Third year in a row in Napa and while last year's trip seemed impossible to best, I think we just might have done it. Four days of wine tasting with 14 wineries spread out across a Sunday through Wednesday. Unfortunately the note taking was a bit lax for the first and last and so will just have to describe them here. Planning for the trip started back in March/April timing. We stayed at the Westin Verasa Napa which is just such a wonderful location. Appreciate being able to walk to the Oxbow in the morning to get the appropriate stomach coating and the development in Napa proper is an easy 5-8 minutes beyond that. The people at the Westin were beyond friendly really took care of us in our third year in their hotel. Ken Frank's restaurant there - La Toque - is every bit as wonderful as we'd remembered from the year before with some truly fantastic wine pairings that one person in our group even termed 'the best they'd ever had'. We also had some birthdays to celebrate so had made a reservation at the Laundry for the Monday evening. Delicious and it did not disappoint although how anyone can consume all of that food seems beyond me. Perhaps the highlight was the little cheese bread served as an amuse bouche.
But of course this trip was mostly about the wines. We visited Smig's place out beyond Napa. He was kind enough to introduce us to our first barrel tastings of the trip (as the Dacalier and Five/Five is essentially all sold out). We pulled some old and new oak wines from the 2011 Rutherford (from the Beckstoffer vineyard) and the Black Sears on Howell Mountain. Wines are coming along quite nicely and the blend of the old and new oak was just wonderful. Then we moved to the 2012s which are still quite young, but given our experience on the trip with that vintage it's sure to be a great one.
Flight 1 - Haber Family Vineyards (3 notes)
How can one not absolutely love Ron and Sue-Marie Haber? Going to their house feels like visiting old friends. It's a beautiful location up on Howell Mountain with a terrific view of the valley. Fun to hear the story behind their new label (Foreplay) and discuss the 2013 growing season (both the grapes themselves and what's been going on in our lives). Went out into the vineyards to try some grapes and learn a bit more about how to measure the sugar levels (around 24) and how to taste the grapes (still green seeds with a bit of flesh). And of course a quick tour through the cellar which is so well done.
Afraid for the Chard lovers out there this is the beginning of the 'we had a Chardonnay, but I didn't drink it and so I can't really say'. Did hear some good things though.
2009 Haber Family Vineyards Foreplay
Second label from the Haber Family Vineyards. Tasted at the winery with Ron and Sue-Marie. This is a light, easy drinking Cabernet. Mostly easy red fruits. Less complex than the standard, wine, but to be expected as it's meant to be an every day drinker.
2010 Haber Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain
Tasted at the winery with Ron & Sue-Marie Haber. Typical mountain cabernet - very dark fruit, heavy on the tannins. With a bit of time in the glass there's boysenberry and black current, maybe some blackberry - all on the less ripe side. Leather, chocolate. This was pre-release and really just a baby. Would hold for awhile (at least 5 years).
2010 Haber Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain
Tasted at Ron & Sue-Marie Haber's house. This was a bit of a surprise - more red fruits than normal for Howell Mountain cab - got strawberries and some sour cherry. Tannins were clearly prevalent and also needs time. A bit softer though than its Diamond Mtn brother.
Flight 2 - O'Shaughnessy Vineyards (2 notes)
I wouldn't be surprised if O'Shaugnessy is the best value in Napa right now. The wines are just fantastic and below $100/bottle which is rare for a good mountain fruit. Blanca was a wonderful host. Part II of Chards, but on this one the consensus was give it some time in the glass (we did a quick tour of the cave and personal collection) and it really came alive during that time. Second battle of the mountains - Howell vs. Veeder. In this case we were 4 to 2 Veeder, but of course that's the one that you need to be in the club to get (thank goodness we are :-)!).
2010 O'Shaughnessy Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain
Tasted at the winery. Really lovely wine. Had been open since earlier in the day (perhaps a few hours before we came). Bright fruits just jumped out of the glass, some white pepper, some tart cherry. And really opened up over the course of the tasting (~30 mins). These cabs are always such a great value and just fantastic wine.
