Dream Trip - Napa On A Mission - All My favorites Plus A Few New Ones

Napa Valley

Tasted April 1, 2021 - April 4, 2021 by LiteItOnFire with 708 views

Introduction

There are close to 70 wines/16 Wineries I need to add (and doing this out of order) so please be patient as I will continue to add all week as this takes a lot more time than I realized when I started this. I will also update the summaries and this opening intro as I learn more about doing the stories.

As I am writing this story, I realize a few things, ok more than that but I can only process a few things at a time.

1) I have no affiliation, connection, ownership, interest, no free wine except at a tasting like everyone else although I may get to taste additional bottlings or samples based on my buying history with that winery or others

2) I am a very hard but fair grader although with this trip it may not seem like I am - but I take this seriously for me as I spend a lot on wine; can't always remember a few years down the line my thoughts as releases come out or drink timelines or the profile so it allows me to look back; so these notes, scoring etc are more for me and friends than a general PA - and with this trip in particular I put together what I felt are the best wines in Napa (along with a few new wineries that I never had but were referred to me (I will indicate these so it helps to know if it was/is already a favorite or it was unknown at the time of the tasting) and therefore i would expect to rate these all super high as I expect phenomenal things from them or I would not have put them on this trip (of course I wasn't able to book all favorites but this is a super majority for sure)

3) While many critics may score higher or in some instances much higher, these are my scores and mine alone- which may improve over time ESPECIALLY barrel samples or recently released wines in bottle which could be hidden behind the structure and I am not sure if or what the final showing will become

4) I try and take all personal bias based on relationship, cellar inventory, etc out of my notes and only provide my palate objectively based on my tasting preference if that makes sense (I try not to prejudge)

5) At the time of this tasting, I rated around 750 wines. I tend to only drink wines I think are excellent and rarely order wines or have wines if its not the case (I will always taste but then tend not to drink more and rarely rate) so therefore of the 750 ratings, my wines and ratings in general should skew higher as I am not rating wines like the critics that have to rate all wines- why drink what you don't like? Reason I state that is of the 750 wines, only 38 were ranked 96 and above:
100: 0
99: 1
98: 4
97: 8
96: 25
I state this because people have privately outreached, in and outside the business, surprised I did not rank some of the wines higher. I get the reaction but please know anything above say a 92 for me is EXCELLENT.

Our first flight in nearly 18 months, socially distanced and needed if only for a short tome to escape life. Without having a pulse on 2018 nor 2019 and with a focus to zero in on my cellar holdings going forward - it was more of a mission than a typical laid back journey as there were too many goals to hit and not nearly enough time.

1) learn more about 2018 and 2019 vintages and how they impact winemaker style, wine profile and when and how to drink
2) dig into new winemakers/wineries that have either been recommended or I have researched and bought or had a one off bottle
3) Introduce good friends to bada-s wine
4) laser focus my going forward purchasing - adds/subtract wines/wineries and/or increase/decrease quantities
5) figure out as much as I could about the 2020 vintage
6) catch up with some of my favorite recent wines, wineries and people
7) chase down one of my favorite vineyards and wines, Thorevilos, in the 2019 vintage to see how the new winemaker styles compare/contrast to Abreu
8) capture as much as I could as I am working my way into the C.R.A.F.T Club

There is zero chance I could pick a favorite but left confident I nearly achieved every goal I set out to hit except #7. All notes are super high level and more impressions and callouts for me and/or friends as I am not a professional taster nor could spend the amount of time I wanted with each wine and ~75 wines in 72 hours is a crap ton. I hope for those interested it proves helpful. Well here goes...

Flight 1 - Impensata & Kinsman Eades (4 notes)

What a great first night in Napa to hit the ground running- have two wineries that delivered in 2016 two of my top wines of the vintage tastings back to back! They were the 2016 Kinsman Eades & 2016 Memento Mori Dr Crane.

One of my favorite winemakers - and I could not be more excited to taste the nuances of the 2018 vintage on their Kinsman Eades wines as well as their exciting new project Impensata. The tasting completely blew away all expectations and was a crowd favorite of the trip.

The wines were not decanted rather slow ox and were tasted in winery groups- Impensata two wines followed by Kinsman Eades two wines.

Do yourself a favor and sign up for both winery mailing lists- killer juice.

Red
2018 Impensata Merlot Ecotone Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
NEW WINERY FOR OUR GROUP

2018 was a killer vintage for those that figured it out (those that didn’t it’s already obvious), a top vineyard manager Abreu, great terroir (Thorevilos), one of the hottest winemakers out there and the winery’s unique approach to not only making the best Merlot in Napa but have it stand on its own with the best representations from all over the world- very lofty goals but the results are already showing they are headed in the right direction- will they get there, too early to tell but I am intrigued and willing to take a ride on the journey with them as they figure it out.

This is not a Napa Merlot that is made every year and you scratch your head wondering why, this is a badass version that is on its way to legendary greatness as the vintages continue to be masterfully crafted. This winery and their wines will only get better and better (that was obvious as we tasted the second wine and everyone around the table were nodding their heads). I was desperately trying to stop others in my group from drinking their pour as I wanted to spend time with it in my glass but by the time I realized what was happening it was already too late.

Not having great experiences with Napa Merlot, I hesitate to provide future insight (guess) on the development however note to myself: hold this baby for another two years (2023) with a good decant.

While the wines are not for sale yet (thank you for allowing us the opportunity to tastes these), I would highly suggest signing up for the wait list as we will see great things from this winery and team of superstars. With new winemakers/wineries/vineyard managers/vineyards it sometimes can take a few years to produce a good more less great wine- with only 1-2 vintages under their belts, it seems like that extra time is not needed- can't wait to taste the 2019s if the 2018s are already at this level.

Unfortunately I am unable to rate as there must have been a hole in my glass as each of the four Kinsman wines were somehow gone before I was truly able to go through my rating process. Didn't figure this out until the third wine was poured (Kinsman Rhad) and even then barely had enough time to ponder. I will have to get another shot at these soon. So good!
4 people found this helpful Comments (1)
Red
2018 Impensata Cabernet Sauvignon Engelhard Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
2018 killer vintage for those that figured it out (those that didn’t it’s already obvious), top vineyard manager Abreu, great Calistoga terroir previously used in some expensive bottlings, one of the hottest winemakers out there - how did they do? This is a badass Calistoga wine that is already excellent- powerful, complex and unique (for me anyway) profile that demands attention as you look in the glass pondering all of the flavors that just washed over you. Really cool (yet technical term right there). This winery and their wines will only get better and better. I would tuck these bad boys away for a few years but nothing wrong with checking in on it now with a proper decant.

While the wines are not for sale yet (thank you for allowing us the opportunity to tastes these), I would highly suggest signing up for the wait list as we will see great things from this winery and team of superstars. With new winemakers/wineries/vineyard managers/vineyards it sometimes can take a few years to produce a good more less great wine- with only 1-2 vintages under their belts, it seems like that extra time is not needed- can't wait to taste the 2019s if the 2018s are already at this level.

