Saturday, November 5, 2016

Oct 2016 Napa Valley trip (the birthday trip !)


This trip was short, just 2 days and more relaxing than usual. A lot of fun none the less.


1. Jam/ Butter

When we arrived to our hotel we were offered a glass of cabernet sauvignon. I was very surprised how soft it was with sweet tannins and jammy flavors. The wine came from the tasting room next door.
Yes, I had heard of Butter, the Chardonnay. And I really appreciated how direct the wine was, cost effective at $16 or so and straight to the point. I didn't know about Jam though, their red wine line.

So on Thursday morning, being ready earlier , as usual, I went next door to the hotel to taste their entire range. I tried their Butter Chardonnay and their Napa Butter Chardonnay and was very pleased with the difference. I knew their cab from the day before, confirmed again of course. And the other wine that stood out to me was their Russian River Pinot Noir. A good start of the day.

2. Madrigal

After having the usual lunch at Rutherford grill ( you really can't miss that !) we were too early for our Larkmead appointment. Driving around randomly I usually find beautiful new gems. We stopped, down the road from Larkmead , to Madrigal. And I was very pleasantly surprised to discover yet another gem.
The Madrigal family has been in the vine management business for many years. They have planted and managed many famous vineyards.
As hey started making wine they seem to specialize in all kind of unique and interesting grape varieties.
We started with a Fume Blanc. And unlike what the name suggest, it has nothing to do with smoke. It reminded me a lot of a Chardonnay fermented on the skins, dark practically amber color, thick and flavourful. An amazing wine.
They are also known for their Petit Sirah (nothing to do with Shiraz also spelled Syrah, as we are often told and I shall repeat yet again). Thick and fairly tannic. Already amazing and I can only guess what it would feel like after a few more years. I also particularly loved their Cabernet Sauvignons. They had a large selection, all of them were complex and beautiful but a few of them, in my eyes, were outstanding !
Madrigal, at least for this visit, was by far my favorite experience. It is small, fun, diverse and the tasting room team was extremely welcoming. Please do visit !

3. Larkmead

Remembering how outstanding was my last visit to Larkmead I wanted to come back and try their latest wines. We tried their Dr Olmo, Solari and The Lark.
Solari was our favorite here and while Dr Olmo was really good, we were really exciting to taste The Lark. The Lark we tried was apparently rated 99/100 by Robert Parker and the next year one (2015 ?) which we haven't tried was rated 100/100. I am not Robert Parker, obviously. I have a lot more to learn about wine and I noticed that the palet changes over time. At my level I preferred the jamier cabernet sauvignons from Madrigal though.

4. 1996 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon

On Thursday evening I was treated to an outstanding , stunning and exquisite dinner at the 3 Michelin start restaurant in Napa At Meadowood. The food was exceptional. The best part though were the 2 red wines in the wine pairings. (The 2 white wines in the pairing were very discreet and delicate, and realistically nothing to write about for me).
We had a Rhys San Mateo Countyu Pinot Noir 2013 which was stunning with the flavors and the equilibrium. I added it to my wish list ($75 apparently).
And, le clou du spectacle, we had a 1996 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon. Caymus wasn't making their special reserve yet back then. It came from those same vines apparently. And the flavors in this wine were unbelievable. Apparently we can buy it online for about $120. I am excited to try some again at the 1st occasion.

Day 2

4. Rombauer

I have now clearly established that the Rombauer Zins are my favorite. We have therefore once again setup a tasting at Rombauer. They continue to be very strict and despite running a blog and writing about them regularly there was no way to be treated as industry. Which is fine. And yet once again we tried their amazing Zins. This time around, probably later in the season, they only had their normal Zin and their special Zin (Sierra) for tasting. Their normal was just ok, but their Sierra was jammy, sweet, thick, rich... Too bad it was $65. I wanted to leave with a case of the Fiddletown , perhaps next time.

5. Tulocay

And last but not least we visited probably the smallest winery in Napa, Tulocay. Bill, the founder, welcomed us as usual with a lot of character, humor and of course wine. Their dark Pinot Noir stands out as usual for me.
Bill also explained why the economic pressure of the price per acre for the vines in Napa, and the price per bottle of the different grapes, is forcing everybody to replace all vineyards with Cabernet Sauvignon. A good bottle of Cab gets $100 , while a good bottle of Zin $50-$60. And it became so hard to get Napa Zin grapes that he unfortunately hasn't been able to get any in the last few years. Does this mean the end of the Napa Zins ? Perhaps not. There are fashions. Do we need to look forward to the next wine crisis in Napa (yes, crisis happen, like with real estate in 2008) and for the overproduction of Cab and the price of Cab to drop in order get more Napa Zin ? I hope not.

And what's next ?

My friends have now recommended to me an amazing Zin winery in Sonoma, the Hamel Family Wines. I am very curious. Zins are still going strong in Sonoma luckily for me apparently.

I read that the Livermore wine region was the 1st US region to win a prize in a French wine contest in 1890. And that Livermore had as much vineyard as Napa in the 1960s before Napa become world famous.

And I am really curious to try some more wines in the Santa Cruz dry and difficult mountains. I loved Cooper Garod and Pichetti. What else is to discover there ?

So much more to try and learn from. More wines :)