2021 Napa - June 9-12

Tasted June 14, 2021 by Geaux Tigers with 288 views

Introduction

2021 Jaunt to Napa with another couple on their inaugural trip.

Things I think I thought

1. The whole damned world forgot how to travel and get through an airport. To make it worse, the airports aren’t really ready.
2. For the first time ever, I made it onto the rental car bus at Sacramento without a 30 minute wait.
3. Secret menu at In-n-Out? Where the hell have I been? Still, Whataburger beats In-n-Out hands down.
4. I’ve always wanted to visit Napa in winter. This year I did it in June.
5. Uber needs to up its game after 8 pm in the valley—the people need to get home after dinner! Thanks Lyft!
6. Congratulations to Napa hospitality—hear you are booked full for the most part through October.
7. I thought I would miss ‘drop in’ tastings. I did not — my liver and kidneys were appreciative.
8. If you’re traveling with another couple on their first Napa trip, don’t knock it out of the park on Day 1, it sets high expectations and a bad precedent!

9. Important*** I only scored wines or notated where I paid specific attention to notes and didn’t get distracted by all of our bulls##ting and shenanigans! Those scores are as-is, not what I think the wine could become, though there are some notes on that where I thought useful for my scale. ‘Unhelpful’ notes included in the introductions providing something worth noting but did not fit into a proper tasting note. 70+ wines over 3.5 days left my memory vivid for wines I loved, not so much for the others.

10. My palate is exhausted and my liver needs a detox from both wine and delicious bread.
11. 29 traffic on Thursday was unbearable, Friday and Saturday were worse.
12. Shout out to ACME fine wines on outstanding customer service.
13. For those of you heading out to Napa, book early as possible and be patient, there is a labor shortage and the tourist machine is not yet running completely efficiently.
14. There were more people bottling 2020s than I would have thought, I guess not all is lost.
15. Many places are spacing out normal 2021 timeframe releases into 2022 to help bridge the lack of 2020s.

Flight 1 - Day 0.5 - Elyse (4 notes)

Off to the races and Elyse was first! Along with Elyse we tasted some Institution and Addax wines. Great visit with Kristopher and Cheryl. We had such a great time shooting the bull and laughing that the wines seemed secondary, but very impressed with Bevan’s handiwork at play. Very different oak treatments versus the usual Bevan signature—in a good way. I think all of the bottles were PnP, but I wasn’t paying that close attention.

Unscored wines—

2018 Napa - Great sub $50 value. Smooth on the palate but definitely young. Would be interest to see what 2-3 years does to this. Good, but with space issues at home did not buy

2018 Holbrook Mitchell - nice opener but outshone by its brethren.

2018 Institution Proprietary - a blend of Erba, Tench, Sugarloaf and maybe some others. I liked this wine, but didn’t find enough difference from the Bevan Cellars blends on the palate to purchase. Would be interested to try this again in 7-9 years to see what it does.

2018 Institution Erba-this was the most closed off wine and the coffee and mocha notes overpowered everything else.

Red
2018 Elyse Cabernet Sauvignon Morisoli Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
96 points
Outstanding. This edged out the Zieger block Zin for wine of the visit. Nice tannic structure and acid for the long haul. Red and black higher toned fruit. This was a wine I kept my nose in when I wasn’t laughing and it glided effortlessly over the palate, medium long finish. Bought 6.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2019 Elyse Zinfandel Zieger Block Morisoli Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
95 points
Heard about this small production Zin on WB and had to try even though I’m not a Zin fan. Well, I’m a fan of this Zin. Unapologetic and big, but not seemingly over baked and overcooked. Bold but balanced. Reminded me more of a Calistoga cab from a hot year. No hot fruit pie here! Blind I would have been completely confused in a great way. For the first time ever, I bought a Zin, actually 4 of them.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Addax Cabernet Sauvignon Tench Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
94 points
Oh Tench how I love thee. Red fruit dominated, eastern Oakville at its finest. If you love Tench, this is a no brainer! Room to get better and run up a few points.
Red
2019 Addax Cabernet Sauvignon Lynne USA, California, Napa Valley
95 points
Poured late in the tasting, but almost won the horse race. Vineyard is apparently near where O’Shaughnessy sources its Veeder fruit, and it shows. My first impression was that this was Veeder on the nose and palate, and then I looked over at the label on the shiner and saw it was a 2019! A definite buy when this is released!

