Monday, September 1, 2014

Napa Valley day-trip suggestions

I just added to my assortment of one-day excursions to Napa Valley wineries.  Each features a selection of four wineries.  The wineries selected are all related, either by geography or by feature or fame.  My most recent post features four wineries all located in the Saint Helena district of Napa Valley.

You can find the Saint Helena page here:

Friday, August 29, 2014

July 17, 2014 – Wine: 2005 Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

Wines evolve and go through good phases and locked-down phases.  When this wine was young, it featured the best attributes of the 2005 vintage:  tasty red fruits, plush tannins, and great balance.  I would even recommend it to friends and family looking for a Cabernet in this wine’s price-range.  So, I clung to a few half-bottles and forgot to open them.  Tonight I opened the first of two remaining bottles and was disappointed by how I seemed to have missed the boat.  Sure, many of my other 2005 Cabernets are starting to fade, but they still possess some of their original wow! factor that had attracted me to the wines.  But this wine has evolved beyond that point to where it is simply a nice wine with nothing remarkable about it.  I did decant for an hour before drinking, which should have helped (perhaps it needed more air time).  On the very even palette I noticed red and black fruits backed by minerals, all tightly woven so that no one flavor stood out.  The balance was great, but that’s about it.  I wonder how the last bottle will evolve.
2005 Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August 26, 2014 – Earthquake Aftermath Math

After a 6.0+ earthquake shook the greater Napa Valley early Sunday, the city of Napa was not ready to accommodate visitors.  The power was knocked out, some water mains had broken, and each aftershock threatened to knock loose more masonry work from the many brick buildings.  Not that Napa has recovered 100% from the quake, but it has done much of the cleanup and closed off the dangerous parts around the heavily damaged buildings.  To that end, the small businesses that depend on the tourist trade for their survival are in need of you to return.  If you were planning a trip to Napa Valley to visit any of the wineries, you should continue with your plans.  Call ahead to confirm each winery’s state of business, but few wineries in the areas from Yountville and northward were impacted beyond having to clean up broken stemware and the occasional lost bottle of wine in the tasting room.  Wineries in the Stag’s Leap, Oak Knoll, and eastern Carneros districts were more severely impacted, so be sure to call in advance of any visits to those areas.  Also, expect some traffic delays heading south on Highway 29 leaving the city of Napa for the next few days as bridge repairs are conducted.  Otherwise, enjoy this spectacular summer weather in Napa Valley.
Napa Valley wine regions impacted by the earthquake

Sunday, August 24, 2014

August 24, 2014 – Earthquake Aftermath

After a 6.0+ earthquake shook the greater Napa Valley early today, the city of Napa is overwhelmed by rescue and recovery efforts.  If you are not already in Napa, you should probably plan to avoid the area for the next two or three days.  Likewise, the eastern half of the Carneros area is closest to the epicenter and should be avoided.  If you are staying North of the City of Napa and looking to go wine tasting, consider a visit in the areas between Yountville and Calistoga, where most of the valley’s wineries are located.  You should call ahead before visiting any winery or tasting room to learn whether the operation is open today.

If you are not already in the Napa Valley and were hoping to go wine tasting, select one of the many surrounding areas instead for the next couple of days.  To the west of Napa Valley, you will find the Sonoma Valley which features a number of tasting rooms.  Just to the north of Santa Rosa you’ll find the Russian River and Alexander Valley wine regions which host many dozens of tasting rooms.  To the south, you’ll find the Livermore Valley in the East Bay, and the Santa Cruz Mountains in the South Bay.  As with every disaster, if you do not need to be in the area, you can be most helpful by staying away while rescue and recovery efforts are underway.  (Of course, if you have business in the area, call ahead to confirm plans or make new arrangements.)

