Visiting Napa (Feb 13th - 17th)

Napa, CA

Tasted February 13, 2014 - February 17, 2014 by RockinCabs with 499 views


Visited Napa for Valentines Day / Presidents Weekend with BCharlieG and the wives. We were looking for a quiet weekend and mostly got a restful trip that was not overly scheduled.

Over the course of the three full days we were out there (east coast flights kill a lot of fly time) we made our way to five appointments and a variety of other tasting rooms and wineries. Most of the random stops were around Yountville due to our hotel location in that town for this trip. I was surprised on this particular trip the variety of wines and vintages being poured across the valley. While most wineries were pouring 2011 and 2010 vintage (Reds) there were quite a few tasting rooms using the Coravin to taste and offer for sale back vintage wines traditionally not available.

One general observation on the 2011 vintage. Lots of critics will complain about the green characteristics in the vintage, but the wineries that embraced the conditions, sorted severely and made a wine reflective of their property did pretty well. YES, they will be early drinking wines, but I would not listen to the drivel from Laube on this vintage. Just buy selectively to your tastes and you will be fine.

Flight 1 - Dinner at Ad Hoc (1 note)

Started the weekend with a braised brisket, sauteed kale and a mushroom risotto at Ad Hoc. The experience here is always good and they provide a casual unrushed service that is great when you want a low key night.

2010 Neely Pinot Noir Spring Ridge Vineyard Hidden Block USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
89 points
Nose: tart cherry, cranberry reduction, raspberry jam, all spice, pepper and clove. Earthy element quite prominent as well. Palate: initially a very hot wine but it settles with air. Tart berry, cherry on entry and rounded fruit with creamy texture and clove mid palate. Finish: spicy and tart berry almost like a mulled cranberry sauce.

Flight 2 - Carter / Envy Winery (1 note)

Started the day at Carter/Envy. They pour a tremendous lineup and there are a lot of wines, so this will be a long visit for most people. The wines that were really showing well included Envy Reserve Sauv. Blanc 2012, Envy Petite Sirah 2011 and Carter Truchard Merlot 2007. The biggest surprise here was that they were pouring a back vintage Carter Tokalon from 2000 from Coravin.

If you are looking to buy the Carter releases here don't even bother. The 2011's were sold out within 2-weeks of release, but it is nice that they have a little bit of back vintage wine to sell.

I expect the popularity of the Coravin to grow as wineries see an uptick in the sale of library wines. This is a great way to access older wines and make library offerings as Mark Carter is doing in his tasting room.

2000 Carter Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard H&C USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
Nose: Blackberries, Apricot, Cherry Cordial, Classic Tokalon Spices and a nice sage/mint note. Palate: Elegantly refined with most tannin gone at this stage. Black Cherry preserves, Allspice, Cinnamon and some hot stones. Finish: Berry fruit and tokalon spice linger for a long time.

Ready to drink, and one of the highlights of the Carter/Envy tasting.

Flight 3 - Kelly Fleming Winery (3 notes)

If you have never visited this property it is a must see. The limestone caves and the custom built winery, kitchen and offices make this one of my favorite places to visit in napa. Attention to detail in each fixture, stone and piece of marble has a design element that is well thought out. Kelly Fleming makes a 100% musque clone sauvignon blanc from oakville that is tremendous, and the cabernet/blends are from estate fruit.

The attention to detail does not end in the design/construction. The tank room was custom built to include smaller fermentation tanks that fit key blocks of the vineyard. Similar tank setups have been developed at wineries like Ovid, Arkenstone and in France Cos d' Estournel has taken this to the ultimate level. Customization like this provides exceptional control over the final product and how each lot is finished.

Celia Welch ends her wine making stint with Kelly Fleming as of the 2012 vintage, but the good news is that Francoise Peschon will be joining as consulting winemaker going forward.

2012 Kelly Fleming Wines Sauvignon Blanc USA, California, Napa Valley
91 points
100% Musque Clone Sauvignon blanc that is done 50% in oak. This is a denser SB with good tropical fruit notes. Fresh and ready to go on a warm day.
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2009 Kelly Fleming Wines Big Pour USA, California, Napa Valley
90 points
Nose: Blackberry, Grilled Cherry and Sage notes. Slight BBQ smoke and leather jacket notes. Plate: Beautiful Blackberry and plum are accented with a good grilled herb and clay note. Finish: Quite detailed and long with red fruit, sage and eucalyptus.
2011 Kelly Fleming Wines Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
93 points
Nose: Black fruit, licorice and slight cement note. Palate: Black and red fruit that were framed by a gorgeous mouthfeel. Minerality and a green pepper note drive the wine. Finish: Dark fruit and decent tannin.

