Monday, April 1, 2013

2nd visit to Napa

Hi ,

Today finishes my second visit to Napa and its region.
The 1st visit really gave me a good idea what to expect and basic knowledge on how to look, where to look and what to look for. Also after trying at least 150 wines in 1 week during the 1st visit , then trying a few more in Boston and of course trying again at home the wines I had bought I think my taste has certainly matured and I can appreciate wines differently.
 This second visit really showed me the diversity of the wines but also I grew to enjoy good Cabernet Sauvignon more. I also learned that you can find good wine in Napa under 50$ ( again) , that Napa wines are certainly the best, and there are quite a few wines around $100 that are quite wow. But on the other side if you work (a lot harder) you can also find amazing wines (maybe not Cabernet Sauvignon though) outside Napa for about 1/2 the price. This reminds me what I sometimes say : I noticed that there are outstanding professors at any university or school but all professors were outstanding at MIT.
But to find the reasonably priced good wine in Napa, you have to work hard and keep tasting !

Here is a list of the wineries we tried , I will comment on each of them so that we know for next time.

Friday :

Waterstone :
Sunday-Monday : noon to 6pm
Bought 10 Zin 2008 Waterstone, 1 Pinot Gris
(Really nice tasting room, great value to wine, go visit !)

Vinter's collective
Bought 2 Tournesol, Blend of Cab, 75$
( Average wines, quite high prices, the Tournesol, while expensive, seemed to be really worth it though, we'll see at home

Stonehedge :
Bought 3 Muscat Canelli
( Last time I loved it, this time very disappointed by their reds. The Muscat hasn't changed, decent value)

Saturday :

Manzanita Creek
1441 A Grove Street , Healdsburg, California.
Wednesday through Saturday
10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.
Bought 3 Stealth Zins.
( Wine maker was there, great person, great group. The Zins want to be like Robert Biale. The only one that is actually like The Robert Biale is the Stealth, but it's also 60$/bottle or so, so OUCH ! However they tried to make a Cabernet and it didn't go as they wanted so they just gave away a bottle, and they explained a lot. Great visit, I hope the wines get better :) )

Deloach Vineyards
1791 Olivet Road
Santa Rosa, CA, 95401
Bought a case of Pinot Noir and Zins.
( Was purchased by a French group in '04 or '05, since it's very different from the other wineries. The prices are VERY reasonable , $30-$50, and the Pinot Noirs very diverse and interesting. Their Zins are amazing too. I loved it. IF you are part of the club they will give a 30% off !! Couldn't resist.  I loved the wines, the prices and the value to the price. I think their prices can only go up, buy before ! )

Woodenhead Winery
5700 river road santa rosa
(Russian River Guido VEnturi Charbono 2009)
Thursday through Monday, 10:30 to 4:30
Bought 2 zins
( I went there for the Charbono , but they didn't have any anymore. Instead bought some old vine zins. They are known for their Pinots but I guess I preferred their Zins. One of them was made by a 90 years old person's family who is still alive and planted the vine himself 70 years ago).

Sunday :

10:30 am Founder's room

Bond 2006 horizontal , Matriarch ...
7 wines or so
0 bottles unfortunately :(
This was $150/person but was worth every cent. AMAZING experience. Amazing wines. Like nothing I have tried, very constructed, very interesting, some tannins which I usually don't like, but they really felt noble. Also Molly, who gave us the tour , as an amazing guide, she knew everything inside out, was very interesting and taught us a lot. A must do ! I wish I could have bought the wine but at $300 a bottles... nope. The Matriarch in comparison was really nothing impressive so we left with nothing but a great comparison point.

12:00 Turnbull ( Cab, Merlot)
Last time this was my favorite winery. Quiet , nice, welcoming. This time, maybe the 2nd worse ! It was a zoo in there. No attention to anybody. The wines, after the Bonds especially, weren't that exceptional. They were purring 2010s which were young ( compered to 2006 Bonds). They had '07 and '08 Fortunate wines but when I asked to buy 2 I was told they won't sell to me because I am not part of the club. I wont' beg them to buy their wines, thank you very much, there is plenty of better wine around for a better price I think.

14:00 Tres Sabores
1620 S Whitehall Ln  St Helena, CA 94574
(707) 967-8027
3 Zins
This was maybe the other of our favorite visist. Complete opposite from Bond. A real family, with sheep, and chickens, old trees and really the way you imagine a family winery. I loved it. The husband gave us most of the tour and the wife joined us (the wine maker). She has been in the wine business for 30 years, was a real pleasure. And they had a great Zin and Cabernet Sauvignon called Perspective. The only catch is that the Cab is $80/bottle which seemed expensive to me. And when I checked, we can buy it online for $50 !! :( I wish I had bought it from her at $50. That was a real turn off, why would they do that ??