2010 O'Shaughnessy Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder
Tasted at the winery. Such limited production so very glad that we're on the list and have some bottles coming. This was wonderful - grassy on the nose like many Mt. Veeder cabs, more muted fruits, very nice and deep on the palate. I get vanilla and molasses and a touch of smokiness. Long finish. Of the six of us tasting, four picked this over the Howell although both were great wines
Flight 3 - Bond Estates @ the Founder's Room (5 notes)
Not the easiest place to find, but nestled deep at the base of one of the mountains is the Founder's Room - the newest estate for Harlan and the site of its potential new project Promontory. If just about anyone else were making Promontory, I'm pretty sure it would have been released years ago, but instead they are doing just simple tastes as part of the more extended Bond Grand Cru '06 flight. We started with some NV Krug and then moved onto the reds. Picking a favorite in the Bond line-up was nigh near impossible for me - each so interesting and unique in their own way. The rest of the group had no such concerns and the St Eden (2 votes) narrowly edged the Quella (1 vote). The Promontory hung with its fellow reds. The beautiful wine was accompanied by lovely conversation as Mollie ran us through the history of Bill Harlan and his projects.
2006 Bond Melbury
Tasted at the Founder's Room. Melbury might have been the most approachable right away of the five Grand Crus. The fruit was evident from the start, but there was a hint of spice which kept it interesting without being overpowering. Very complex and just kept changing in the glass throughout the tasting. Mostly tarter red fruits (a lot of cranberry). Fantastic.
2006 Bond Quella
Tasted at the Founder's Room. Going through my notes I see a lot of 'deep' and 'complex'. This wine was a maze to walk through over the course of the two hours and just kept changing. My initial reaction was a bit skeptical after the accessibility of the Melbury, but true to a Howell Mountain wine it took its time opening up and was worth the wait. Black currants, black pepper, leather, earth.... all so very deep and wonderful. This was one of the group's favorites and I look forward to revisiting it again in ~10 years.
2006 Bond St. Eden
Tasted at the Founder's Room. This was two of the four folks tasting's favorite, and certainly a beautiful wine. This wine was just smooth (esp after the Quella). Some cherries and the tannins were very strong, but somehow winemaker managed to make it feel a bit softer in the glass. Some smokiness and there were hints that with more time there were deeper flavors to come. Got a magnum (apparently other folks favorites as well since they were sold out of 750s) - looking forward to popping again in many years.
2006 Bond Vecina
Tasted at the Founders Room. Somehow my worst notes of the group although I remember being quite taken with this one. Initially very tart - lots of cranberry, some tannins, but there's a nice fruit quality to the wine. I suspect that although I didn't note it there were a number of spicy and earthy characteristics going as well. Very beautiful wine.
2006 Bond Pluribus
Tasted at Founders Room. This one just jumped from the glass right at the start. Might have been my favorite over the course of the tasting (truly hard to pick so I've abstained from actually naming one). This was rich with leather and chocolate and blackberries. The other wines caught up a bit, but there was so much character and complexity here (I believe it might be higher elevation than the others - located on Spring Mountain). Just a fantastic wine.
Flight 4 - Cardinale/Lokoya (4 notes)
Our first winery of the trip that was already picking! We arrived a bit early and were able to enjoy a bit of the Sauvignon Blanc while watching the mystery/magic that is the de-stemmer. Truly there must be elves. After we pried ourselves away, Jose ran us through a Mt Veeder/Cardinale tasting (I'm partial to the Veeder). Had an opportunity to try the '07 and also the '09. One vote for the Cardinale as favorite and 3 votes for the '07 Veeder.
2012 Cardinale Sauvignon Blanc Intrada
Tasted at the Cardinale winery. This was a 96% Sauvignon Blanc/4% Semillion blend sourced from Spring Mountain, Oak Knoll, and another place I missed. Started out almost toasty in the glass, it's light with lemon and lime. Nice palate starter before going over to the reds.
2009 Cardinale Red Wine
Tasted at the Cardinale winery facility. Skewed towards the Veeder/Howell Appellations (80%/20%) with 91% Cabernet and 9% Merlot. Opened in the morning and had been sitting for about 15 minutes. Initial nose was almost all alcohol though and it took a bit for the heat to burn off. Leather and earth and maybe just a touch of cherry on the tongue (more a whisper than a real flavor). The gouda and tart cherry combination really brought out some different flavors in this wine. Beat out both Lokoyas for one of the group members tasting.