Flight 2 - Day 0.5 - Dinner with Shae Kinsman @ Charter Oak (4 notes)

Dinner @ The Charter Oak with Shae Kinsman catching up and chatting. Lots going on with Geeslin being pulled but Vine Hill Ranch coming on line. Spent too much time gossiping to pay detailed attention to notes, but this is what I got. All wines decanted 6 hrs. One of the things I loved about each of these wines was the seemingly restrained oak treatment that avoided getting in the way of the fruit. That being said, a common theme here is hurry up and wait. I wish these wines would hurry up, I don’t want wait to see how much better they will be in 5-7 years. Sorry no points awarded, but I think when they are properly awoken from an extended slumber, AG will have gotten it right across the board here.

Red
2018 Bella Oaks Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
What an opener, I’m buying this. There are wines you can smell and taste early in their development and just know you are going to have trouble waiting on them to develop into beauty queens. This is one of those. Darker fruit profile, structured and chalky tannins, not a very helpful description, but just know this was delicious. Put these away for 5-7 years (longer for me) and then decant.
4 people found this helpful Comments (23)
Red
2018 Kinsman Eades Cabernet Sauvignon La Voleuse Du Chagrin USA, California, Napa Valley, Calistoga
Sophisticated, more red fruit and more fruit forward than Bella Oaks, glided elegantly over the palate. Tannins are holding this back and this is nowhere near ready for optimal early consumption, but oh boy am I glad I jumped on this. A fabulous effort here! Too bad this is a 2018/2019 two-trick pony for the time being with Geeslin being replanted. Keeping my hands off this one is going to be a big problem!
4 people found this helpful Comments (9)
Red
2018 Kinsman Eades Cabernet Sauvignon Rhadamanthus USA, California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain
This was the biggest of the Kinsman wines. Fruit peeking through the tannic structure but plenty of acid to age gracefully. More open and less tannic than I remember the 2016 at a similar stage. Shae suggested drinking ‘17 before ‘16 or ‘18. I agree and will let these babies rest for 7 years if not more. I think AG hit this spot on…in 7-9 years, and for a long drinking window. Patience is your friend for optimal results and buy, buy, buy, if you can find it!
3 people found this helpful Comments (3)
Red
2018 Impensata Cabernet Sauvignon Engelhard Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
This was the most open of the wines at dinner—racy, juicy, bold but not big, fruit forward but a nice tannic backbone that carried the wine across the palate. Do not ask whether this is a buy, ask how much to buy!
2 people found this helpful Comments (1)

Flight 3 - Day 1 - MACDONALD (1 note)

Always a great visit with Alex, it had been five years since our last visit. Walked the vines and talked To Kalon before sitting down to a great glass of wine. The more I learn about To Kalon, the less I know. Walked away with a bit of MACDONALD swag to boot!

Red
2018 MacDonald Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
97 points
Decanted but can’t remember how long. Was able to pay attention to this one! Black olives, tapenade, crushed graphite, black cherry. Obviously young and tannic, but another epic wine from the Alex and Graeme. 97 for now, this will rival the 2013 at some point. Hope I can hold onto mine long enough to do a comparison in 10+ years.

This was my wine of the trip!
2 people found this helpful Comment

Flight 4 - Day 1 - Checkerboard (5 notes)

Awesome visit, beautiful views. Still signs of destruction everywhere from last years fires, but miraculously the vineyard and cellar had little damage. This was a new one for us. The visit and the wines exceeded expectations. If 2017 was a supposed off vintage, I can’t wait to see what 2018 and 2019 are like!

Red
2017 Checkerboard Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Kings Row USA, California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain
A lovely Cabernet-based blend, plenty of structure yet a nice fruit profile that provides an earlier drinking window than the others. Best nose of the bunch. Until the 2014 Aurora showed up, this and Nash Creek were in a horse race for best in show.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2017 Checkerboard Vineyards Aurora Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain
Seemingly destined to be a beauty queen, this young pup needs time. Red fruited and somewhat tannic, this was not ready to come out and play. Oh the potential, though, as demonstrated by a side by side with the 2014. I’m a buyer here.
Red
2017 Checkerboard Vineyards Coyote Ridge Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
Most unique nose of the bunch, I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Dark and inky, a nice silky glycerin texture. Structured and tannic with the fruit somewhat hidden.
Red
2017 Checkerboard Vineyards Nash Creek USA, California, Napa Valley
This was our favorite of the 2017s, more red fruit than Aurora and Coyote Ridge, but less structure and tannins. Still, this will need a few years to shed its baby fat. I’m excited to see where this one goes!
Red
2014 Checkerboard Vineyards Aurora Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain
95 points
We closed with a library Aurora and what a finish. This was like getting a 23andme report on the 2017 Aurora. Red fruit, definitely Diamond Mountain, tannins have started to recede but provide a lovely backbone for a long finish. No need to wait here, even with PnP, though I think this still has room to get even better. 95 pts for now with 96-98 future potential.
2 people found this helpful Comments (2)

Flight 5 - Day 1 - Trespass Vineyard (3 notes)

We met Donnie up at Venge and tasted on the back porch overlooking the vineyard. What a gracious host and a lovely afternoon view.