Unfortunately I am unable to rate as there must have been a hole in my glass as each of the four Kinsman wines were somehow gone before I was truly able to go through my rating process. Didn't figure this out until the third wine was poured (Kinsman Rhad) and even then barely had enough time to ponder. I will have to get another shot at these soon. So good!
2 people found this helpful Comments (8)
Red
2018 Kinsman Eades Cabernet Sauvignon Rhadamanthus USA, California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain
96 points
I am so pissed I tasted both Kinsman ‘16s at a restaurant a year or so ago. As unlike most people, I actually hope I don’t like new wines, winemakers or wineries - could be S&M thing or upbringing but usually its a time/budget/cellar space equation. Damnit that '16 vintage destroyed nearly all other wines in 2016 and turned me into a boy band groupie stalker of Kinsman Eades (and now I have to add Impensata to the list). I was familiar with Kinsman’s take on Araujo and most recently had the killer 2015 Eisele Syrah during the Super Bowl (so good). Because of all of this, Kinsman and their projects became a keystone for the trip - and wow did they exceed already lofty expectations. This gem from Diamond mountain is excellent to drink now and later. Full complexity you would want wave after wave of dark fruit, stones, lift and powerful yet, no clue how, mouth coating tannins. Damnit, so so good.

Hold for a couple of years as this baby has the potential to head north a point or three. Wow.

Highly suggest jumping on the waitlist now as this winery is killing it.
5 people found this helpful Comments (1)
Red
2018 Kinsman Eades Cabernet Sauvignon La Voleuse Du Chagrin USA, California, Napa Valley, Calistoga
96 points
NEW WINE

I am so pissed I tasted both Kinsman ‘16s at a restaurant a year or so ago. As unlike most people, I actually hope I don’t like new wines, winemakers or wineries - could be S&M thing or upbringing but usually its a time/budget/cellar space equation. Damnit that '16 vintage destroyed nearly all other wines in 2016 and turned me into a boy band groupie stalker of Kinsman Eades (and now I have to add Impensata to the list). I was familiar with Kinsman’s take on Araujo and most recently had the killer 2015 Eisele Syrah during the Super Bowl (so good). Because of all of this, Kinsman and their projects became a keystone for the trip - and wow did they exceed already lofty expectations.

Nigel already having worked for Araujo/Eisele Vineyards had this vineyard in his top cuvee and knows it like the back of his hand and it shows, boy does it ever. There is no learning required as it’s already hitting homers on its first at bat. Did it point to the left side bleacher with bases loaded for the Grand slam... not sure only time will tell but man it is delicious. It is a symphony of dark fruit and espresso with a spine to keep things really well structured. Its not as dominate/brooding as the Diamond Mountain that still needs a couple of years napping, it is already an insane wine. A 96 now but with time in cellar room to grow.

Drink now, hold, invite me over- basically drink now and later. Wow.

Highly suggest jumping on the waitlist now as this winery is killing it.
5 people found this helpful Comments (15)

Flight 2 - Misc wines directly after the tasting (3 notes)

Following the Impensata Kinsman Eades tasting we ordered a couple of bottles and then had the pleasure to enjoy a birthyear birthday bottle for one of our friends in the group- what an amazing surprise and delicious wine to celebrate and close out the dinner. Very thoughtful and graciously shared by all. Yum.

Red
2015 Amuse Bouche USA, California, Napa Valley
90 points
Umm if I wasn't already ruined before this trip, I certainly am now. This wine wasn't even finished by the group as it simply paled in comparison to the Impensata and Kinsman Eades had before it.
Red
2017 Hubert Lignier Morey St. Denis Tres Girard France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Morey St. Denis
Fun to taste after the Napa wines but those wines were just so good and memorable it was hard to concentrate on anything else. Unfair to rate but initial reaction was good restaurant priced wine.
White - Sweet/Dessert
1970 Château d'Yquem France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
89 points
Great bottle to close out an amazing tasting with Impensata and Kinsman Eades as well as to celebrate a birthday and birthyear in our group. Bottle was good however it was starting to show a bit of its age as the structure was beginning to breakdown a bit. Regardless a wonderful surprise treat enjoyed by all!!!

Flight 3 - Memento Mori Flight (3 notes)

What a fun treat to taste 2016 & 2018 flagship blend alongside the 2018 VHR. Having tasted this in barrel previously, I was super excited to see how this has developed now in the final blend in bottle.

Unfortunately I was so excited about the first tasting, I forgot to check in with a time update to make sure these were open and decanting ahead of time- which is a must for these really well built wines. If you haven't had a chance to taste Memento Mori, you are missing out.

SO I suck and while these were very good and would kick butt of so many other wines, we could not dig into these as much as we would have liked. Thank you Memento Mori for truly awesome wines- I will reproduce this tasting with my own bottles with the same group in the coming months with proper decant time.

Quick note, 2016 Kinsman Eades & 2016 Memento Mori Dr Crane are two of my wines of the vintage- and there was stiff competition so it was no small feat.

Red
2016 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
Upon open, you knew you had an amazing wine ready to explode from the bottle unless like me you forget to have it prepared in advance (dumb) so I will not rate it this time around. Group notes: superbly built with excellent structure and stuffing that still need more time in the bottle or a long decant to coax out to play. Similar to my 2016 note from a year ago, these need another ~2 years before checking in again (although I might repeat the tasting I screwed up in Napa later this year).

Excited for 2023 to see how these are developing in bottle.
2 people found this helpful Comments (2)
Red
2018 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
Damnit I was so looking forward to tasting this now in the final blend in bottle with Kaplan getting to play with the 2018 vintage. Just like the 2016, it's really well built but without a true decant it was too hard to coax the goodness from the bottle (yep I am dumb). I will not rate it this time around. Group notes: superbly built with excellent structure and stuffing that still need more time in the bottle. We all kept coming back to this one trying to get it to open up but to no avail- and we didn't have the time to wait to get it there. Ugh

I have no concern these will grow up to be magnificent, it will just take a few years to get there. One additional note, and anecdotal at best, the nose on this seems to have a leg up on the 2016- is this from the addition of VHR or the vintage nuances, I am not sure but if that is any sign of things to come this might be a even better than previous versions but that is purely conjecture at this point.

Excited for 2024 to see how these are developing in bottle.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon Vine Hill Ranch USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
Of all of the MM wines, even with Dr Crane as my general favorite, I was most intrigued on how this would end up in bottle as the final blend since this is their new vineyard and Kaplan is a wizard. Yes a faceoff between FP VHR vs SK MM VHR is in order- you could probably sell tickets for that one its just a matter of when not if.

I will not rate it this time around but there is no doubt this will be amazing. Group notes: insanely built with amazing structure and stuffing that needs a ton of time in bottle or possibly a super long decant. We all were drawn to this one like months to a flame trying to figure out how to get this to open - I think I may have a workers comp claim to file for carpal tunnel. If there was a blender in the room, this bottle would have found its way in there that's how bad we all wanted in on this beauty. It just kept getting better and better.

