Friday, October 24, 2014

Napa Wine Tour: Joseph Phelps!

Sorry for the delay in posting the last two entries from our Napa wine tour; I've been fighting the flu this week and losing quite badly. Anyway, hopefully it is going to start subsiding sometime in the next few days. Hopefully.

For now, my notes on some terrific wine we enjoyed at Joseph Phelps. They are undergoing a massive and I mean MASSIVE re-doing of their tasting room, and they have us in a temporary location, but even so, they have gone out of their way to ensure a comfortable, first-class tasting experience.

Tasting here isn't cheap (where in Napa IS it cheap?), but it's worth it for a large and tasty lineup of wines, including two vintages of their high-end signature wine, Insignia.

2013 Sauvignon Blanc ($35.00)

Aromas of honey, orange and lemon. Fruity with very balanced acidity. 87.

2012 Chardonnay, Freestone Vineyards ($55.00)

Floral notes intertwined with stone fruits and oak. Beautifully lush mouthfeel. Well balanced and buttery with a spectacular long finish. 90.

2012 Viognier ($35.00)

Peaches and stone fruits on the nose and palate. Light and fruity. To me, Viognier has to be just perfect to get my attention, and although this one is nice, it doesn't knock me over. 85.

2010 Pinot Noir Quarter Moon Vineyard ($75.00)

Raspberry, blueberries, savory herbs and earth on the nose and palate. A touch of mocha and spice on the finish. Lovely and if you prefer your Pinot Noir a tad bit on the earthy side, this is for you. 89.

2012 Pinot Noir Freestone Vineyards Sonoma Coast ($55.00)

Almost purple in colour, very fruity and delicious. Blueberries, cassis and a touch of spice. Black cherry and a bit of forest as well. Long, persistent finish. Just beautiful. 90.

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon ($70.00)

Maybe the wine most of us know this winery for. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, with a bit of Merlot and Petit Verdot to round it out. The nose brings some leather, tobacco, blueberries and cigar box. The palate is greeted by plums and cherries, with some leather and fresh thyme. As with most good Napa Cabs, this one needs a while in the bottle to fully develop to it's true potential. But, oh, what potential. 89.

2011 Insignia ($225.00)

82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec, 2% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc. 100% impressive.

Strong notes of blueberry, strawberry and blackberry. A hint of tobacco. Silkiest mouthfeel imaginable; coats your entire mouth beautifully. Will age gracefully for a decade or more but it's already drinking very well. 93.

2006 Insignia ($240.00)

Some will argue "at that price, it BETTER be good" and I guess that's true, but any wine lover knows that price is not always a true representation of quality.

This one is 95% Cab Sauv with 5% Petit Verdot. Inky and opaque in colour. Lots of black fruit and strawberry on the nose and palate. Some graphite, cocoa and cola on the palate. Smooth, beautiful finish. Superb. 94.

Another beautiful experience that I would recommend to all of you going to Napa. And all the wines are good, so if you see them in stores near you, snap them up!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Napa Wine Tour: Silver Oak!!

Along with our tour at Opus One, this was the event we were most looking forward to, a food and wine pairing at Silver Oak. Called the "Silver Wine and Food Pairing", it is limited to eight guests but we were all on our own; well, actually, there were three of us eating, as one of their employees ate with us as she guided us through the pairings. We were also fortunate to meet the chef, who came up to introduce himself and present us with the food.

The food was fabulous and each plate was a perfect pairing with the wine it was 'assigned' to. What a different proper food pairing can make to wine. If you are skeptical, find an event like this and try it. You won't be skeptical anymore.

On to the wine, two from Silver Oak and two from their sister winery, Twomey (pronounced Toomey).

2012 Twomey Cellars Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($50.00)

Some strawberry, blueberry and nutmeg on the nose. Slight note of coffee on the palate. Finishes well. Tannins are strong; aging or decanting recommended to really allow it to open. 89.

2010 Twomey Cellars Merlot ($58.00)

Black cherry, chocolate, tobacco and herbs on the nose and palate. Velvety mouthfeel. Coats your mouth and tongue generously. Will age beautifully for a decade or more. 89.

2010 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($70.00)

Blueberry, blackberry, cassis and a hint of coffee on the nose. Blackberries and black cherry on the palate. Finishes long and beautifully. Already drinking well and as always, properly age it and you will not be sorry. 92.

2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($110.00)

An intriguing nose of jam and coffee, nutmeg and flowers. Coats your mouth with berries and pleasure. Already drinking well but like most of their wines, built to improve with age. Could probably improve for two decades or close to it. It's delicious already. 95

Another great feature of this winery is their library; they have an extensive list of older wines from all their vineyards for purchase. We walked out with three aged bottles: 2003 and 2007 from their Napa Vineyard, and this beauty which we cracked open at Catal at Downtown Disney:

1999 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($130.00)

Intense notes of cassis, leather, tobacco and fig. Still lots of fruit on the palate, with some herbs and a touch of tobacco. Long, lingering finish. Drinking absolutely beautifully. I can't imagine it would improve much with further aging. 95.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Napa Wine Tour : Robert Mondavi!!

Regular readers will recognize the name "Mondavi" from other blog posts, including my post on Opus One, but not every Mondavi is equal. We arrived at our semi-private tour/tasting and were able to taste quite a few of their offerings.

Our "welcome" wine was given to us early in tour....keep in mind it was about 1.8 million degrees out (with the humidity) so it was probably not quite as cool as it should have been.