This was more difficult to evaluate than the Big Pour as it was recently bottled and still showing pretty tight.
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Flight 4 - Failla Wines (4 notes)

The Failla experience is a change of pace as Ehrn Jordan really just uses the facility in Napa as his sales outpost and barrel cave. However these Sonoma Pinot's and Chardonnays are not to be missed.

Quality was once again great and it was nice to see the Napa property being planted. There is now some zinfandel at the winery that is being planned for a second label. This make sense as Ehrn used to work on the Turley wines as well.

2011 Failla Chardonnay Russian River Valley USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Chardonnay is restrained here and not done with the big malo treatment that it will see in other places. Good Pear, Apple and baked pineapple fruit are backed up by excellent acidity and slight rounded feel.
2012 Failla Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
Really remains a great value.

Floral/Raspberry notes and a salty mineral component make this a bit thinner than the single vineyard wines, but impressive nonetheless.
2012 Failla Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Top wine of the day, especially for the money.

Florals, Red Cherries, Damp Earth, Mushroom and rubarb are all held together in a great mouthfeel. Balance is awesome on this.
2012 Failla Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
New release.

This is a much larger scaled effort for Ehrn Jordan. Framboise, Black Cherry, Vanilla and spice. Still has his signature mouthfeel, but is not my preferred style.

Flight 5 - Dinner at Redd Yountville (1 note)

This was a great dinner and the food was tremendous. As many times as we have been to Napa this was our first trip to Redd.

The chef here does wonders with duck because both the Confit in Bacon Broth and the Duck Breast entree were spot on perfect. The entree in particular had the best crust I have ever had on a seared duck breast. Other highlights included the Cod and Oxtail entree and the Maine Lobster Risotto.

Where Redd loses me a bit is with the stark white room. A slightly more lively dining atmosphere would be nice in this ultra modern styled restaurant.

2009 Domaine Roblet-Monnot Volnay 1er Cru Les Brouillards France, Burgundy, C├┤te de Beaune, Volnay 1er Cru
91 points
Nose: Rose Petal, White Cherry, Raspberry and Pomegranate fruit with a nice Leather / Brett element. Palate: Elegant and balanced wine driven by its acidity, yet the fruit was the star. Cherry, berries and spice with nice earthy leathery undertones. Finish: Cuts a bit short and tart, but needs time.

Excellent 2009 that is ready to go with about an hour in the decanter.

Consumed at Redd in Yountville

Flight 6 - Beau Vigne Tasting Room (3 notes)

Long gone are the days when the Beau Vigne team brought you up to the property on Soda Canyon road. In special cases they will, but only if you have been on the mailing list for a very long time.

The fast growing winery has a nearly fully subscribed mailing list these days, and limited supply in the tasting room. However, the prices remain fair considering what prices are for this style of high polish cabernet elsewhere in the valley.

2011 Beau Vigne Cabernet Sauvignon Romeo USA, California, Napa Valley
Soft caressing wine that is the reddest of the three in fruit profile. Shows simillar notes with more chocolate and cherry preserve notes. Bit of a caramel finish to this.

12-hour slow ox when tasted.
2011 Beau Vigne Cabernet Sauvignon Juliet USA, California, Napa Valley
Red/Blue fruit and tightest of the three. Shows loads of Oak, baking spice, chocolate and blueberry fruit leather. Very extracted and clearly in the house style.
2011 Beau Vigne Cabernet Sauvignon Cult USA, California, Napa Valley
Darkest of the three by far, and made in the "Cult" Style for sure.

Blackberry, Fig Paste, Cherry Preserves, Sarsaparilla and Baking Spice. Glycern mouthfeel and not a sharp edge on this. Screams for a big steak.

Flight 7 - Cosentino Winery - Grand Cru Barrel Tasting (1 note)

If you need a break from the riotously loud tasting rooms on Highway 29, book a barrel tasting experience at Cosentino. You walk into a busy scene at the winery, especially late in the day, but the barrel experience takes place in the racking room behind the main entrance to the winery. Great ambiance and a table that seats up to 10 greets you on the other side.

Although this is not really a "barrel tasting" in the traditional sense (the wines are mostly finished) it is nonetheless an interesting experience. Included currently are:

- 2012 Zinfandel (American Oak)
- 2012 Zinfandel (Hungarian, French & American Oak)

- 2012 Mixed Blacks (a interesting cross-breed vineyard)

- 2012 Rutherford Cabernet (Taransaud Barrel)

Other than this they will taste you on pretty much anything else that is in their portfolio.

