Tuesday, January 27, 2015

December 12, 2014 – Wines for a surprise party

A dear friend was having a birthday, and unbeknownst to him, he was having a small party to celebrate it.  My contribution was the wine.  Since I was invited about five hours beforehand, this was the best I could pull together after work (plus a card, or course).  We started off with a half-bottle of 2007 Clos du Val Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and followed with a bottle of 2007 Provenance Vineyards Winemakers Reserve Blend.  Both wines flaunted the vintage characteristics, and both surprised me a little.  The Clos du Val surprised me by finally coming into its pulled-together stage, where good balance, softened edges, and delicious fruit prevail.  (This wine showed much promise when I first tasted it at the winery on release.)  The Provenance surprised me for the development of elegance it was undergoing.  Regrettably, this was my last bottle of the 2007 Provenance blend, but I have newer vintages standing by.  And this is probably the longest that I have aged any screw-cap bottle in my cellar to date (about five years now).  Tom Rinaldi, who was the master winemaker at the time, suggested that a screw cap could easily go about four to six years.  Implicit in his remarks was that he preferred corks for longer aging of red wine.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Saint Clement Vineyards, November 24, 2014


I had two motivations for my prompt return to Napa Valley this week.  First off, I was eager to try out my new SLR on the fall color in Napa Valley before any more weather stripped the foliage from the vines.  Second, I had a pickup at Saint Clement that I had missed by two days during my prior visit.  As I pulled into the valley from the south, I could see that I was nearly too late to capture any decent photographs of the area.  But, the further north I traveled, I soon learned that the weather had been a little more forgiving up this way.  I managed to capture a number of great shots.  (The geek in me took pictures with my point-and-shoot to compare with those from the SLR.)  And, my wine club shipment was ready for pickup as anticipated.  Had I delayed my trip any longer, I might have had to pay shipping so they could get my wine out from underfoot.
Some repurposed wine barrels at the winemaker's studio at Saint Clement Vineyards.

The weather was warm for late November so I opted to try some white wines with my flight.  I started with the new 2013 Bale Lane Sauvignon Blanc (which needs a little time to sweeten and integrate, but shows good promise).  Next I enjoyed the 2012 Abbots Vineyard Chardonnay.  Then it was on to the reds, starting with the 2011 Oroppas, then the 2011 Johanna (a red blend in my pickup), and lastly the 2010 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.  Of these, the Johanna was my favorite, but I picked up a bottle each of the Chardonnay, the Oroppas, and the 2010 Star Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

A full review was written already about Saint Clement Vineyards during my visit on May 12th, 2012.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

January 12, 2015 – Revisiting Fall Color

My most recent trip to Napa Valley was on November 24, 2014, and while I captured some amazing autumn color, it is clear that I missed the peak colors by several days.  The weekend before my visit had seen some heavy rains and strong winds that stripped the wines of some of their beautiful foliage.  Still, what remained shimmered and gleamed in the brilliant afternoon sun.  Here are some of my favorite pictures from my afternoon there.  I hope they help to warm you as the trees and vines now lie naked awaiting Spring’s next dress rehearsal and bud-break.

Along the Silverado Trail just north of the Yountville Cross

The view from the balcony at Miner Family Winery in Oakville

Behind the offices at Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards

The driveway leading to Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards
Conn Valley Road near Howell Mountain Road (looking south-west)

At Charles Krug Winery in Saint Helena

Friday, January 2, 2015

November 18, 2014 – Wine: 2005 Saint Clement Progeny Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Tonight was to be a special dinner, so I wanted an impressive wine to serve.  I had narrowed it down to one of two vintages of the same wine:  Saint Clement Progeny Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (from Mount Veeder).  I had just one bottle of 2002, and a handful of the 2005, but I suspected that the 2005 was not yet ready.  Still, I figured the 2002 had yet to reach its full potential either, so I opted for the more plentiful wine, the 2005 (which I had previewed back in 2008).  My company for dinner was not nearly as patient as I, so we only let the wine decant about 20 minutes before starting to drink it up.  (My initial taste suggested a 90-minute decant would be needed, and nearly two hours later it was about ready.)  At first the wine was off-balance, edgy (fuzzy?), and lemony on the finish, but you could sense the power and complexity lurking beneath the maelstrom.  As the wine mellowed, its true nature emerged.  Indeed powerful, this wine was also balanced, complex, persistent, and delicious with flavors of dark currants, raspberry, dark cherry, dark chocolate, minerals, and black licorice.  It is still robust with tannins and should wait another five years to approach its peak potential.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Elizabeth Spencer – October 20, 2014


