40% from Alexander Valley 60% from Estate
2009 La Carrière – Colour : straw yellow
Nose: white flowers, flour, stone fruits
Palate: more floral, more mineral, better sculpted.
This is considered the most feminine of the Chardonnays and has the steepest slope
2009 Belle Côte- Colour: bit more yellow
Nose: lychee, rose petals, walnuts
Palate: orange creamsicle, spicy finish
*oldest vines
2009 Belle Fille – Colour: slightly hazy
Nose: baked apple, chamomile, nectarine, herbal
Palate: pastry, intense and powerful
*highest vineyard, considered the Brother to La Carriere
2003 Cuvée Indigene – Colour: dark gold
Nose: brioche, oyster shell, lemon custard, burnt sugar
Palate: marmalade, hazelnut, caramel, crème brulee
2003 Point Rouge: Colour: dark gold
Nose: dried apricot, candied lemon, hazelnuts and almonds
Palate: nugat, cinnamon raisin brioche, white truffle, bit spicy
*My favourite, comparable to Batard Montrachet. Old Wente vines
2010 Ma Danseuse – Colour: light purple
Nose: sandlewood, almond liquor, cranberry, strawberry
Palate: red currant, graphite, black truffles, new leather, raspberry and strawberry
* Fall release, big hot wine, high alcohol
2007 Moulin Rouge – Colour: bit lighter, more purple
Nose: strawberry, kamphur, cedar
Palate: ripe cherries, cranberries, pencil lead, strawberry
*from the Monterey Area
2010 Aprés Midi – Colour: straw yellow, green tint
Nose: tropical fruits
Palate: papaya, guava, pineapple, and lemon oil
2009 Les Pavots – Colour: dark purple
Nose: blueberry, moha, cassis, black cherry
Palate: blueberry, black truffle, plum sauce, blackpepper, black sherry liquor
*very masculine
2009 Esprit des Pavots – Colour: dark purple
Nose: black cherry, red pepper, blueberry
Palate: tobacco, grey pepper, cigar box
*freer style, never jammy

So there you have it, a very detailed account of my trip to Napa Valley. I hope it inspires you to do your own visit, or at the very least, inspires you to crack open a bottle, and Enjoy!