Listen to KCBS radio (106.9 FM or 740 AM) for more earthquake information.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Provenance Vineyards, July 15, 2014

Between my wine club pick-up and a case of Carneros Merlot that I acquired on sale, I had quite a bit of wine to take home from Provenance, so I ended my travels here.  A great number of changes are underway outside the Provenance winery building, with the construction of a new patio area for folks to pass the time in the spectacular weather that often besets Napa Valley.  For now, the main lawn is gone, and half of the parking lot is closed off for the construction work.  A few architectural drawings in the tasting room reveal different plans for the patio area, but they all boil down to a number of sitting areas with some lush greenery in-between them.  There was also mention of repainting the exterior as part of the project.  I am looking forward to the new patio, and I hope they keep the exterior color as is.  This color makes it one of the easiest landmarks to point out to visitors looking for a great place to stop and taste.

Some of the Sauvignon Blanc grapes growing at Provenance Vineyards
For my tasting, I decided to revisit some old favorites.  I started with the 2010 Barrel Select Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon.  Then I tried the 2009 To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2009 Hewitt Cabernet Sauvignon (which had been open for a day), and ended with the 2011 Sleeping Lady Cabernet Sauvignon.  Of these, the To Kalon Cabernet is shining beautifully and remains my favorite wine at the tasting bar.  I will miss it once it drops off the tasting menu.

A full review was written already about Provenance Vineyards during my visit on February 8th, 2012.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

July 12, 2014 – Wine: 2003 Saint Clement Oroppas

Whether you buy just two bottles or a few cases of any wine, you will eventually be faced with opening the last bottle.  When it is a wine that lacks inspiration, it’s almost a relief to open the last bottle.  But, when a wine brings as much pleasure as this one has, it’s always with mixed emotions that you open the last bottle.  You know you are in for a great evening of wine enjoyment, but you also know that you won’t ever enjoy this wine (from this vintage) again (unless you polished off a case within the first six months of its release).  Back in 2008 the winery cleared out the last few cases of half-bottles of 2003 Oroppas at 50% off, so I got a case each of 2002 and 2003 for myself.  During the first three years, the 2002 was my favorite of the two vintages, but today, the 2003 has outshined the best that the 2002 had accomplished.  Tonight, this wine was elegant, nearly rich in the mid-palette, wonderfully balanced, and truly tasty with flavors of red cherry, cranberry, pomegranate, ripe tomatoes, black pepper, and minerals.  After such a wonderful wine, I am now sad that I won’t get to enjoy it again, at least not from a half-bottle.  (I have a magnum in the basement, but that will taste very differently when I finally open it.)


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Corison Winery, July 15, 2014

It was time again to pick up my wine club shipment at Corison winery.  This time my pickup consisted of two bottles of the 2010 Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.  While I was looking forward to tasting this wine, I would leave disappointed because they did not have enough bottles left to pour in the tasting room.  I guess I will simply have to be surprised by this wine.  Walking down the driveway to the Corison Winery building it was obvious that some major renovation work was underway on the old farmhouse there.  I asked one of the workers who shared with me that the plan is to turn this into a new guest house.  My first thought was that they would move the tasting operations out of the cellar and into the new house, but that will not be the case.  I still get to taste among the barrels at Corison.
The Corison farm house under renovation

Because I behaved myself at the prior stop, I was able to enjoy more of the wines being poured at Corison.  I had not tasted the Helios Cabernet Franc since the delicious 2007 vintage, so I started off with a taste of the 2010 vintage.  Next, they had several back vintages of the Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon open, so I was able to try each of the 2001, 2004, and 2005 vintages, along with the 2010.  Lastly, they poured the 2008 Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, which is developing both elegance and richness.  Of these wines, my favorite was the 2001 vintage (and usually is), followed closely by the 2004 and 2005.  I should probably open one of the 2005’s I’m holding onto in my cellar.  Needless to say, my disappointment from not trying the 2010 Kronos faded quickly.

A full review was written already about Corison Winery during my visit on April 6th, 2012.