2015 Napa Trip - Day 3

Tasted April 11, 2015 by ageverett with 438 views

Introduction

Another gorgeous day in the Napa Valley. Started early and wound our way up Howell Mountain. Worked our way back down into Calistoga and St. Helena, before finishing right across the street from the hotel in Rutherford.

Flight 1 - Saunter with Heather Clark (2 notes)

Heather was incredibly gracious enough to meet us up on Howell Mountain at Outpost on Saturday morning. What a morning, and what a view! Just beautiful, and the outpost staff even offered us a splash of the 2012 Outpost grenache, which was lovely.

Heather splash decanted both of these wines, and we drank them outdoors overlooking the vines over about an hour. Just serene. Hard to start a Saturday better than this!

There is a lot of passion in these wines. This is the only wine that Heather and her husband (vineyard manager Josh Clark) own. While Josh's family has been in the Napa wine business for a long time, they are really blazing their own path this the Saunter label. And it is incredible.

Red
2010 Saunter Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 685 Red Head Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
93 points
Very expressive nose. Dark purple/red. more red fruit than blue. Vineyard is down in Napa off old Soda Canyon. Very ripe; smooth, but plenty of grip. This is more "feminine" in style vs. the Eagle Summit. Little more perfume. probably better for drinking now, but this can certainly lay down for a while.
Red
2010 Saunter Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Eagle Summit Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
94 points
Darker in color as compared to the Red Head. Nose is more graphite. More purple. Brighter. While a bigger wine, this is smooth. Big mountain fruit.

I only have one bottle in cellar, and will let it rest for a while. This has the stuffing.

Flight 2 - Frank Family tasting room - Calistoga (6 notes)

I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Frank Family. One of my "first loves" in wine was the Reserve cab, which continues to be a fantastic wine.

This was the only "cattle call" of our trip. Big tasting room operation with lots of tourists. But also one of the few wineries that are permitted to have a picnic area, so we brought lunch and sat outside with a bottle fo the 2012 Reserve cab after the tasting.

Red - Sparkling
N.V. Frank Family Vineyards Rouge Carneros USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
91 points
We really quite enjoyed this. Very refreshing. Fine bubbles. Full bodied, and a pleasant elevated finish. Notes of cranberry. Super tasty. Maybe a little overpriced, but good enough for me to buy 2 bottles.
White
2013 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve Lewis Vineyard USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
90 points
Color of pale straw, with almost a little bit of green. Full bodied, with a creamy texture. Minimal oak. Ashleigh felt that this was too buttery, but didn't strike me as such. I agree that this is generally not my style of white, but for some reason I dug this. Not enough to buy any at this price, but I did like it.
Red
2013 Frank Family Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve Lewis Vineyard USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
88 points
Color on this has a bit of brown/bricking on the edges, which is interesting in such a young wine. Full bodied with a full, dry finish. This is good wine, but one dimensional. Not the same caliber as the pinots we had on this trip from Mike Smith or Rivers-Marie.
Red
2012 Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel Reserve Chiles Valley USA, California, Napa Valley, Chiles Valley
88 points
Deep red/purple in color. This is thinner on the palate than expected, and juicier. Not too much of the "pepper" that often turns me off in zins. So more of my preferred profile. Still not good enough to justify the price tag.
Red
2012 Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Rutherford USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
95 points
This is the real McCoy. Dark, dark red. Rutherford Dust. Effortless power. Just a gorgeous wine with a great big finish. We bought a bottle to pop on site and enjoy with our picnic lunch. This strikes me a something that would be good with BBQ/smoked meats.
Red
2011 Frank Family Vineyards Winston Hill USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
93 points
The blending grapes in this are more noticeable following the straight Reserve cab. This is also more purple. Deep, enticing nose. Spent quite a while sniffing this. Teeth-stainer. But tannins are well integrated. Big finish. Just a hint of the 2011 green taste on the palate; didn't catch it on the nose.
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Flight 3 - Dancing Hares - St. Helena (4 notes)

The vines here are gorgeous on the drive in - just West of Silverado trail, almost back down to Rutherford. Staci was an INCREDIBLE hostess. She had the wines open in the cellar, with some manchego-esqe cheese and bread sticks. Also really enjoyed the barrel tastings of the 2013s that were just almost ready to blend for bottling.

Winery is very clean and state of the art. A couple of the biggest concrete tanks I have seen. Barrels are all gorgeous custom French barrels. Andy also keeps many of his other wines in barrel in this cellar.

Red
2011 Tuck Beckstoffer Mad Hatter USA, California, Napa Valley
91 points
Deep purple. Some peppercorn and green notes on the nose, but no green on palate or finish. Plush. Tannins have medium grip. Medium plus finish. I like the layers here. Can age, or drink now with some air.