2009 Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder
Tasted at the Cardinate winery. Had been open ~15 minutes in the bottle before pouring. Started with almost a cinnamon flavor, some deeper fruit (ripe figs & plums). On the nose it was a bit less grassy than I expect from Mt. Veeder - got some earth though. As it opened up the fruit became almost candied like in nature. Very subtle and complex.
2007 Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder
Tasted at the Cardinale winery. This was less approachable than the '09 - still very tannic and a bit tight. The shredded duck really helped bring out the flavors though. On the tongue it was just pure velvet with hints of fruit towards the end of the mouthful (unripe blackberries, maybe some black currants). Was a definite favorite of one of the folks at the table and by the end of the tasting might have become mine as well.
Flight 5 - Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyards (3 notes)
There is a point on the Constant tour where you're riding in a Pinskaeur (a Swiss military vehicle which is a bit of an oxymoron, but that's ok). You get to this view right above the winery with an infinity pool and a view of the entire valley below and it's just spectacular. Almost as spectacular as the actual tasting room. Had a lovely conversation with Heather while sipping through the '08 Claret, '09 Cabernet, and '09 Syrah. One of our party even went so far as to say the best wines of the trip.
2008 Constant Claret Diamond Mountain Vineyard
I think of Claret as being a predominately Merlot-based blend, but this was majority Cabernet. Very full and deep wine with raspberries and cranberries and just a touch of tannin and the taste of grandma's spice cabinet. Not really ready to be drunk right now, but still drinking well. With time, some black fruits started to come through - black raspberry and blackberry. Even at the end felt a bit tight - imagine it could really great in some more years.
2009 Constant Syrah Diamond Mountain Vineyard
Like the Cabernet, it's blackberries that predominate on the first taste. It feels more like the full blackberry bush here though - with stems and leaves. Took a bit of time to open up and there's no shortage of tannins in it. Very earthy and deep but clearly needs some more years.
Flight 6 - Progeny Winery (4 notes)
We first met Paul Woolls last year when Mike was doing research on the best wines from all of the mountain AVAs and he came across this very small production called Progeny. Thankfully Paul agreed to meet us to give us a tour around the estate on Mt Veeder and let us try his first two vintages - the '06 and the '07 which was just about to be released. To say we were blown away was a bit of an understatement - the wine was just packed full of flavor and while still much to young to be drinking, it was fantastic. So to have another opportunity to visit Paul again this year and to have him agree to come up and show us around some more was something we were really looking forward to. This time around we were able to get up close and personal with the landmark tree from the label and get a view of where the new tasting room will be. Oh... and we drank some wine. Paul is playing around with Rhone varietals (and more than just Syrah) which seems to be relatively unique in Napa, but he and Sean are doing a great job with it. We had a few barrel samples that I would easily have pre-ordered. The SSR as the Progeny Cab is now called has only gotten better and the '08 is looking to be a fantastic release. This place is definitely special.
2012 Progeny Winery Roussanne
Barrel tasting - we tried this as well as a Marsanne and a blend between the two, but this was the clear favorite. It was a light and airy and honeysuckle and honeydew and maybe just a touch effervescent. Exactly the kindof wine you'd like to be sipping on a hot summer day. Very unlikely it will actually become a wine given the small quantities, but a real winner if it did.
2012 Progeny Winery Grenache
Tasted from a barrel sample. This was just yummy - candied fruits, spicy, reminds me of a slightly softer form of the SQN version (not a meal in a glass) but oh so wonderful. Still quite a bit of tannin and still very young. Might never make it to being a wine that's produced, but I very much hope it is as it was just delicious.
2007 Progeny Winery Cabernet Sauvignon
Still a 'wow' wine for me (I wish there was an option above just 'like' on CT). It has grown up so much in the last year since we first tried it. Opened the day before so it had some time to settle down. There's old world characteristics here - a bit more earth on the nose, fruit is relatively muted (but just a lovely cherry coming through). The pepper is spicy and balanced. Wine is rich, without being overpowering. Great wine! (although does need many more years - this is one to lie down for 15).....
2008 Progeny Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection Reserve
Tasted pre-release. '08s have been a favorite of mine for the last few years and Progeny has some wonderful wines so I had pretty high expectations going in. I'm happy to say the wine did not disappoint. It's obviously much too young to really be drinking now without a very long decant (and even then, we'll be sending ours offsite when we get them to make sure we keep hands off for a few years). This wine is oh so rich with very deep black fruits and caramel and molasses and just that touch of grassiness that I always appreciate in a Mt Veeder cab. Beautiful!