Excited for 2024 to see how these are developing in bottle.
3 people found this helpful Comments (11)

Flight 4 - Unicorn (1 note)

Whatever I type here will only take away from the excitement of Santa finally coming to town coupled with me finally tracking enough rainbows to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Worth the hype and wait- sign up on the Macdonald wait list now.

Red
2018 MacDonald Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
96 points
NEW WINERY

Not sure I could have summarized the visit better than PK "Extremely educational visit studying farming and terrior and the differences of soil among parcels of the To Kalon Vineyard. The knowledge here is worth the trip alone, especially if you're big on TK wines." - My only comment here is I have not been a big To Kalon fan for some time (I was 10-15 years ago but not since) - well that changed this trip.

MacDonalds have an amazing property we were able to walk; Alex was patient with our mind numbing adolescent questions; wonderfully gracious hosts and are just good people. Ok on to the tasting.

Ok unlike the previous posts below, I have been patiently waiting on the list for nearly a decade, ok maybe 8 years and trying to coordinate a visit for the past 3-4 but schedules never aligned or was it the restraining order... anywhoo... will it be a let down like everything else or do they really have something here- it is just as advertised. After having so many To Kalon wines over the years, some good, some great (we had two this trip) - this one is exceptional. This is the most unique delicious expression I have ever tasted- hands down. The richness and waves of alternating blackberry/cassis, dark fruits, spaces, minerals and all backed by a long finish- stunner. I could have taken the decanter and run off into the forest but I might not have been invited back so I decided against that one this time around. 96 now and with time real upside.

Do yourself a favor and sign up now as it is 100% worth the wait. Actually sign your kids and their kids up now, even if they don’t have any kids yet.
4 people found this helpful Comments (6)

Flight 5 - Abreu- A favorite winery, year in and year out (3 notes)

I don’t know if there is a more gracious host with his time than Brad Grimes. We had an incredible day tasting the very first vintage and the most recent vintage of Las Posadas along with 2012 Rothwell Hyde that is drinking in a perfect spot right now- all complementing an incredible lunch. What a treat, beautiful setting, with great hosts (BG & SK), so thoughtful and an unforgettable experience had by all. Just Wow. A highlight of the trip.

If you ever have a chance to taste an Abreu wine, run to the opportunity as they are just that good year in and year out. I have dropped a few of the other higher priced wines to focus more on the wines I love- this is one of them.

Red
2012 Abreu Rothwell Hyde USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
93 points
What a wine! This is no second wine- it will stand up to stiff competition in most vintages and this one is no exception. I have had a number of these wines in the past few years from 2007 - 2015 and this one just hit (maybe just recently) its stride, with plenty of time on its side. It is drinking so well now I could not put it down and its not like I have been drinking box wine the past 24 hours.

I quickly jumped on CT to see if I owned any and as luck would have it for a change I have three.

If you can find this in the aftermarket, I would suggest grabbing a bottle or two. Very yummy!
2 people found this helpful Comments (4)
Red
2006 Abreu Howell Mountain USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
93 points
What a beautifully aged wine. It was such a treat to be able to taste the first vintage of Las Posadas and after tasting the most recent vintage, the learnings have been meaningful. Like most wines on the trip we didn't get to sit with this wine for any length of time but it is already showing prominent secondary and some solid tertiary notes of leather, cigar, sweet earth coupled around both dark red and some black fruit with a solid mineral core. A treat to taste and experience.
2 people found this helpful Comments (2)
Red
2016 Abreu Las Posadas USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
96 points
Whaaat I get to taste one of my favorite wines, along side its great grandfather 2006, in its own vineyard sharing a meal with great friends and amazing hosts and a winemaking wizard- and oh by the way it was just released so therefore no time to develop in the cellar just off the press goodness? Yes please and thank you.

This wine does not suck one little tiny bit- not at all. It was so cool to be able to taste a wine of this caliber which honestly I would never have attempted in my cellar as I would be too afraid of jumping in early and depleting one of so few gems too early... but wowza this was soooo good and no where near what it will become. black fruit, smoky like the last taste of espresso, chocolate, minerals, flowers, complexity, structure, dark fruit- umm yes please. Hold for a min of 7 years before opening.

For those that taste wines at this level and have not had the opportunity to taste the Abreu portfolio, please do yourself a favor and add this to your list as it is hard to beat.
3 people found this helpful Comments (11)

Flight 6 - Christopher Tynan - Surprise of the trip (5 notes)

This is the surprise winery tasting of the trip. I have never really heard of Christopher Tynan before (maybe whispers from his time at Colgin), as winemaker or from his own winery and I assume nor have many of you... but that will change.

His first vintage, 2011, might not have been the ideal launch pad announcing his arrival on the scene and since his wines are built to age, not AFWE or left bank St Julian Grand Cru style rather a fantastic take on Napa with incredible structure and stuffing yet rich and powerful but not overbearing- all the right things in all the right places.

Realizing how negative the 2011 vintage is across the board, with little to no exceptions, why put his reputation on a wine he knew was great yet would get lost in the vintage? So he held back the wines and waited to release the 2011 in favor for the 2012s. Since the wines are two years in barrel and another two in bottle, it wasn’t until 2016 before the wines were released, now add to that the wines are built to last that means there have only been a handful of vintages even out there, more less ready for prime time.

He makes two badass wines, a Cabernet coming from the MG vineyard and a Syrah from the Judge vineyard. Yep more obscurity as they are not from Beckstoffer or other more well known vineyards. In addition, he will release a handful of one off wines as he feels there is value. Good news is in 2018, he will add a third wine, a cabernet from three vineyards which will help get the wine in other members hands.

The Syrah is not a Napa Syrah rather a Northern Rhone, Hermitage in some vintages and Côte Rotie in others (at least from the vintages we tasted).

All I can tell you is sign up on the list now as these wines are killer and there are not enough to go around.

Added note: if you normally buy one wine grab two, if you normally buy three wines buy 6. Due to the scarcity and so few are produced, I tried to buy these wines immediately after I left but there is literally no where you can buy them.

Red
2019 Christopher Tynan Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vines Meleagris Gallopavo USA, California, Napa Valley
Question: Who is Christopher Tynan and what the heck is the MG vineyard?

Answer: A new favorite winery and vineyard that no one knows about.

Apparently it is made from some really old vines with elevation in St Helena and named after wild turkeys, not the spirit although a good drinking game would be to drink wild turkey and then see who can spell this vineyard name. Each letter they get wrong is a drink... ok I have a problem and might have just veered off topic.

While this is still a barrel sample, it has already started to showcase what it can become in what we have found to be a stellar vintage across the board (2019 may be a cross between 2015 and 2012/2014 - ok I have no idea but I keep thinking close to 2015). Without having experience with this wine and how it develops in the bottle (although we did get some great first hand knowledge during this tasting) I would put this is the solid mid to high 90s. The way this is drinking now, it might be a more accessible vintage but what the heck do I know.

I never had the opportunity to taste the MG previously however I was able to buy the 2016 release after coming off the wait list. These wines are built for the long haul but unlike others are super enjoyable with enough time in the decanter but are awesome with time in the cellar. These are not fruit bombs rather highly beautiful age worthy wines. Can’t wait for this to come out in bottle but don’t hold your breathe as it’s two years in barrel and two years in bottle and only a handful of barrels.