We ended our trip to Napa Valley at Elizabeth Spencer’s tasting room in Rutherford.  I wanted to finish our trip relaxing in the late afternoon sun on the patio there enjoying their lovely reds.  And, since Elizabeth Spencer makes a broad selection of whites, my travel companions were quite pleased too.  The patio is very relaxing in comfortable weather such as we were enjoying, and it was just warm enough for my guests to enjoy their white wines, yet cool enough for my reds.  This turned out to be a lovely way to wrap up our winery visits.
The bottle I bought is near the upper left on the racks at Elizabeth Spencer.

I began my flight with a taste of the GPS blend, which is a (secret) mixture of red grapes grown along the northern California coast.  Next I tried the 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which I have thoroughly enjoyed every time I have tasted it.  I followed that with the 2010 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2010 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon, which was my favorite of this flight.  (During my last visit, the Rutherford Cabernet was my favorite.)  I decided that I enjoyed the Rutherford Cabernet enough to warrant bringing home a bottle for a special occasion sometime in the next five to ten years.

A full review was written already about Elizabeth Spencer Wines during my visit on November 2nd, 2012.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

October 24, 2014 – Wine: 2005 Bell Cellars Talianna Red Wine

This wine is an unusual blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Syrah (rather than your typical Bordeaux-style blend).  It also happens to be the flagship red blend of Bell Cellars.  I first discovered the 2002 vintage of this wine shortly after joining the Bell Cellars wine club during a tasting visit at the winery.  This wine stood out for its remarkable depth, balance, and flavor.  I bought a bottle of the 2002, and later a bottle of the 2004 after tasting each.  When the 2005 was released, I bought a bottle of it too (without tasting it first) and held onto it until tonight.  This wine seems to enter a special drinking window that starts about eight to ten years after harvest.  Tonight, I decided it was time to open this bottle of 2005, and even though it was one of my more expensive bottles, I felt it was time to give up on waiting for a reason to pull the cork.  The wine offers a fantastic nose, a nearly rich palette, wonderful depth and balance, and terrific complexity, weaving red fruits will all kinds of other sensations.  This bottle is one of my top ten favorite Cabernets from the 2005 vintage.
2005 Bell Cellars Talianna blend

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Provenance Vineyards – October 20, 2014


I like to take people to Provenance Vineyards to show off the quality of their wines.  Folks who enjoy white wines often take a liking to one of the three Sauvignon Blanc wines they make there.  And for those that enjoy red wines, there is a good variety, including some outstanding Merlots.  Lately I have found myself encouraging people to try the 2010 Three Palms Merlot because I was so impressed by it.  More often than not, the folks I encourage end up taking a liking to this wine too.  I also stopped by to pick up my September wine club shipment.  But after learning what was being shipped, I opted to replace my shipment (too many Malbecs) with other wines, which required that I contact the wine-club representative (who had already left for the day because of illness).  I guess I’ll just have to come back again to get my wines.
The completed tasting patio at Provenance Vineyards

I worked my way through the new releases of some of my favorite Cabernets that Provenance offers.  I started with the 2010 Three Palms Cabernet Sauvignon, which is still young and a little reserved (but showing promise).  I next tasted one of my favorites, the 2010 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Select, followed by the 2010 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon To Kalon 2 (aka TK2), and the 2012 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.  Of these, the TK2 Cabernet was my favorite, but the Barrel Select Cabernet is the best value.

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