Flight 7 - Continuum (1 note)
When we drove up to the tasting room we could see Tim Mondavi on the outside porch, surveying the vineyards. It seemed like the perfect picture of a winery that has really been making a name for itself. Kaitlin was quick to meet us and introduced us around before a tour of the vineyard and it's rocks (seriously - there are larger than people size rocks all around the vineyard which had to be moved to make way for the wine - truly an imposing - and long- wall). Afterwards we were able to sit down to a small plate of food and some beautiful '10.
2010 Continuum Proprietary Red
Feels lighter on its feet than the last time around. Oh so elegant and refined - there's ripe cranberries, white pepper, smoke, maybe a touch of tobacco. As it started to warm up and come more alive there were softer fruits - a luscious fig perhaps. Just a touch of tannins but not overpowering.
Flight 8 - David Arthur Vineyards (6 notes)
Two years ago when we first visited the valley we made the decision of where to visit somewhat around places that were meant to be both good and dog friendly as our 4 month old puppy joined us on the trip. At the end like all good analytical folks we did a retrospective which included which wineries we truly liked and lo and behold there was a definite trend - every single one was a mountain vineyard. David Arthur was in that original trip and we've been buying from the allocation ever since. It was great to see Tyson still running the tasting. He pulled out a nice line-up for us and regaled us with stories of 20 course Per Se dinners, trips to Costa Rica, and how to survive the '11 growing season. Certainly not our last trip (esp as the '12 barrel tasting of the Old Vine was quite nice and we're excited to see that letter coming through next April).
2011 David Arthur Meritaggio
2011 was such a tough year and apparently hit the Sangiovese quite a bit so this blend was a bit different than the past with quite a few blending grapes and a strong cab influence. It's more of a herbaceous wine, a touch green - but not in a bad way, can taste a bit of peppers. Comes across as a bit more old world to me and a bit less fruit forward, but still a nice wine that felt like it needed some lighter meat (maybe chicken or pork).
2011 David Arthur Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vine
The Old Vine is made up of plantings from 1978 - oldest ones that exist on Pritchard Hill. The early taste is mostly just tannin and oak, but it was just released a few days before. There's potential though - some black raspberry started to peek out after a bit of time. I'm holding judgement although hopeful that in some years it'll come all together.
2010 David Arthur Cabernet Sauvignon Elevation 1147
Still so very young and that came through with a nose that started with a touch of alcohol mixed in with the fruits and cinnamon. This wine was just deep and dense and complex and it evolved quite a bit despite having been open for a full day before. After some time, started to detect a bit of pomegranate and a slight softening of some of the other flavors. Great wine, but made for 15 years from now.
2011 David Arthur Cabernet Sauvignon Elevation 1147
Another baby that was just released even though we won't see ours until November. There was a nice soft plum here counterbalanced with some sharp spice. Maybe a touch of black raspberry. It was strongly tannic and came across as young, but there's good potential here. Another wine made to drink in 10 years.
2006 David Arthur Cabernet Sauvignon Estate
Amazing what just giving a wine five years from release can do. Wild black cherries, raspberries - fruit is coming out quite nicely. It's still a young wine though and I suspect we'll wait a few more years to drink the one we got.
2012 David Arthur Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vine
Barrel sample and already I am excited for this wine! Didn't take very good notes on it, but I remember it feeling soft and cherry and just getting the hints of some of the deeper complexity to come although of course at that age there's still a hint of the fruit juice it started as. Looking forward to jumping on the spring allocation.
Flight 9 - Ovid Vineyards (2 notes)
This was our first chance to taste Ovid's wine and I think it's fair to say we entered with some relatively high expectations between the CT reviews and things we've heard from others. Thankfully, the winery & the wine were up to the challenge. A very gracious Jessica met us at the door, showed us around the sorting area, tanks, winemaking operations, discussed recent literature (how can one not at Ovid?), answered our myriad of questions, and eventually sold us a case to arrive in the fall. Fantastic wine that we look forward to spending more time with in the future.