Tynan wines were the surprise of the trip for both the group and me. Get on this list before it’s too late
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2019 Christopher Tynan Wines Syrah Judge Family Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
Can a Napa winemaker make a Norther Rhone standout? Apparently yes. When Chris said he would pour us his take on CA Syrah my mind and prejudice profile expectations went directly to my previous experiences with a Sonoma Syrah mixed with the never ending cabernets we have tasted so far on the trip, which was like grabbing your fountain drink that you thought was a Sprite but it was a Coke- but this time in a great way. It took a few seconds for me to realize what just happened and then when I did, I was immediately transported back to my Northern Rhone trip (its funny how I can't remember what I did last week but smells or tastes pull you back like it was yesterday).

While style in barrel and of course not the final blend it jumps out of the glass with a Côte Rotie profile of white pepper, spices, light flowers, lift and good structure and smoked meats with a more feminine profile than the 2013 vintage tasted before (most likely do to age) but no less thrilling albeit a bit tight. These wines would enhance any dish's profile- why doesn't he serve duck, veal, etc with these... seems selfish but we all have to do what we have to do :) Wow really well done even in this barrel sample without any age on it yet.

Tynan wines were the surprise of the trip for both the group and me. Get on this list before it’s too late.
Red
2012 Christopher Tynan Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vines Meleagris Gallopavo USA, California, Napa Valley
96 points
Question: Who is Christopher Tynan and what the heck is the MG vineyard?

Answer: A new favorite winery and vineyard that no one knows about.

Apparently it is made from some really old vines with elevation in St Helena and named after wild turkeys, not the spirit although a good drinking game would be to drink wild turkey and then see who can spell this vineyard name. Each letter they get wrong is a drink... ok I have a problem and might have just veered off topic.

I wanted to stay with this wine for a couple hours but then I would have missed all the other goodness being poured in my glass plus my liver was having another side conversation that I obviously was ignoring as it had no idea what it was talking about. Biggest problem is there was no way I was pouring this out it was too good (note to self, bring a box of glasses for my next visit). Big but with great structure built for the long haul with a rich, complex deep dark black and dark red fruits, flowers, great minerality and enough lift to keep things honest.

I never had the opportunity to taste the MG previously however I was able to buy the 2016 release after coming off the wait list. These wines are built for the long haul but unlike others are super enjoyable with enough time in the decanter but are awesome with time in the cellar. These are not fruit bombs rather delicious must have age worthy wines.

Tynan wines were the surprise of the trip for both the group and me. Get on this list before it’s too late.

EDIT: I just read Geaux's tasting notes and in it he said AG gave this an 88- NO WAY that is even close to accurate. I am a super tough but fair grader and that is literally not possible. Maybe AG is envious or jealous of Chris's good looks but there is no way that this wine scores anything close to that (and I respect AG). I would say he needs to re-taste but who cares as this wine is badass, and so is the rest of Tynan's portfolio.
1 person found this helpful Comments (3)
Red
2013 Christopher Tynan Wines Syrah Judge Family Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
94 points
Can a Napa winemaker make a Norther Rhone standout? Apparently yes. When Chris said he would pour us his take on CA Syrah my mind and prejudice profile expectations went directly to my previous experiences with a Sonoma Syrah mixed with the never ending cabernets we have tasted so far on the trip, which was like grabbing your fountain drink that you thought was a Sprite but it was a Coke- but this time in a great way. It took a few seconds for me to realize what just happened and then when I did, I was immediately transported back to my Northern Rhone trip (its funny how I can't remember what I did last week but smells or tastes pull you back like it was yesterday).

This was a more Hermitage in style than maybe Côte Rotie with big game, blood, deep fruit and minerality, herbs all commanding deeper and deeper reflection. These wines would enhance any dish's profile- why doesn't he serve a slab of beef, elk, lamb, etc with these... seems selfish not to :) Well done and oh so fun to pull out for yourself and friends as a treat.

Tynan wines were the surprise of the trip for both the group and me. Get on this list before it’s too late.
Red
2011 Christopher Tynan Wines Syrah Judge Family Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
Can a Napa winemaker make a Norther Rhone standout? Apparently yes. When Chris said he would pour us his take on CA Syrah my mind and prejudice profile expectations went directly to my previous experiences with a Sonoma Syrah mixed with the never ending cabernets we have tasted so far on the trip, which was like grabbing your fountain drink that you thought was a Sprite but it was a Coke- but this time in a great way. It took a few seconds for me to realize what just happened and then when I did, I was immediately transported back to my Northern Rhone trip (its funny how I can't remember what I did last week but smells or tastes pull you back like it was yesterday).

Ok so when I asked ignorant question #57 "so what did you do with the 2011s that you made... as I would be super curious to taste your first vintage even though I have only had one good wine from 2011..." The good news is, being the unassuming good sport that Chris is, he said give me a sec... was he going to get security to throw us out, nope instead he bared his soul and pop'd and poured a 2011 Syrah. Wow this would be interesting as we have had truly some of the best wine we have ever had on this dream trip, made sure to stay away from 2017 vintage in nearly all instances up until this point and Chris decides to throw caution to the wind and pour 2011- really??? Well I can tell you I did not put the glass to my nose with an open mind nor did I with the first sip and nor did I while I swished it around but boy was I wrong- first words out of my mouth, can I buy some of this? Yep I love when I am surprised- not in the Old School scene of taking the early flight from San Diego rather in a non-computing positive gut responsive way. We were out of time and didn't have the time to ponder too deeply other than I would buy it right now as it was a beautiful Northern Rhone wine and one I would be proud drinking alone enhancing a meal or with friends who would have zero chance believing what they were drinking, vintage and all. I won't rate this as it wouldn't be fair to rate as I wasn't with this wine long enough but would be a buyer if and when he releases it- and I wouldn't just buy one, that's for sure!

We didn't get a chance to taste the 2011 MG so I cannot provide insight on that one but would jump at the chance to taste if Chris was ever kind enough to offer one.

Tynan wines were the surprise of the trip for both the group and me. Get on this list before it’s too late.
3 people found this helpful Comments (2)

Flight 7 - Brion (0 notes)

In my quest to track down a favorite vineyard, Thorevilos which previously was only made by Abreu, I was truly curious of the new wineries take on the vineyard style. Through research, Brion was one of the handful of wineries producing a 2019 label with the grapes so on my Napa list it went, along with a few others.

Interesting approach to their winery which is to pair up winemakers with what they feel are the vineyards best match. in the 2016 lineup we tasted 4 wines, made by three different winemakers (interesting concept). Sure I am game lets see what the winery is all about.

We came in a bit hot from Tynan but still in a great place to complete the day's tasting itinerary. We were greeted by an exceptional host and a glass of 2010 Dom. Now how can I get my kids to welcome me to the door with Dom, ok I would probably take a White Zin from Franzia at this point while being locked up with these nutjobs... ok enough about me back to the wine. We toured a beautifully restored barn and a gorgeous property before ending at what can only be described as stunning courtyard like oasis pre-set with four wines glasses with slivers of artisan cheeses to accompany the wines. Just beautiful.