15:00 Cardinale
0 bottles !
We were advised to come visit this by some other guest. Yes, good wine, but it's trying too hard to be an elite wine. Too hard , it turns one off. The bottles are also 300$ ++ so that really turns one off too. I have to say they are really good, but 300$ is a problem. However they were really nice and they really served us a lot of wines at $300, $400 or more, I was impressed on the other side and made me ask if the bottles are really worth that much given how much they give away. (In comparison at Caymus they will serve a $130 to taste...reluctantly). Anyway, I think that it's really good wine, but I wish it was more around $100 and people would buy it for sure !

16:00 Odette
2 Carbernet from Plump Jack
We walked in randomly. New winery of Plumpjack (and Cade) group ( owned by a family and the mayor of SF). Their wine is not ready yet ,so we tried the Plump Jack and Cade Howell mountain. I really like the Cade ! They said the Odette will be even fruitier and less tannins ( hence the name). I look forward to see it when ready in 2-3 years.

17:00 Mark Biale taste room.
Bought some Mark Biale, Window Sill , Syrah
Walked in here randomly around the hotel. Great discussion on wine. A really amazing bottle of their white label of Cab at $200/bottle. I did find some Petite Syrah that was really good but the rest ... didn't really like.

Monday :

10:00 Duckhorn Vineyards
1000 Lodi Lane St. Helena, CA 94574
Bought nothing !
This was maybe the worst experience : charge upfront 30$/ tasting. What is the wine is no good.
They server you 5 wines.  Feels like a factory.
They cost 95$ and aren't good !
We left quickly.

11: 00 St Helena Wines shop downtown St Helena
4 bottles, Dove Hill, Carne Humana and Stultz
I thought this was like a Vinter's Collective. Instead it's just a wine store where you can taste some of their bottles they offer. And nice surprise , we had some really nice bottles at 50$. I really liked their selection. So based on their advice bought 2 other bottles, one at $30 and one at $40. The only 2 blind bottles I bought , lets see :)

11:30 Croker (Crocker & Starr)
700 Dowdell Ln  St Helena, CA 94574
(707) 967-9111
3 Petite Syrah, 2002, a pleasure !
Came in here for the Cabernet Franc. They are known for the best one ! It was certainly good.
We liked a LOT their Cabernet Sauvignon at $110 , but a little too much.
We tried the Malbec, really good, but they will only sell to the club.
And last, but not least, they had 20 crates of 2002 Petite Syrah. I loved it and left with it :)
( They recommend we try the Crane Family Vineyards , Tom Chiarella 707 815 3036 for good Merlots and Cabernets, had no time unfortunately !! NExt time !!)

Caymus ( Zin)
9:30 to 4:30 pm , daily
1 case Zin
1 case Meiomi Pinot Noir
Ahh, last time was disspointed but this time left with a case of Zin and one of their sister winery , Belle Clos Pinot Noir called Meiomi. I really thought it was amazing price to quality.And their Zin is great ! I hope I bought enough so that they will age some :)

Robert Sinskey -> Pinot Noir
3 Pinot Noirs.
Went in for the POV Carbernet Sauv. Left with their Pinot Noir. They are known for their Pinot Noir , I see why. Around $30 I fell it was a great value !

15:30 APP MADE
Robert Biale ( Zin!)
4038 Big Ranch Rd  Napa, CA 94558
(707) 257-7555
Bought 9 Zins and 3 Petite Syrah Dessert Wine ( Port)
And last but not least, apparently the best Zins in the Valley. I confirm, they are amazing, worth every (expensive ) penny. Bought some from 100 year old vines. Also some port. And some more. I hope once again some will age nicely :) Conveniently I didn't like the most expensive one, nice no ?

Didn't have time to see, maybe next time :

Maybe Beringer, St Helena Highway
St Helena
2000 Main Street, St. Helena, California.
10am to 5pm

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Primitivo Negroamaro : wild grapes bitter black wine

I did try some wine clubs. One of them is
So far most of the wines have been average . For an average price of $15 a bottle, we got what we paid for.
However 1 particular wine stood out at least in my view.
It stood out for the very interesting name :

Primitivo Negroamaro . With my French and Romanian languages, when I read Primitivo it makes me think of primitive of course, or in other words unsofisticated, antique, rough so it makes me think of some vine that is maybe wild, something as different as wild apples are from orchard apples. Interesting no ?

But this is not the end. Negroamaro makes me think of negre , which in this context I would take it as particularly dark, sombre, pitch black and amaro, which brings to me the notion of bitter. So, bitter black.

In fewer words , this is  a wild grapes bitter black wine. Huh ??

I had to open it.
And guess what ?
The color is very interesting, pitch black, dark, very dark purple. Look at your tongue in the mirror :)
But what about the taste ? It was rich, full, it made you fill more like you were drinking thick hot cholocate then wine. The amaro ? Not really, a very interestingly pleasant unique wine.