2010 Ovid Red Wine
This is sweet candied red fruit on the tongue. At the very end there's a touch of white pepper. Such a young wine and yet very approachable now. The finish just goes on and on and on and on. Very drinkable at the moment, but I'd love to see what some age does with it.
2012 Ovid Red Wine
Tasted from a barrel sample. Over and over we heard that for everything 2011 wasn't, 2012 was and that certainly seems to be holding true. The '12 here was lovely and bright with lots of fruit (cherries), but a nice balancing herbaceousness at the end. Still lacking some of the deeper characteristics, but it's years away from release and I suspect it will have pulled together by then (given the '10). Rating 94 right now, but I suspect in time this will go up.
Flight 10 - Shafer Vineyards (5 notes)
You know it's a pretty crazy trip when Shafer is perhaps the first one that you would have let go if someone made you drop a place. It was our only non-private tasting of the trip. Our fellow tasters were a lovely group from Illinois and Andrea was a great hostess, but the whole experience was a bit more corporate than we were used to. Nice to get a first look at the Relentless and we ended up picking up a few Firebreaks (only available at the winery), but we made less of a personal connection here and while the HSS is a beautiful wine, for the price it didn't shine quite as much as I would have expected.
2011 Shafer Merlot
Mix of Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet. The tough 2011 growing season was apparently even more challenging for Merlot grapes and a large amount of blending was required. This wine came in as a softer style. A little bit of red fruit, but still taste a fair amount of oak underlying. Released on Sept 1st so very young still. Smaller production for Shafer of only 3k cases.
2010 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon One Point Five
This is my third experience with this wine and I fear it might be a casualty of such an amazing trip to Napa with so many fantastic wines. It had been opened and poured maybe 30 minutes before tasting and really hadn't had any time to develop a full flavor set. Some alcohol on the nose, a bit of dark fruit, tannins. Just overall feels too young and not many flavors coming out. Opened a bit in the glass, but mostly inaccessible right now. 98% Cabernet, 2% Petit Verdot and one of the largest productions with 8,000-8,500 cases.
2010 Shafer Relentless
Smaller production (for Shafer) of 3,400 cases. This wine is a bit non-traditional with a dual-planting of syrah and petit syrah which are harvested, fermented, and barreled together. Wine lacked the typical peppery taste of a syrah. Instead I got olives, some cedar, maybe a hint of really tight black currents (but maybe I was imagining some fruit?). A muted and tight wine, but another Sept 1st release so may also just need some time.
2009 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select
Clearly the winner of the Shafer tasting, but with the disparity in prices that's to be expected. The fruit was much more evident here - a bit sweet with some red raspberries and that white pepper that seems to show up in mountain cabs. Thick and much more of a mouthful than the other wines. Very young and I'd recommend holding for quite awhile (or doing an extended decant). Interesting bit of trivia - the original plantings were from clippings from the Araujo estate that were grafted onto the older vines. When Phylloxera hit the valley similar clippings were gifted back to Araujo so they could maintain their original wines.
Red - Fortified
2009 Shafer Firebreak Dessert Wine
Named after the Napa arsonist in 1981. This was a beast - 19.1% alcohol. Made from the HSS grapes and a strong grape brandy this was pure smoothness in a glass. Went down easy and the chocolate/cherry pairing certainly didn't hurt. Only available at the winery (limited production of 5 barrels) so we picked up the 2 allotted.
Flight 11 - Arkenstone Vineyards (4 notes)
I was interested to see how Arkenstone would stack up nestled between Shafer and Colgin, and I'm happy to report the wine really held its own. We were met by Patrick in the driveway and did a run through the pre-release of their Sauv Blanc (our first chance to taste the wine that always seems to be gone in the blink of an eye) as well as some of their releases from last year. Such wonderful depth and complexity to these and clearly wines that are improving with time. We'd tasted the '06-'08 last year and the retasting of the '06 this year seemed like a completely different wine. Patrick was a wonderful host and even gave us an intro to the NVD that should be coming this fall - an interesting sounding blend from a number of mountains. We'll be back....
