May 23-28, 2012
During our recent trip to Napa Valley (and one day in Sonoma), we met with some of the best producers of fine wine in Sonoma and the Napa Valley. We met with some old favorites and discovered some new favorites that we can’t wait to tell you all about. Whether new or old, these are relationships we plan to maintain and cultivate. These are fantastic producers, winemakers and proprietors that exhibit the passion and zeal I seek out to create a truly phenomenal wine. We had to cut a few appointments and were late to a few more because our appointment times ran longer than expected. 2 hours of wine and conversation is a good sign of a great gathering of like minded wine folk!
The vintages we tasted ranged from 2007 to 2009 for the Cabernet and Bordeaux varietals and mostly 2010 for the Burgundy and Rhone varietals. The most common vintage for the Cabernet wines was 2009. I was surprised at how nicely the 2009 Cabernet based wines were showing. I really do like Cabernet wines from 2009 more than 2008. The wines taste fresher with more acidity, and the tannin structures are riper and friendlier. The finishes in the best wines were long, clean and persistent. There were a few busts, but not many as we chose our tasting appointments wisely. Lastly I will mention we tasted a lot of 2011 Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion white wines. The style of this wine has really changed over the last 10 years as the oak has been drastically reduced, or entirely removed from the raising process, to allow the fruit to shine through and the acidity to freshen and energize the finish.
The bad news is that prices are up as was reported a few weeks ago in a few of the trade reports, but overall the quality is there in many, if not all, of the places we visited with.
I have to confess I had been falling out of love with the wines of California, mainly collecting Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone and Barolo wines the last few years. My collection was 75% California only 3 years ago but today only represents 33%. This trip was exactly what I needed to do to open my eyes wider and beyond some of the stale and passé wines from California that I was hanging on to or abandoned for the Francophile that I had become. It was also nice to refresh myself with a few of my old favorites that have kept up with the change in palates that is going on out there. A few of our new favorites have been at this style for decades and are now finally getting their due. Spottswoode and Philip Togni craft more traditionally styled Cabernet Sauvignon wine that has not changed much over the years. Paul Hobbs, Crocker & Star, Morlet, Melka Wines, Cimarossa, Littorai, L’Angevin and the new upstart “The Vineyardist” have kept up with the times and made fresh wines in 2009 (Cabernets) and 2010 (Pinot Noir) with great depth and structure, with a freshness not seen for most of the past decade.
Keep your eyes peeled, I will try to write as many of these spotlight stories as fast as I can, but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) this is not my day job!
FYI - If you would like a copy of our itinerary to use for your own purposes if you are planning a trip to Napa just let me know as I will email you the excel spreadsheet that is loaded with hyper-links that direct you to the website of the winery or restaurant.