2018 Zinfandel - good but not a Zin person, though it did seem to hide the high A/C well and didn’t have the normal overcooked red fruit pie notes.

Red
2018 Trespass Vineyard Cabernet Franc USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
95 points
Simply outstanding, no hard edges, lovely fruit, floral profile. No green notes. Best in class! Rumors of Trespass making one of the best CF in Napa are indeed confirmed.
2 people found this helpful Comments (5)
Red
2016 Trespass Vineyard Mayhem USA, California, Napa Valley
CF/Merlot blend, lovely on the palate, good now but thinks this integrates even more and gets better in a couple of years.
Red
2016 Trespass Vineyard Rendezvous USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
CS/CF blend, slightly tamer than the Mayhem, but a nice blend. 15+ A/C is hidden by the fruit and structure here. Let this rest for 2-3 years and I think it can shine!

Flight 6 - Day 2 - Lerner Project (5 notes)

Made our way up to Armstrong Ranch. What a beautiful property! The tasting deck views are breathtaking and every bit as good as the wine. Not a lot of helpful tasting notes as we spent more time admiring the views. These 2018s from Lerner are a solid stable of top notch wines.

Red
2018 Lerner Project Cabernet Sauvignon Tench Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
Somewhat muted nose which caused my confusion with the RMS, this is Tench and more Tench. The palate was somewhat closed down, but I think this excels with time in cellar. Unfortunately, on tasting day this was outshone by it peers—very stiff competition.
Red
2018 Lerner Project Cabernet Sauvignon Sugarloaf Mountain USA, California, Napa Valley
96 points
My favorite of the Lerner tasting and shares some similarity with Bevan’s version. Seemingly more together early on with less early toasty oak notes than the Bevan version, this has a lot of potential once the components fully integrate. I’m a buyer. Can’t wait to pair Bevan and Lerner on a side by side in 7 years—there will be no losers!
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Lerner Project Cabernet Sauvignon Houyi Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
This is unapologetic Pritchard Hill, red fruit touch of iron, delicious all the way and not surprisingly Mrs Geaux’s favorite. Lay down for 2-3 years and try again.
Red
2018 Lerner Project Cabernet Sauvignon Armstrong Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
95 points
I had this out of barrel a few years ago and noted it for future watch. Turns out I was right. I picked up some of these at release, glad I did, and then picked up some more! How’s that for an endorsement

Red berry fruit and spice components on a nice tannic backbone. This can be drunk now with air, I noted 95 for now, but I thinks runs up to high 90s with 5-7 years on its side.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2018 Lerner Project Cabernet Sauvignon RMS USA, California, Napa Valley
Served first with the 2018 Tench, this had the most expressive nose of all of the wines and blind I would have put it as the Tench. Still some baby fat left to meld, but can be drunk with a decant.

Flight 7 - Day 2 - William & Mary / Rivers Marie (3 notes)

Great visit with Will at Mending Wall, with guest appearances by happenstance from some of the Board favorites, Roy and Benoit. The 2019 W&M wines are freaking legit! This was one of our best in class visits on an epic itinerary.

Rivers Marie

2019 Oakville Hillsides-Formerly Lore, this wine was bottled the week before and had shut down. Mostly brandy notes on the nose but brief flashes of Eastern Oakville would poke through every now and then. While this was shut down, was interesting to taste and I’m a buyer.

2019 Panek this wine was bottle the week prior and had shut down. Patches of red fruit would periodically appear. Not fair to really rate or score, but interesting to taste nonetheless.

Red
2019 William & Mary Cabernet Sauvignon Shifflett Ranch USA, California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll District
Recently bottled, there is no shutdown in the W&M wines just yet. The nose and palate jumped out of the glass. This seemingly can be drunk now with air until (if) it shuts down in bottle. From the first, this one made me pause the conversation and admire the handiwork! I told Will I think this may be his best yet!
3 people found this helpful Comments (6)
Red
2019 William & Mary Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley USA, California, Napa Valley
Bottled recently, this was the most structured of the W&M wines and really needs to lay down the longest. Excited to see where this one goes in 5, 7 or 9 years. If you buy a bunch, test drive with a lot of air, otherwise I implore you to be patient and let this nap for years. A lot of folks did not heed the helpful advice from many and opened the 2018s way too early. Patience will reward those willing to lie these sideways.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2019 William & Mary Proprietary Red Shifflett Ranch USA, California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll District
Bottled recently, this had the most expressive nose of the three W&M wines and can be drunk now with air until (if) it shuts down in bottle. The parts are not fully integrated yet, but this has a lot of potential.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 8 - Day 2 - BRION (0 notes)

Great visit with Michael at Sleeping Lady Vineyard. Arrived and promptly greeted with a glass of Dom Perignon. Loved the set up and tasting area in the old restored barn. Exciting things happening here. the 2016 were delicious and it looks like the 2018s are going to be as good as reviewed by AG.