2012 Fume Blanc ($20.00)

Some of us would know this as "White Meritage" or "White Bordeaux". A blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Semillon. Grassy notes intertwined with some peach and lime. Well balanced acidity. Finishes long. 86.\

2007 Napa Valley Merlot ($21.99)

Notes of blueberries and vanilla on the nose. This is a strange one; already 7 years old but seems closed off. Our tour guide suggested this could age for another 30 years, which is unheard of in a Napa Valley Merlot. I think he may be right, or at least close. 88.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($125.00)

Strong notes of blackberry on the nose. The palate gives way to black cherry, cola and tobacco. Absolutely beautiful now and a few more years in the bottle will only make it better. 94.

2012 PNX Pinot Noir ($55.00)

Juicy and fruity notes with cherry and blackberry notes. Finishes long and lingering. Aging would inhance. 88.

At the end of our tour, we attempted to buy a couple bottles of the '07 Merlot for aging, only to find out that the area we were tasting in was out of them! They had some in the wine store but that was closed and wouldn't open until the morning. As an apology, they gave us (yes GAVE US) a bottle of this:

2013 Moscato D'oro ($25.00 for half a bottle)

Peach, lychee and a touch of honey on the nose, joined by some honey and orange blossom on the palate. Incredibly rich and decadent, a perfect after-dinner wine for those of you who may not want the sweetness of an ice wine. 87,

A couple days ago we were in a local liquor store and noticed this one which we didn't get a chance to taste during our tour:

2009 Robert Mondavi Reserve Chardonnay ($35.00 CAD)

Pears, peach and butterscotch on the nose and palate. Not overly buttery, but the oaky notes are there. Some light notes of minerality. 86.

Sometimes big name wineries get more press than they deserve, but so far my experience with Robert Mondavi suggests that they are a big name for a reason!!

Napa Wine Tasting - Caymus Vineyards

This is one I was particularly looking forward to, as we knew that virtually everything we were likely to taste is very easy to get back home, so the only question was, would it be worth getting back home? Let's see.

Caymus is a well-known brand, but what may be less-known is that they have several other labels under their umbrella, including:

Belle Glos
Mer Soleil

We were welcomed with a glass of 2012 Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay. What a way to start. I would suggest at the price point, this is as good a Chardonnay as you can find. I've reviewed this previously as we've enjoyed it many times.

We are taken into the old Wagner house where we are presented with four wines to taste.

2013 Belle Glos Dairyman Vineyard Pinot Noir ($44.00)

Black cherry and toasty oak on the nose and palate. Slightly off-dry with a bold and long finish. Lovely now but a little more time in the bottle is called for to reach it's full potential. 86.

2012 Caymus Zinfandel ($38.00)

Dark ruby in colour. Powerful aromas of blackberry jam, with currants, chocolate and black cherry as well. Silky mouthfeel and well balanced acidity. One of my favorite of this varietal. 89.

2012 Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($60.00)

Jammy berries on the nose and palate. Long, enjoyable finish. If you are drinking it now, serve it with a big meal of red meat. Will undoubtedly improve a lot with a little more time. 90.

2009 Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon ($130.00)

Almost purple in colour, with tobacco and leathery notes on the nose. Touches of chocolate, cold cuts, vanilla and spice on the palate. This is one of those wines that is good to drink now but if you really want to experience it, lay it down for another 7-10 years. 91.

An excellent experience at a top Napa winery. Big fan of all their wines. It was pretty easy to leave the winery without purchasing any, since we had border exemption limits to deal with and we can get all of these wines in our local stores quite easily. We already have several of them in our library.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Napa wine tasting....Turnbull Cellars!!

Of all the wineries we booked tastings with, this was probably the only one most of you have not heard of. Don't feel bad, I had never heard of them either. So why did we book a tasting here? This is why:

100 point wines don't grow on trees. OK, I guess they grow on vines like every other wine. But Robert Parker is a world-renowned wine critic and if he's giving a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon 100 points, my interest is piqued. 

I wasn't necessarily expecting to be able to taste that particular wine, and it turned out I was right, but if they have one 100 point wine, it's tough to believe that the rest of their portfolio wouldn't be good too.

We were warmly greeted by our lovely host, who made us feel like family and took us into a beautiful living room-like area for our private tasting. Mary-Beth, you were awesome!

Oh, and Mary-Beth was, if memory serves, 21 years old; meaning she couldn't have legally been in the wine business for more than a few months. But she knew her shit, let me tell you!!!

We started off with a Sauvignon Blanc, but I can't read my notes on it and I can't find much info on it anywhere, so either I imagined it or it's not well known. I gave it a score of 85 which I would suggest means it was quite good but nothing to get too excited about.

Next up:

2010 Syrah ($50.00)

Pomegranate and floral notes dominate the nose. A rich mid-palate with lots of red fruit and some spice and tobacco. Finishes well. Would improve with some more bottle time. 85.

2010 Leopoldina Vineyard Cabernet Franc ($70.00)

Jalapeno on the nose. Yes, jalapeno. A spicy mid-palate belies the fruitiness and the red and dark fruits shine through. My wife describe this as the "best Cabernet Franc" she has ever had. She may be right. 90.

2011 Leopoldina Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($100.00)

Floral notes and blackberries on the nose give way to a hint of black pepper, vanilla and black cherry. Drinking lovely now but needs some more aging to really reach it's full potential. 89.

2009 Leopoldina Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($120.00)

Ah,what a difference a couple years can make. Creme de cassis, blackberries and a hint of minerality on the nose. Your palate might enjoy some chocolate, blueberry and a touch of spice on the long, beautiful finish. Sublime. 93.

We left here quite happy, with a bottle of the Cabernet Franc and the untasted 100-point Cabernet Sauvignon in tow. I will report on my experience with the 100-pointer once we drink it. I would imagine it will be good :-)

I highly recommend this winery to anyone touring through Napa. They are only about 5 minutes from Opus One (and if you are in Napa and aren't going to Opus One, why are you in Napa at all???), so call them and book a tasting, you will not be disappointed!