Flight 10 - Maybach (3 notes)

Sometimes you have a wine and say to yourself - this is killer. Then you have another wine and say to yourself wow this is badass. Then you have the third wine and an idea pops into your head on how you could secretly try to figure out how to pull A Strange Brew and get all up in there without anyone noticing so you can have all the wine to yourself ... but then the wife gives you ‘I am with stupid look’ and you are immediately transported back to reality that maybe it wasn’t a good idea - that was how the 2019 barrel sampling tasting went. These wines may be among one of their best vintages to date with so much going on already it’s hard to ignore just how good these will be (of course caveat as these are not the final blend and therefore what we taste in bottle may not be the same profile) although perhaps not the longest lived.

Red
2019 Maybach Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Amoenus USA, California, Napa Valley
This is always the ‘other’ wine but to me is an early favorite and over performs, this vintage will be no different. Rich full bodied with dark black fruits, sweet earth and minerals. With all the amazing wines we drank this trip, this wine can hold its own. So good now and will only get better with a couple years in bottle. Very good as always. Won't rate due to small sample size and not enough time to allow it air- we just could not put this wine down (I will say the same thing about all three they were just that darn good).
2 people found this helpful Comments (1)
Red
2019 Maybach Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Materium USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
The flagship wine, a stunner year in and year out. This may be one of the earlier drinking windows and expressive profiles to date. I am comparing this closest to the 2015 vintage which was excellent. I have one bottle left which I will pull from the cellar to drink within the next few weeks to see how on or off point that comparison is. Great rich wine in the making and one I can’t wait to try again in bottle. Dark fruits, minerality enhancing tannings- Super good! Won't rate due to small sample size and not enough time to allow it air- we just could not put this wine down.
2 people found this helpful Comments (7)
Red
2019 Maybach Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Ecotone USA, California, Napa Valley
Who knew one of my favorite vineyards got their hands on Thorevilos... wow this I had to see (or smell/taste in this case).

Ok so you take one of your favorite wineries and pair it with one of your absolute favorite vineyards and put a very talented winemaker at the Helm (very different style than BG so was unsure how this would turnout) and what do you get- either a work in progress as new vineyard manager and winemaker tinker for the first few years as to better understand the opportunity or a home run right out of the gates. In this case it’s the later, the wine is absolutely delicious yet very different than Abreu Thorevilos. It’s very much a TRB wine with the Thorevilos vineyard in the background... way to early to tell what the final blend and wine will be as I can’t figure out what this will become in bottle. What I can say is I will take my full allocation and pop one of these immediately- it will be the wine I am most interested in tasting upon arrival. This has everything one would want in a TRB mashed with Thorevilos - excellent. Won't rate due to small sample size and not enough time to allow it air- we just could not put this wine down (similar impression on great wine for all three wines).
3 people found this helpful Comments (15)

Flight 11 - Matt Morris - Great QPR - CHARBONO GRAPE - Second Surprise Winery of the Trip (3 notes)

This was a referral from a friend, and to be honest I would never have even tried the wine if it wasn't from a fellow wine drinking friend with similar tastes/palates. I had zero clue, what a Charbono grape is, flavor profile or frankly if it was any good. I have heard enough fads to not only be weary rather stop buying them as I was continually disappointed 99 out of 100 times. This is not a Fad, it is here to stay.

The winery, like Christopher Tynan winery from the day before, was a complete surprise. While Matt is not the winemaker, he is the person that became passionate about the varietal some years ago when buying affordable wine and finding an older bottle in the 'for sale' bin and like any of us who started drinking wine without money, heck yeah a cheap napa wine for the same price as a more generic but not Boones Strawberry Hill, things are looking up! With little expectations, he pop'd the cork and did a double take- how is this wine drinking so well with decades of age? Why in an 'off' vintage are there no green notes... with this experience he led off in search for others and it would always be at the 'sale' or cheapest price on wine lists.

Once this similar experience happened over and over again he began to think of this as maybe not just a hobby but maybe there could be something to it. So he found the few vineyards in the United States that still grew the grapes [and skipping ahead] asked one of the top winemakers, Benoit T from Realm/Fait Main, what he thought they could do with it if the money was spent to improve the farming (less emphasis on quantity and all on quality) and winemaking practices and approaches. BT was in and so the brand was created and they loved the results. Fast forward, Francois Pinchon joined as the winemaker and fell in love with the grape.

Like with most tastings on the trip we did not get to spend a lot of time but with the time we had, the entire group was floored at the quality, depth and substance this grape and the wine delivered.

100% worth taking a look as the wines range from $45 - $90.

Red
2018 Matt Morris Wines Heritage USA, California, Napa Valley
NEW WINERY

MSU beat us to the punch but the other reviewers here all ordered based on MJP recco based on a post Kinsman made on Matt's wine. While the other three that posted notes here all tasted this entry/blend I wanted to go into the tasting cold (*no one on this trip tasted any of the Matt Morris wines beforehand). We were blown away by both how good they are and at a great price point.

These wines were all PNP and were good right out of the gates, maybe they had 15 - 30 minutes of slow ox but I doubt that had any material impact as the headspace didn't look like it was removed.

Zero experience with the grape but enjoyed it for what it was - a juicy expression of a bright to medium red fruited wine with a good minerality and acidity as a backbone. Nothing not to like and as Matt explained there is no pyrazines and therefore cannot showcase the typically off-putting green pepper like flavors (for my palate anyway). Not rating as this is too new of a varietal for me to even get a future state grip on but know this, I am a buyer.
3 people found this helpful Comments (30)
Red
2018 Matt Morris Wines Charbono Shypoke Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
Added Matt Morris to the trip based on a post by one of my favorite wineries, Kinsman, that MJP relayed to a few of us. We were blown away by both how good they are and at a great price point.

These wines were all PNP and were good right out of the gates, maybe they had 15 - 30 minutes of slow ox but I doubt that had any material impact as the headspace didn't look like it was removed.

This wine, vintage dependent, has a 10-15% of Malbec that creates a wonderful middle to the wine giving it a wonderful front, middle and ending.

Zero experience with the grape but really enjoyed the two SVDs and envision, although have no first hand knowledge, these will become fantastic filled out dark red fruited full body wines with amble lift and minerality to hang with great cabernets/easily substitute in place of a cabernet or when you want a bold wine but not a cabernet if that makes sense. This is the sister to the Toff vineyard.

Nothing not to like and as Matt explained there is no pyrazines and therefore cannot showcase the typically off-putting green pepper like flavors (for my palate anyway). Not rating as this is too new of a varietal for me to even get a future state grip on, nor had the time to spend figuring that out over its time in the galss, but know this, everyone really enjoyed the tasting and high quality varietal. I am a buyer.