2010 Cosentino Winery Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
89 points
This was a very polished wine with Red and Blue fruit on the palate as well as a bit of sage and allspice. Tannins are well integrated making this good for near term drinking.

Flight 8 - Lunch at Goose & Gander / Dinner at Press St. Helena (2 notes)

1982 Mayacamas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
Nose: Blackberry, Currant and Juniper. Eucalyptus and slight mint tea notes. Palate: Light/Medium bodied and extremely silky. Still retaining some ripe fruit, but tannins are long gone here. Blackberry, Cherry preserves and a nice pommegranate note. Good acidity and balance. Finish: moderate, but delivers cranberry and red currant with some mineral notes.
2010 Aiken Pinot Noir USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain
93 points
Nose: Deep Cherry, Blueberry, Forrest Floor, Fruit leather and some Spice. Palate: Smooth as a billiard table with depth and nuance throughout. Blueberry, Cherry Juice, Earthy Mushroom Duxelle and some Christmas spices. Finish: Powerful follow through yet not too penetrating. This has depth without excessive power and extract without cloying sugar.

Large scaled pinot
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Flight 9 - Phifer Pavitt / Switchback Ridge Winery (5 notes)

2012 Phifer Pavitt Sauvignon Blanc USA, California, Napa Valley
90 points
100% Stainless Steel Sauv Blanc

Very nice tropical stone fruit, kiwi and some melon. Good mineral and acid in this as well without too much of the typical "grassy" note that you see in a lot of CA SB.
2011 Switchback Ridge Merlot Peterson Family Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
89 points
Nose: Chocolate, Cherries, Smoke and Camphor. Palate: Seamless, thick & silky smooth with plush Cherry, Blackberry and Chocolate. Some Sage notes poke through as well. Finish: Smooth and long.

Short term drinker this time around. No idea how Foley got this much extract out of the wine in 2011.
2010 Switchback Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Peterson Family Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
92 points
Massive and Unctuous Cabernet that was wound really really tight so it was somewhat hard to evaluate.

Nose: Blackberry, Cassis, Shaved Chocolate and some nice grilled herbs right up front. Palate: Sweet Berry fruit, black licorice and anise with a chocolate note. Finish: Long revealing the tannins quite late.
2010 Phifer Pavitt Cabernet Sauvignon Date Night USA, California, Napa Valley
92 points
Like the SBR Cab this was very tight and hard to evaluate as it was PNP in the tasting room.

Nose: Violets, Blackberry, Cassis and some smoke/cigar notes. Perfumed nose is great. Palate: Black fruit driven and nuanced with nice wood and leather notes. Refined yet a bit rough in tannin. Finish: Extremely grippy and tight.

Long decant required right now.
2011 Switchback Ridge Petite Sirah Peterson Family Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
Nose: Violets, Blackberry, Cassis, Anise, Clove and Cracked Black Pepper. Gorgeous. Palate: Kaboom! Black fruit, Blueberry Syrup, tar, stones, florals and cracked peppercorns. Finish: Long with vice grip tannins.

Remains the #1 PS made in CA if you like the big style here.

Flight 10 - Dinner at Bottega Yountville (1 note)

2010 Hobel Wine Works Cabernet Sauvignon Engelhard Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
93 points
Nose: Red Plum, Dark Cherry, Raspberry and Bubble Gum. Notes of celery root, mint and baking spice emerge as well. Palate: Dense and elegant on entry with a very broad palate feel. Cherry, Raspberry and anise right up front and some vanillin, mint and mineral notes run throughout the midpalate. Finish: Svelte and round with some fine tannin showing, but this is quite plush.

- BYO at Bottega Yountville
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Flight 11 - Cliff Lede Winery (3 notes)

2010 Breggo Cellars Gew├╝rztraminer USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
90 points
Nose: Tropical fruit of mango, stone fruit and pineapple. Slight note of petrol and cured orange. Palate: Very full and round, yet balanced with nice acidity and a mineral note that was underneath the fruit. Finish: Long and persistent. Slight spice at the end.
2011 Breggo Cellars Pinot Noir USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
87 points
Ripe and slightly one note. Cherry, Cola, vanilla and some earth notes. Very round mouthfeel and avoids being overly alcoholic.
2010 Cliff Lede Claret USA, California, Napa Valley
91 points
Blackberry, Dark Cherry and nice glycerin to the body. Some herbs are shrouded in there that give the blend a nice complexity.

This has come a long way in the past few years, and represents good value for under $50.


Yeah, Napa has become my go-to destination when I am losing my mind at the office.

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