I loved it and quickly bought a steady reserve of it . Did I mention the price ? $20 / bottle :)

So here is my recommendation :

Wild grapes bitter black wine :

2009 PIllastro Selezione d'Oro Primitivo Negroamaro at $20

Oh, and did I mention the bottle was also very preatty ? Thick glass, nice label, a wonderful experience all around.

Enjoy !

New Year's wines

We spent New Year's Eve party near San Jose. Putting aside that people in San Jose consider driving to Napa a "long trip" and it took us 1.5 hours, I do think that they privileged proximity to the fountains of Napa and Sonoma should give them an unfair expertise edge.
Then of course some of them who really enjoy wine, have an expensive wine cooler and take trips to Napa multiple times a year should have some really nice wines. And what is a better event to take a good bottle of wine out then during New Year's Eve party after we just came from 10 days in Napa and Sonoma, and we talk about wine a little bit too much.
One never knows what that will yield. But to my happiness that yielded some of the best wines we tried in the entire trip. Happy ending to a wonderful trip.

During our trip we were told to go visit Del Dotto's. We went, we tried. We moved on. But clearly we hadn't tried the really good stuff.

Our host had a  2006 Del Dotto Rutherford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (from Napa of course) which was wonderful with the meal, I strongly recommend it.

It seems to be hard to find, the winery doesn't have it on its website ... but maybe there is some left. Here is how the label looks :

Beautiful Cab from Del Dotto:

2006 Del Dotto Rutherford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon at $50

If you can really find it

And of course before this we had a few Napa Chardonnays. 2 of them to be precise. Both were really good. I think my favorite was the 1st one, but , honestly, given time has passed, and regretting I didn't take notes, it could have been any of the 2.

Here they are :

Maybe my favorite of the 2:

2006 Mi Sueno Chardonnay Pugash Vineyard Sonoma Mountain at $45 or so

I can't find the 2006 anymore anywhere, but the 2008 is $45 :
Note: I have NOT tasted the 2008 and there is absolutely no guarantee that it's even coming from the same vineyard as wineries can rename things for marketing purposes.
But here is the link :

and the 2nd :

2006 Kali Hart Chardonnay Monterey County at $16

Given the price difference it really makes me believe that most likely the 1st one was indeed my favorite. But as you know, the price doesn't make the wine, especially not according to my taste.

Castelo di Amorosa ... not my favorite

Well, as you know I don't like to talk about wines that are not aligned with my taste. So I won't say much more except that my wife really liked it and I didn't.
And we continue on our search for good wines for a reasonable budget :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Castelo di Amorosa may have good wine (despite the name)

While we were in Napa we didn't have much interest in visiting the Castello di Amorosa as it is known for the preatty castly ( we therefore assumed their wines should have nothing interesting !).

However friends told us that their favorite wines , out of a group of 10 testers, and in unanimity, was this one :

The beautiful castle's wine :

2008 IL BRIGANTE Red Wine Blend at $32

I guess we have to test it now !

We'll make our own opinion but it looks quite promising already.
I hope we'll enjoy !

The math of wine

A question I always had in my mind was the economics of wine.

So here is more info that may help you also get an idea :
(some of this info comes from  : )

1 acre of vineyar = 2 tons of grapes
1 ton of grapes = 2.5 barrels of wine
1 barrel of wine = 24 cases of 12 bottles each
1 case = 12 bottles of wine of 750ml each

Therefore 1 acre = 5 barrels = 120 cases = 1440 bottles
Which at 10$/bottle assuming one sells all the bottles in 1 year, means a revenue $15,000 / year / acre

So for example if you have 100 acres planted with vineyard you can expect about
$1,500,000 million revenue at 10$/bottle.
(Roughly vineyard sells at $1,000,000 per 10 acres in Napa in prime vineyard area).

Here is an example to buy 60 acres for $6,000,000 :

Per the math above, 60 acres means about $1 million per year at $10/bottle in revenue.
So assuming 20% margin, you'll pay back the 6 million in 6/0.2 = 30 years....
Of course if you can sell your wine at 20$/bottle the math looks much better. And the average retail wine bottles sells more around 25$ I would hope or more then around $10.

Enjoy !

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Back home , what now ?

Well , now that we are back home in Boston , no more winery tasting for some time.
So what will happen next ?
It's very simple , first, we'll drink all the wine we bought in Napa and Sonoma. We already started :)

But more important, and far more useful, in our every day lives we do run into wines that we like a lot. It doesn't happen very often, maybe every few months. When that happens we usually take a picture of the label and ...forget about it.
Now we have a place to store them ! So , with no particular rush, expect us to post about new wines every now and then.
And as a matter of fact we had had a few amazing wines over New Year's Eve party, but ...I completely forgot what they were. I'll try to dig the info out, but no promises.

Happy New Year to everybody !!