Its worth signing up and giving it a try at this price point and for something new and different in the glass.
3 people found this helpful Comments (3)
Red
2018 Matt Morris Wines Charbono Tofanelli Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
Added Matt Morris to the trip based on a post by one of my favorite wineries, Kinsman, that MJP relayed to a few of us. We were blown away by both how good they are and at a great price point.

These wines were all PNP and were good right out of the gates, maybe they had 15 - 30 minutes of slow ox but I doubt that had any material impact as the headspace didn't look like it was removed.

100% BMF Charbono and it shows beautifully.

Zero experience with the grape but really enjoyed the two SVDs and envision, although have no first hand knowledge, these will become fantastic, this one hits my palate square in the middle- a bit darker, think black currants and blueberry, red currants, cranberry and more masculine than its sister Shypoke with a different touch darker profile but also has the darker red fruited full body wines with amble lift and minerality to hang with great cabernets/easily substitute in place of a cabernet or when you want a bold wine but not a cabernet if that makes sense.

Nothing not to like and as Matt explained there is no pyrazines and therefore cannot showcase the typically off-putting green pepper like flavors (for my palate anyway). Not rating as this is too new of a varietal for me to even get a future state grip on, nor had the time to spend figuring that out over its time in the galss, but know this, everyone really enjoyed the tasting and high quality varietal. I am a buyer.

Its worth signing up and giving it a try at this price point and for something new and different in the glass.
3 people found this helpful Comments (6)

Flight 12 - The All New Vice Versa - WOW (5 notes)

I have been buying from Vice Versa for a number of years and have always been confused on the different levels but have always enjoyed their wine. I say confused as I never knew what to buy, FOMO or not, based on my palate vs wallet vs known/unknown wine purchasing decision making process that at this point in my life falls somewhere between the golf handicap algorithm and weather forecasting.

I call it like I see it, so if this comes off harsh, it is not meant to, rather a honest assessment of YoY changes and from what I can tell is paying dividends to its members! There are never perfect split down the middle win-wins and in this case, we the buyers are on the right side of winning (shhh don't tell them).

OK CAVEAT the following is not exact and may be an exaggeration of sorts but its a good illustration of the concept. Previously they would take their best barrels and put them in the Mag 7 (which is an excellent wine and deserves to be up there in the high-end wine discussions every vintage), then the next best and put in BBS SVDs, then the next best in the SVD, then the next best in the flagship/cuvee and the next best in the Petit and the rest sold (I actually don't think all of the SVDs went into the last two but it helps with my exaggerated illustration). I had issues with this because I have limited space, budget, palate preference and then comparison to other SVDs from other wineries... great idea in principle but it was also to overwhelming for my simple mind and I said to myself, why not make it simple and put everything into their SVDs and work to make their SVDs and Mag 7 the best wines in Napa... well apparently I am not as dumb as I look, although I probably am.

So fast forward to 2019- WTF just happened. We are seated at the tasting, we started with a couple of very nice 2018 wines, one being a top vineyard expression for me LPV, and they were very good. I literally turn to our amazingly generous host and ask about the above diatribe and why would they do that etc but he cuts me off mid sentence, in his sexy French accent, "just wait" and then followed by "try this" which the third glass was being poured around the table. Not one to let a new wine sit in the glass uncomfortable, I obliged which mind you I was already enjoying the wines before me. Everyone around the table did a WTF reaction with me nailing the Dr (wait will I be canceled for the construction of that sentence on this platform?) Crane- the wine was/is MAGNIFICANT (and no it was not the Mag 7) and not the same as any Dr Crane I had tasted from VV before. When I turned to look at Patrice, and our eyes met - yep with this glass of wine read into whatever you want, he just smiled knowingly and nodded. They decided to remove the 52 layers and go with a BMF Mag 7 and the rest BMF SVDs with no middle person (wait can you use that as a descriptor as I know you cant use man or women and I am trying to be neutral) ok moving on. He obviously, like a magician, orchestrated this on purpose to get our reactions as this is the first vintage with this structure. Next came the second 2019 barrel sample and this one I could not pick out as it was absolutely fantastic and thought for a second it could be To Kalon but since its been so long since I had a BMF To Kalon, well actually the previous morning but stay with me here, of this magnitude I skipped over it and had zero idea where it was from. Now all of the best barrels (minus a few in Mag 7) are now in the SVDs but they also added better components of the vineyards as well. Yes I doubled my order.

An amazing tasting hosted by such gracious, passionate, living life to the fullest couple managing an exceptional team (Maayan is a beast winemaker)- and it has only gotten better. Thank you for allowing us into your lives for a fantastic tasting!

Red
2018 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Steltzner Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
My score may be influenced by the the wines I have had prior to this tasting but I tried not to make that part of my grading/assessment. Like all of VV wines, they are very well made. I think the profile may not have hit me right and/or I didn't allow for it to open in the glass as much as I would have liked - and because the rest of the tasting was a near perfect match for my palate. I took this quick assessment at the start, unfortunately didn't go back to revisit (love that line in wine country) to see how it improved over time.

This wine seemed more subdued and earthy than I would have expected which maybe it is simply in a weird phase which I know people have experienced with some of these 2018s. Because of this and the above, I will not rate the wine.

Do yourself a favor and signup for their list, the '19s have elevated this winery to another level.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
Now we are getting somewhere. This is a very nice wine however it needs more time in the cellar before opening or make sure this has enough time to open up fully but not too much time or you will miss the window. Perfect advice right? Super helpful? ok maybe not but my takeaway here is to be careful with a super long decant as to not blow by the window - this wine needs time but also know it is not a majorly fruit forward wine, which is fine as LPV handles both presentations/styles exceptionally well. One typically has more lift and minerality to it as the other style tends to showcases more fruit & mineral with the acidity in the background at least IMO. No rating as I was unable to drink the wine in the proper window (my fault not the wine).

Do yourself a favor and signup for their list, the '19s have elevated this winery to another level.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2019 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane USA, California, Napa Valley
96 points
The third pour of wine actually started in-between the second and the third glass. I just finished the 2018 LPV SVD which was good but it brought me back to my conundrum of Mag 7 vs BBS vs SVD so I turn to my very gracious host where I was going to pitch this idea/suggestion about putting the BBS juice into the SVD (and some into Mag 7 so there would be more, if & when the barrels warrant) so never being one to really hold back, I start the super awkward conversation with something super intelligent like “so BBS” or “hey what do you think of BBS” you know real thought provoking stuff, as I was trying to figure out how to word this puppy he stops me and says “just wait”.

As he says that in his sexy suave accent, the third glass is poured which I deftly scoop up (does one ever scoop up a glass?), give it a nice swirl and breathe in deep. I take a sip which created a fireworks like effect that based on the profile could only be one of my favorite vineyards, Dr Crane. But it wasn’t just any Dr Crane, it was the mythical beast that only comes out every third leap year to run and play. Next thing I knew my glass was empty. I looked around to find the jerk and accuse them for obviously taking my wine but then switched switched strategies to try and determine if it would be inappropriate to take someone else’s glass that hadn’t yet finished theirs yet? Does Darwin’s theory work with awesome wine?