2011 Arkenstone Sauvignon Blanc
Really just a fantastic white wine - maybe my favorite domestic white ever. It was billed as a 'red wine drinker's white' and I see why. There's so many layers of flavor coming through. Nice and refreshing and just a touch of sweet and a balancing acidity through lime. The finish just keeps going and going and I'm afraid I wasn't up to capturing all of the flavors involved but there was a transition from the airy lime to a bit more meaty fruits and then on to an elegant end. 92-93
2009 Arkenstone Cabernet Sauvignon Coliseum Block
Deep, dark, very smooth, and delicious. There's some blackberry and maybe black cherry (develops over time). Would hold onto these as it's not quite ready to drink, but with a decant the flavors were coming out. Vineyard sounds amazing - the plantings were done via dynamite given the volcanic rock. Great wine!
2006 Arkenstone Cabernet Sauvignon Obsidian
Afraid I couldn't disagree more with the note right before mine. This wine was just a 'wow'. It had strawberries and chocolate and was oh so smooth and deep. Continued to open up during the tasting. Absolutely drinking well now, but I suspect it can continue to go and look forward to trying our bottle in another five years.
2009 Arkenstone Cabernet Sauvignon Obsidian
Sweet plums, just a hint of cherry juice, some earthiness. Way way way too young to be drinking now (despite the decant), but a nice mouthful and en route to being a nice wine. Tasted at the same time as the '06 and amazing what just a few years of age have created.
Flight 12 - Colgin Estates (2 notes)
We're relatively new to the Colgin wines, but their reputation more than precedes them. What Ann Colgin has creating up in a little corner of Pritchard Hill is nothing short of incredible. We were lucky enough to be there during sorting and so clearly if you enjoy the 2013 Cariad it is thanks to Mike & I :-) (well, I suppose their amazing winemaker Allison might have had something to do with it). The whole house was filled with antiques and other acquisitions from Ann's earlier days in Christie's/Sothebys. Oh, and wine. There's a full room of library Colgin which was amazing enough but beyond that was their private collection. It was just breathtaking. I could have spent hours in there noting all of the different bottles and years and how interesting how the labels have changed and what they've chosen for themselves. We felt very lucky to have been able to visit.
2010 Colgin IX Estate
Big and bold and strong. It's got some unripened fruit and a bit of pepper and cedar and leather. What I would imagine if someone suggested drinking liquid velvet in a glass. There's an elegance here that you don't expect for such a young wine (esp not one with quite the girth of this one). First time with the Colgin IX Estate and it certainly did not disappoint. I'd love to see it in a few more years - had the '08 at the same time and there was clearly a bit more complexity there.
2008 Colgin IX Estate
Have heard that the '08s might be starting to close down a bit and at first I worried that was happening here. Took some coaxing in the glass, but then there was a bit of the grassiness, earthy characteristics I have come to expect of the '08 vintage. A bit more time and you could just imagine the black fruits on the tip of the tongue. A nice, not-quite-ripe-yet plum which is starting to develop. Would leave it alone for a few years and let it come into itself, but this is a really beautiful and elegant wine.
Another casualty of not quite keeping up the note taking because Grant Long Sr. was just too entertaining with all of his stories was Aonair. Nestled in Coombsville at the Blue Oak Vineyard it is a really stunning property. We sat under the namesake tree which feels more like a tent enveloping you than anything else. Tasting a Grenache from one of the highest vineyards in the world (>4k feet), a full Cabernet Sauvignon from the different mountains, a Mountain blend, and a fortified. Looking forward to the Blue Oak Merlot (even though we're not really Merlot drinkers). It's a small production place, but so glad that we made the trip.
So really I think the only appropriate word for the trip is 'wow' which I realize is way overused in the tasting notes above (and that was with me censoring myself after the fact). So many just amazing experiences with so many fantastic wineries and so many interesting and wonderful people. I'm afraid I really can't pick a favorite - as Mike's mother Chris would say it's like picking a favorite child. Heck, I couldn't even pick a favorite Bond wine! But some standouts for me were that wonderful late afternoon chat with Mollie in the Founders Room, revisiting a favorite at Lokoya, the views from Constant, sitting with Paul @ Woolis Ranch and trying to convince him that he really ought to be selling these amazing barrel samples he was pouring us, meeting the Mondavis at Continuum, sharing travel stories with Tyson at David Arthur, trying our first Ovid, recollecting how truly fantastic the wines at Arkenstone really are (since we've been good and let them age), and experiencing a new Colgin (the IX vineyard). I realize that is almost everywhere we went, but it was just that kind of trip. Has made us want to ensure that the annual pilgrimage continues.