61% cab, 22% merlot, 13% cab franc and 4% petit verdot.
Red
2011 Tuck Beckstoffer Dancing Hares Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
93 points
Deep, dark purple. All three of these wines are consistent on color. Not even a trace of green here. Lavender. Blueberry. Smooth and seductive. More old world in style, but great fruit.

35% merlot, 35% cab franc, 24% cab and 6% petit verdot.
Red
2012 Tuck Beckstoffer Dancing Hares Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
96 points
One of the best wines of the trip.

Cedar and gravel on the nose, opening to dark floral notes. Fruit is almost black. Long, rolling finish. So well balanced. Finish has an incredible "lift" that really leaves you wanting more.

35% cab, 32% merlot, 26% cab franc, 7% petit verdot
Red
2013 Tuck Beckstoffer Dancing Hares Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
Note: We did not taste the final 2013 blend. We tasted from barrels. Andy and Michel were set to do final blending about 2 weeks after our visit.

We first tasted a barrel with 60% cab and 40% merlot. This was a super sexy, velvety wine already. I could have put away a couple of glasses of this easily. Incredible. I certainly hope the final blend is close to this - will buy plenty.

We then tasted from a straight cab franc barrel. I frankly think this would be a fun wine in its own right. Some pepper and tender box. Supple purple fruit.

We finished with the petit verdot. Really a floral bouquet on this wine - can smell this from a mile away. In a good way. Too floral to drink on its own, but very fun to try. Also silky smooth - the smoothest of the three barrel samples.

I note Galloni's 93-95 rating. I think that is conservative.
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Flight 4 - Quintessa - Rutherford (5 notes)

What a gorgeous property. Just East off the Silverado Trail, across the trail from driveway to Auberge. BIG vineyard and winery. Much bigger than I expected. Just a stunning property, with a pond/lake in the middle of it. They generally grow Bordeaux grapes, but also grow Carmenerre as an homage to Chile, where the owners are from.

Very modern winery. The visitor structure is modern with lots of clean lines and raw concrete. The real workshop and tanks, etc. are 'below deck" from the "parking lot" in front of the winery, such that the grapes can be sorted on deck and just gravity-fed into the tanks. Pretty cool. Very slick caves. And a nice tasting room. We were generally left to our own devices to taste through the wines at our leisure with some cheeses and bread sticks. Real quality experience.

White
2013 Quintessa Sauvignon Blanc Illumination USA, California, North Coast, Napa / Sonoma
91 points
Enjoyed a glass of this while walking through the vineyard. Very refreshing and crisp. Some under-ripe apricot. Not a ton of depth, but nice juice.
Red
2012 Quintessa USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
94 points
This has that great 2012 "pop" that gets your attention. Super dark purple. Bit of cedar on the nose. Black and purple fruit. Big long finish. 94 may be conservative.
Red
2010 Quintessa USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
93 points
Softer, more refined nose vs. the 2012. More merlot? Not sure what the blends were. Fruit was again trending to black. Lavender and gravel also present. Very soothing finish. Really enjoyable. Left you wanting another sip.
Red
2009 Quintessa USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
92 points
This was interesting. My least favorite of the lineup, but still a nice wine. Color was a little more red, but nose was more purple in fruit profile. A bit of plum. Lean on the palate - lighter body than the nose would indicate. Tannins still have firm grip. Medium + finish with a touch of petrol that almost hearkened a funky Rhone. While a very interesting ride, overall somewhat disjointed.
Red
2006 Quintessa USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
95 points
I thoroughly enjoyed this. Was interesting to see where the younger wines might go in their middle ages. Racy, almost slutty nose. Wide open. Age really not showing in the color. Still super dark red. Fantastic graphite note on the nose. Wraps your mouth in flavor and grabs you. Tannins still have a pretty firm grip. I would have certainly purchased some of this if it had been for sale on site.
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Flight 5 - Dinner at Auberge du Soleil (1 note)

Ended the trip with a fine dinner on the patio at our hotel. We actually ordered something different (I can't quite recall which wine), but it was not available. So this was our alternate.

Dinner was very nice and had a good balance and pace. But the wine and the view were the highlights.

Red
2010 Pulido-Walker Cabernet Sauvignon Panek Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
94 points
With dinner at the restaurant at Auberge du Soleil. Popped and splash decanted. This is a big wine that needs air right now. Purple and black fruits. Tender box. Tannins are medium right now. In general not an explosion of expressiveness on the nose at this time. This is built to last, and I would like to revisit in a few years. Lovely juice in any event.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Closing

Overall impressions from the trip are that 2012 is an incredible vintage. It will generally drink early, and I will not be scared to pop 2012s in the very near future. This is also because 2013 is going to be a monster. It was really fun to hear the excitement in the voices of the winemakers and staff with respect to the 2013s. Everybody is clearly excited about them.

Other observation was that 2006 Napa reds are shining right now. From the Bond we had in San Francisco on the first night to the Quintessa we had today, these wines are SHINING. Need to pull many of the 2006s from my cellar and give them a rip. They are open and ready for business.

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