The wine was filled with gobs of dark everything one would want from a mythical Dr Crane. It was rich, oozing with cassis, blueberry syrup and wine grapes, sweet wet earth with a hard lined mineral component to keep everything in check. This is magnificent in every way. 96 for now with upside of 1-3 points in a coupe of years IF you never taste it and won’t be tempted to sneak in early.

Do yourself a favor and signup for their list, the '19s have elevated this winery to another level.
6 people found this helpful Comments (36)
Red
2019 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
95 points
Last glass of the pre-arranged pours and like the Dr just before this one, we were in complete shock. There hasn’t been a To Kalon in over a decade that has made me excited to take another sip after another after another and then look at my empty decanter as if it’s the decanter’s fault there isn’t any left. Damn those always ending cool party decanters- they are just so mean.

If this barrel sample, and of course it’s only one sample vs the final blend, tastes anything like the final blend- back the Truck up and never look back. The added parcels, better barrels, ‘19 vintage that just aligns perfectly with To Kalon, continued learnings of the team always striving to get better and better - no idea but wow. This is more Cristal’s sample than WBW’s so we will have to assume it will be a blend of the two or maybe WBW’s will not be included.

They are doing great things, buying & leasing exceptional vineyards and always pushing for greatness and not resting on their latest success. 95 for this barrel sample with 1-3 points in time.

Do yourself a favor and signup for their list, the '19s have elevated this winery to another level.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2017 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon The Magnificent Seven USA, California, Napa Valley
Ok so following the Dr and To Kalon, we were really getting into a groove to the point I was ready to jump up on the table and join my group together to figure out how we would buy Vice Versa or another winery in Napa and live here full time- damn the kids and job - why do we work so hard!! Patrice says - you think those are good check this out - you guys in? Are we in, that is HILARIOUS, you can't offer a rolled up bearer bond, a mirror made from diamonds and pristine 100% pure cocaine to wall street day trader with a seat on the exchange that has been doing lines with a rolled up Benjamin on a review mirror and expect anything other F ' yeah or at least that is what I have been told anyway.

I am so disappointed we had to leave shortly after the PnP as this wine was soooo well built I could not get over it was a '17. What was real compelling for me was the way the various vineyards could still be picked out of sorts yet already integrated (it may not make sense until you open a bottle and smell/taste - I am not good enough to pick out vineyards but it was really cool). My only assessments I was able to put together:
1) Really well made
2) Very good wine for not only '17 but in general
3) More time is needed to finish the integration which will make this an even better wine
4) If they could make a wine this good in '17 the '19 might reach baller status as the kids say (do kids still say that)
5) I sent an email asking to double my ‘19 vintage order

I am unable to rate as this was a PnP and this wine needs time to unravel its layers. I would hold 2-3 years and then open.

Do yourself a favor and signup for their list, the '19s have elevated this winery to another level.
4 people found this helpful Comments (2)

Flight 13 - Arkenstone - OG Kaplan (6 notes)

Having a man crush on Kaplan, or more specifically his wines (Memento Mori, Vangone, Maxem - Pinot/Chard insane QPR CA take on Burgs unlike anything I have seen elsewhere (can't recommend those enough- spin through CT to see if those are your style as they just that good (not the big round in your face profile rather insanely nuanced with tremendous lift and precision and a damn long finish) - ok I am back from the public announcement. I never really had an Arkenstone wine so off to the mothership for more info.

The grounds, winery and hosts were wonderful. We ended up tasting most of the 2017s but unfortunately for the most part that vintage, with minor exceptions to date, doesn’t seem to mesh with my palate preference (although for Kaplan wines, if you can get your hands on 2017 Maxem jump at the chance). You can tell, as there is no surprise as Kaplan is the winemaker, that the full lineup are really well made. The wines have his style built in from the first sip to the last, providing great balance, lift, structure and overall fruit/minerality- and the two wines that we tastes, one from 2018 and one from 2019 were right inline with expectations or in the case of the 2019, above.

Red
2018 Arkenstone Cabernet Sauvignon NVD USA, California, Napa Valley
The NVD cuvee is a new blend for me, with vineyards I am less knowledgeable and due to our limited time with this wine and lack of vineyard knowledge I am unable to provide any real insight. My impression was a nice wine in a great vintage by an exceptional winemaker that we enjoyed the opportunity to taste at the winery. I made a mental note to look into this one a bit more after our trip along with the Heimark.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Arkenstone Cabernet Sauvignon Heimark Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
The Heimark vineyard is a new vineyard for me as is Arkenstone and unfortunately without having enough time to spend on this wine, I am uncomfortable providing tasting notes or a rating. My impression was a nice wine in a great vintage that we enjoyed the opportunity to taste at the winery. I made a mental note to look into this one a bit more after our trip.
Red
2017 Arkenstone Estate USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
92 points
First off, its not fair to have tasted this wine, or any 2017 for that matter, on a tasting trip of a lifetime AND when no other 2017 was tasted anywhere else. If this wine would have been poured any other day as a standalone perhaps my scrutiny/expectations would have been different. Is this a well made wine, yes. Does this represent the vintage, I believe so. Did Sam pull off a win in a very difficult vintage - yes. Would I drink this at home if I opened it and enjoy drinking it yes. Would I or did I buy it - no as I would rather buy 12-16, 18 and now 19 if they are available simply due to my profile preference alone.

While the ‘17 Estate wasn’t for me, it was well made but the 2019, at this stage based on the finite sample we tasted was outstanding! I want to get some of that bad boy once it is in bottle. Final assessment based on the two limited interactions- another wine to add to my budget next year. My rating reflects my assessment based on the wine I drank outside of the lineup from this trip.
2 people found this helpful Comments (4)
White
2018 Arkenstone Sauvignon Blanc USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
92 points
The 2018 Estate Sauv Blanc was very good but I am not a SB drinker so take that with a grain of salt. While my impressions might not be exactly in line with MSU below, there is no doubt his skill at articulating the experience supersedes mine, but our experiences are similar enough so I will simply second his assessment.
Red
2019 Arkenstone Estate USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
The second to last wine of the flight was a barrel sample of the 2019 Estate- WOW and now this fits exactly in my wheelhouse and can see why Arkenstone has such a following. I would have loved to taste the 2018 as based on a minor vintage adjustment that I have now logged away in my mind (2019 seems to be similar to 2015 combined with 2012/2014 (no clue which combo but its not exactly 2015) taking away a little lushness and adding a bit more lift/tannins the '18 must be a stellar wine.

This wine over delivered with lush dark fruits and minerals with just enough lift to keep things honest. This seems like it will be an earlier drinker than my estimation on the '18 based on vintage alone (caveat have not tasted simple assumption here), yet with full enjoyment from PnP though medium term cellaring. I will not rate this wine 'officially' as I am not familiar with the winery or this bottling to feel confident enough with my weather forecasting but if I did I would guess 95+ depending on final blend. I will be a buyer.
1 person found this helpful Comments (5)
Red
2018 Arkenstone Cabernet Sauvignon Amoenus USA, California, Napa Valley
The 2018 Amoenus was very good. I have not knowingly tasted any other wine from this vineyard except for Maybach but once I saw it at Arkenstone I had to have it! I love me some Kaplan and Amoenus - is it a match made in heaven or a partnership gone wrong, inquiring minds had to find out!

