Thursday, November 5, 2009

Report from ... Taste Napa Valley – October 26, 2009

The Napa Valley vintners came to town on the afternoon of the 26th, 43 producers pouring many Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnays – the grapes that made Napa famous. I, for one, wanted to try something different than the usual; I guess I was in an ABC mood (Anything But Chardonnay / Cabernet), so I went on a one man crusade to locate anything other than ‘the usual’ … here’s what I found:

Clos du Val 2007 Zinfandel ($21.95) – sweet plum, floral notes with a great raspberry-plum finish … pretty hearty alcohol here, 14.5%. (****)

Cuvaison 2007 Pinot Noir, Los Carneros – pretty cherry nose leads to a very cherry palate with hints of graphite and pencil shavings. (****)

Frias Family Vineyard 2006 Syrah, Oak Knoll District – only 150 cases of this winner are made every year, so calling it a limited supply wine is a bit of an understatement: there’s nice spice and pepper wrapped in a blanket of red fruit. (****½)

John Anthony 2006 Syrah – a very pretty nose full of rhubarb, white pepper and cherry; the palate is silky smooth with violet notes, bright cherry fruit and a touch of white pepper. I also learned there’s 5% Viognier in here, not surprising especially with those floral notes layered in. (****½)

Laird Family Estate 2007 Jillian’s Blend – the blend in question here is 60% Cabernet, 30% Syrah and 10% Merlot; the taste is chocolate, pepper and black fruit while the finish is very black peppery. (****)

Pahlmeyer 2006 Merlot – creamy smooth with blackberries and chocolate; hey, it’s Merlot. (****)

Peju 2008 Sauvignon Blanc – a triple harvested wine done so to obtain different characteristics the winery likes to see in its Sauv Blanc. First pass is for the grassy character, while later harvests are for getting the tropical nuances into the wine, and yes they succeed: melon, tropical and good acidity lead the way with this one … there’s a little barrel aging to add further complexity, but it’s only 7% of the wine, the rest is done through lees contact. (****)

Peju 2005 Syrah, Persephone Vineyard ($46.95) – smoky, red berry and vanilla; nice acidity, white pepper and red berry notes on the palate. (****)

Shafer Vineyards 2006 Relentless Syrah – this one seems to have an abundance of delicious chocolate and pepper on the palate; and it has a pretty relentless finish that grabs the tongue and holds on for dear life. (****½)

Blackbird Vineyards 2006 Contarian – named so because the winery is set up as a Right Bank Bordeaux-style producer (Merlot dominant), but this one leads with 38% Cabernet Franc, 34% Merlot and 28% Cabernet Sauvingon; the wine is nicely cherried with good tannic grip in the mouth and a really long pleasant finish. (****½)

The 5 Star Wines …
As much as I tried I could not stop these two wines from stealing the show as the most memorable, and they are exactly what you think they are:

Pine Ridge Vineyard 2007 Dijon Clones Chardonnay – lovely buttery caramel note on the nose, follows through on the palate with caramel apple; this wine didn’t go through the softening process called malolactic fermentation (changing “harsh” malic acid in “softer” lactic acid) so it keeps lively acidity on the palate with great balance. (****)

Silverado Vineyards 2005 Solo Cabernet Sauvignon – made from the youngest of three Cabernet heritage clones* of California, as classified by UC Davis (UCD 30 Silverado Heritage Clone). This is a nice smooth Cab loaded with good fruit, nice mineral content, tannin grip and a lingering finish; none of my sips found their way into the spit bucket, it was just that good. (*****)

*other heritage clones are found at Mondavi and Rubicon vineyards.

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