Friday, May 17, 2013

Larkmead, March 25, 2013

Winery - 8 / Wines - 7
Range:  1 to 9 (9 is best, 5 is average)
Relaxing, elegant tasting room and patio.  Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernets, reservations required.

My friend who runs a wine shop in San Francisco accompanied me on this trip to Napa Valley, so I split the burden of selecting the day’s wineries with him.  I had pick-ups at two wineries, so my friend selected the other two places to visit.  When he mentioned an interest in visiting Larkmead, I was glad because I had wanted to visit there in the past but had never found an opportunity to go.  Larkmead not only bottles their own wine, but they sell some of their grapes to other wineries.  Ramey Wine Cellars (in Healdsburg) produced a Cabernet Sauvignon wine using grapes from the Larkmead estate vineyards through the 2006 vintage.  (I have a bottle of the 2004 vintage in my cellar.)  Needless to say, it will be interesting to compare the winemaking styles of Ramey and Larkmead using grapes from the same vineyards.

The impeccable operations and tasting facilities at Larkmead Vineyards
Right about at the point where the grape vines cross over from St. Helena into Calistoga you’ll find Larkmead Lane, off of which is Larkmead Vineyards.  The winery operations are at the end of a long driveway.  The main winery building features a large wooden door in a natural finish, which stands out against the mostly white winery building.  Off to the left lies the tasting room and offices which resemble a well-made farm house from the past.  Inside, natural light floods the room from large windows along the north-facing wall of the tasting room.  A counter is set up for tasting so that visitors look out this window while they enjoy their flight of wines.  Off to the left is an enclosed patio also set up for wine tasting.  And for warmer weather, I recommend tasting on the covered front patio under the roof that extends out several feet to provide a wonderfully shaded area furnished with a comfortable couch.  They strive for an intimate tasting experience, which explains the numerous tasting configurations.

The tasting bar at Larkmead Vineyards

Because the temperature was hovering around 70F degrees that day, our first pour of the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc was poured on the porch and taken into the vineyards across the street where the grapes for the wine grow.  For the remaining wines in our flight, we returned to the porch setting.  On the porch, we were poured the remaining red wines, including the 2010 Red Blend (featuring a red label), the 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  My favorite was the 2009 for its depth and fruit development.  The 2009 was sold out, so I opted to bring home the 2010 Cabernet.

Based on this experience, I would rate the winery as a 8 and the wines offered as a 7.

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