Luckily it turned into a great wine, and one with future releases as Sam gets to know the vineyard a bit more will climb up the rating scale. I enjoyed it so much I added it to my cellar. I could not come close to putting my thoughts on this wine any better than CSIMM put it - don't expect a Maybach (which I love and is the only TRB wine I now buy and drink with enthusiasm) rather a more Kaplanesq version- which is what I was looking for. My only diff opinion from CSIMM on the Maybach TRB note below is the 2016 Maybach Amoenus, around this time after its release, wasn't as full throttle as its older siblings may have been at this time and it had more verve than the releases around it (so if you are going off 2016 just a mental note from my experience say vs the 2015 but CSIMM has a much better palate than mine so there is that). This was a PNP and didn't get to spend enough time with it so I will not rate it. Once I get to open my bottle I will provide another review with my final thoughts. I am a buyer and really enjoyed the wine.
1 person found this helpful Comments (1)

Flight 14 - La Pelle - The Man Behind The Man (2 notes)

Second to last tasting of the trip, last one for the night and after what has been an absolute blockbuster two plus days, the surprises just keep on coming.

Maayan, an insanely talented winemaker that came to the US to make his way in arguably the most difficult complex wine market in the world would find himself at the reins of arguably the number one cult wine in the world, Screaming Eagle. After making sure to help transfer the reins to the then new winemaker, he left to accomplish two things (1) dive into an opportunity to learn about the entire Napa Valley wine regions/vineyards, (2) learn from arguably one of the top winemakers and (3) be in a position to launch his own label in the not to distant future once he was able to meld all of his previous and soon to be future knowledge together. So he took the position as Melka's Director of Winemaking for Melka's consulting clients... this man is insanely brilliant, probably a genius and is offering his portfolio of wines between $75 - $175? It feels very much like the Macdonald’s theory of pricing their amazing wine.

I was first introduced to his wines without knowing he was instrumental in their creation, Vice Versa and more recently Dana Estates. I could not get over how good these wines were, both in construct and the handling of the tannins- powerful yet refined. Did a bit of research and found Maayan was the mastermind behind a new label called La Pelle. I was too late to buy the 2016 regular Cabernet but did get in on one of the last reserve packs he had. Like many of us do, the wine shows up and it’s put away in the wine fridge or cellar never to be heard from again but then in ‘19 I opened a Vice Versa and the memory of La Pelle was triggered so I had to taste his own wine style with vineyards his partner farmed. I wasn’t at all familiar the vineyards but knew Maayan was an expert in his craft.
[Fast forward to this trip and he said something that was really interesting, he said he makes wines all over the world and in so many vineyards as you never should stop learning- as you don't know what you don't know and thereby by continuing to expand knowledge, you will only become better and better at your craft- well said and I am a firm believer of that in life or work. Not sure I would want to work in all of those countries and have no personal life but hopefully he gets to a point where he can manage effectively with a great team and get some of that personal life we all strive for vs having your best friends be grapes- not judging just saying.]

ok back to the original thoughts- Well to be honest I wasn’t expecting an amazing nose and powerful wine with enhancing tannins that was built like a brick sh-t house. From what I understood about Screaming Eagle it is more of a nuanced feminine wine skillfully built; Vice Versa and Dana, vineyard dependent, are fuller and deeper but this wine was a mix of both - powerful yet refined, rich but with acidity to balance and overall structure to reward time in the cellar. My first thought was this will be bad a-s with time and not to touch for a few years. This made we want to dive in deeper to learn more as I had something special it just will take a while to unlock its goodness. So add it to the next trip I did (yoda) in Napa with great Q&A as I was not familiar with his personal style, the vineyards nor any other wine vintage. Maayan is super personable, generous with his time and beyond passionate about wine- he literally lives and breathes it 24/7. It’s there where I was able to taste the 2017 regular cabernet and was shocked at how good it was, not for a ‘17 but for a wine in general- and at $75 (really). Since then I bought from La Pelle and then acquired another case or two from retail. This is one of the handful of 2017s I have bought and am very satisfied and so are the friends I open them with.

Since then I never left well enough alone and I keep opening the ‘16 reserve in hopes my three year hold was wrong and by some magic the wines would magically be ready two years early- you could just tell although they were locked up these were well made special wines. Should have stuck to my guns as these wines are aging very slowly - but I liked them so much I bought one more six pack. So far so good.

Now couple the just released 3 SVDs of vineyards (a couple of weeks ago) I am still not familiar with and the desire to taste the 2018 reserve, this was a stop I had to have on the trip and it didn’t disappoint. My hope was I could taste one of these fast enough to be able to order more before they sold out. Surprisingly in a vintage that IMO requires time, the one SVD I did taste was already yummy with 30 minutes in the glass (for sure it will be better in the cellar but we all loved it as is and for $125 -sign me up again for another purchase of a good now and and a mid term cellar worthy gem... what you are sold out WT-!. Good news is the 2018 Reserve did not disappoint and got the attention of everyone around the table. This one will need good nap time but will drink well for years.

Great QPR and worth signing up for the mailing list as to not miss the up coming releases which I believe are later this month or next.

Red
2018 La Pelle Cabernet Sauvignon Ceniza USA, California, Napa Valley, Coombsville
This is a wonderful wine that drinks above its price point. While it drinks nice now with a long decant, it will be a rock star with time in the bottle. Upon opening, it is immediately evident the wine has its terroir nailed- you can just sense it as it rolls over the tongue and the layers unfold. This is not a heavy cassis driven wine rather more of a dark red, herbs, minerals that end with a great finish that simply beckons for another sip and another pour. Excellent structure and a well made wine that if I was allowed to buy more I would in a heart beat. This also confirms how talented this winemaker is. 93 - 94 for me with real upside in two years.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 La Pelle Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve USA, California, Napa Valley
95 points
Whoa - this is built like a brick sh-it house in every way. It is not a heavy syrupy cassis driven wine (which don't get me wrong I like those as well as long as they are complex vs sugar) rather a deep excellently structured wine that begs for time in the glass and even then still needs 3-5 years to fully strut its stuff. This has all of the elements I love - dark red and black fruit, chocolate, coffee, smoky, rocks and tremendous lift and tannins to give this a nice long life (not that it will last that long in my cellar). Not much else to say but put this in your cellar and enjoy this layered beauty as the makeup of the vineyards provide such a unique and compelling cuvee that is just so intriguing. One other note, and maybe due to his time in Chili but there is even an ever so slight Chilean influence which adds to the complexity - so yummy!
4 people found this helpful Comments (13)

Closing

With the objectives accomplished, the next trip will focus on our favorite wineries with more time spent focusing on the individual wines. Thank you to all of the wineries that graciously hosted our group; shared not only their wines but their stories and knowledge, allowed us to have constructive debates and counterpoints but were many times more open then I would have imagined going in. What a great community- we cant wait to come back (although they may not feel the same way:)

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