2016 Moon Mtn—I love Sonoma Moon Mountain cabs this was excellent though more on the restrained side with a bit of a sweet note still lingering from the oak.

2016 Caldwell—This was my favorite of the tasting, I love Coombsville cabs, blue and black fruited, starting to integrate nicely. Still think this needs to lay down for another few years. Bought.

2016 Sleeping Lady—Mrs Geaux loved this, Sleeping Lady is not my thing, doesn’t matter who is making it. Bought 2 for her and to see what happens with a bit of age.

2016 Oakville Ranch—at the beginning I would have told you this would win as I am an Eastern Oakville homer. Wrong! This was good, not great, and finished well behind the other offerings.

2018 Ecotone barrel blend-this was poured last and cleared the bases! I can’t remember the exact blend, but believe it to be CS/Merlot/Petit Verdot. While somewhat tannic, the pieces and parts danced on the palate and left a long finish, making us forget about the lovely wined poured earlier. If it sounds like I am crushing on the this, you’re right, I am. Wines were opened the day before.

Flight 9 - Day 3 - Memento Mori (3 notes)

Tasted at the tasting room with Genevieve. Started the tasting with a Paul Launois champagne and wowser, never had a champagne wow me, but it did.

2018 MM Vine Hill Ranch-This has all the hallmarks and makings of a great wine, but seemed shut down and slightly muted. Reminded a little of the 2016 VHR at a similar stage, great winemaking on display here, can’t wait to try again in 2025.

Red
2014 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
94 points
I had a bottle of this a few weeks ago that disappointed, this bottle did not. Red fruit, herbal notes, bay leaf, slight smoke notes, some Weitz still jumping the nose. This delivered on all cylinders.
Red
2018 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
93 points
This will absolutely be better than the 2014 but it it ain’t there yet. Similar notes to the 2014, red fruit, bay leaf, herbal tones, but this seems to flow effortlessly across the palate. This was really good, Mrs Geaux’s favorite. I will take one for a spin soon. Room to run into high 90s in 7+ years.
Red
2017 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon Las Piedras USA, California, Napa Valley
96 points
A surprise pop for us was the 2017 Las Piedras. I am not a LPV fan in the base case, but props here on a great wine even if not my thing. Wine of the MM visit! On PnP, this was crazy good, blueberry forefront on the palate with blackberries joining the dance with a wet rock mineral streak carrying a long finish on a nice tannic backbone.

Flight 10 - Day 3 - Bevan Cellars (4 notes)

As always, Bevan Cellars is one of our favorite visits every time we go and this certainly did not disappoint. Kudos to Pumpkin and company for a fabulous finish!

Red
2019 Bevan Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
96 points
PnP, redneck decant and delicious-just simply delicious. Just bottled weeks ago, but not yet shut down. Purple fruit, white flowers, touch of bittersweet chocolate and Black Forest cake. Dr. Crane profile with the Russell touch. No step down from 2018 and may actually be better, only time will tell. 96 as it is, room to potentially run to perfection in 5+ years.
3 people found this helpful Comments (3)
Red
2018 Bevan Cellars EE Cuvée Tench Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
95 points
PnP and redneck decant. The EE has two of my favorite things, Tench fruit and Cabernet Franc. The palate did not disappoint, red fruit, touch of iron, some slight herbal notes and a lovely perfume CF nose. 95 pts and room to improve with time in the cellar. If this note sounds like the 2019 note, it is, the wines are so consistent year on year, this was simply 1 year nicer!
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2019 Bevan Cellars EE Cuvée Tench Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
94 points
The EE has two of my favorite things, Tench fruit and Cabernet Franc. The palate did not disappoint, red fruit, touch of iron, some slight herbal notes and a lovely perfume CF nose. 94 pts and room to improve with time in the cellar. If this note sounds like the 2018 note, it is, the wines are so consistent year on year, this was simply 1 year younger!
Red
2014 Bevan Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon McGah Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
94 points
PnP this red fruited beauty has developed nicely since my last bottle. Bright red cherry, red licorice, still enough tannin and acid to carry this on a long finish, but still has years left, but no reason to wait. Open and into the window.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Closing

For us this was an EPIC trip, made so primarily by the people who took time out of their busy schedules, augmented in part by some great wines!

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