Wine & Travel

Snooth User: VegasOenophile

Napa Highlights May 2013

Posted by VegasOenophile, May 22, 2013.

I ran up to Napa for a few days to get away and taste some wines from places I'd never been (most of them).  I went during BottleRock Napa, but alas, didn't partake in an y of those festivities.  Some great finds, so I have listed/linked any of the wines I rated over 90 points, should anyone have interest, or their own thoughts on the wines. 

With some exceptions, it seems the 2009 and 2010 reds are getting darker.  A lot more black fruit than I'd expect from Cabs and blends.  Not a bad thing, but definitely a different profile that years 2007 and prior. 

My first stop was Van der Heyden.  Andre was there and sat me down at a table on the patio.  Gorgeous day I might add.  He began by asking if I'd ever had Chardonnay.  I said yes and almost before I finished one word, he said "no you haven't."  This was his not-so-subtle way of introducing his clean style of "un-manipulated" chard.  I liked it.  All his wines are nice.  Red Table wine I gave an 89 and the White Table Wine is a nice, slightly sweet summer sipper.  Highlights were:

2011 Rosé

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

And the AMAZING 2004 Late Harvest Cabernet Sauvignon possibly my first 100-point rated wine ever!  I seriously nosed it for like 5 minuted before I tasted it.  Outstanding!

Then I visited Signorello as a friend works with them.  Spectacular views from their patio and infinity pool over the Silverado Trail side of the valley.  These wines are all crafted in a big, bold style.  I enjoyed them all, but this time around, none 90 or higher for me.  I think all Ray's wines need added time to relax to where they're my style.  I recently had a 2006 Reserve Chardonnay that was outstanding! My favorites (close to 90), were:

2010 Hope's Cuvée Chardonnay

2010 Padrone

I next ventured to Carneros, wishing to visit Bouchaine after having some spectacularly aged chardonnay from that label.  The tasting room host Rosie was awesome, and the views in Carneros are always a treat.  That said, I was underwhelmed by the wines.   The only one I really liked a lot was 2010 Terraces Pinot Noir.  The wines are well crafted and all scored higher than 85.  Just nothing really special, in my opinion.

Since the rooms in Yountville are open later and I wanted to dine there that evening, I went to Somerston.  I'd had their wines in 2010 and liked their style and quality so I went back.  Luckily I had some great juice to taste while I grappled on the phone with my screwed up room reservation for nearly an hour.  This, to me, is a definite must-stop in Yountville.  Favorites were

2011 Priest Ranch Sauvignon Blanc

2009 High Flyer Pinot Noir Doctor's Vineyard

The spectacularly perfumed 2009 Priest Ranch Syrah which had a delicious nose of chocolate lava cake.  Nice wines all.

I dined at Hurley's that night and upon many recommendations, I had the braised wild boar.  Delicious and highly recommended.

My first full day started at Alpha Omega.  I know Jean, the winemaker and love their style and it's a great location, so if you enjoy Napa fruit crafted with a more "old world" sensibility and style (structure and ageability), this is a great winery.  I am always a rave reviewer of their Chardonnay and the 2010 Napa Valley Chardonnay was no different.  Stellar!  Other highlights were the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and a spectacular barrel sample of the forthcoming 2011 ERA

Hearing good things about the cabernets at HALL, I ventured there next.  They were all tasty and well made, but most judt under 90 points for my taste.  Only 90-pointr here for me, was the 2011 WALT Pinot Noir Blue Jay . Here's their fun ceiling art.

Rosie at Bouchaine recommended Hill Wine Company on Silverado Trail.  I called and was lucky to get a quick appointment.  A few great things about this place are the expansive picnic grounds in an olive grove where you can bring in food and enjoy and their wines are all quality and priced VERY reasonably for the valley, especially on the Silverado side. The 2008 Spring Mountain Cabernet was really nice!

Next was Casa Nuestra, which I wanted to visit because they offer some different varietals not common in the valley.  Solid and enjoyable wines, but alas a mere 87 and 88 points.  Ha!  Nice dry Chenin Blanc, Rosé (Franc) and Right Bank-style "meritage".  Casual classic rock vibe there.  Appointment recommended. 

I next had an appointment at Venge after a good friend has raved about it for quite some time.  I'd had Kirk Venge's wines for B Cellars, but never his own label.  Appointment is necessary, but well worth it.  Great patio tasting from the hill with great views, possible company from Harley when not chasing tennis balls into the vineyards and really remarkable wines.  All great but my favorites were the 2011 Maldonado Vineyard Chardonnay Dijon Clone and 2011 Scout's Honor Proprietary Red.  Of course, the 2010 Family Reserve Cabernet is something special.


I'd been there before, but felt compelled to visit the iconic Chateau Montelena.  It was fun because Bo Barrett was on site, so that was cool.  Always good wines.  Top wines tasted were the 2007 Chardonnay   2009 Estate Cab and 2005 Estate Cab.

Next, I was on to Raymond.  Mostly on assignment for a friend who has a 1989 Reserve Cab from them and wantd me to see what I might bring him from the more recent years.  My recommendation is to get a Crystal Room tasting.  It's a funky club vibe in the working tank room and shows the benefits of decanting big red wines via Baccarat crystal.  They also do a "district collection" here with cabs from individual AVAs to check out.  I really liked the 08 Rutherford Merlot, the 09 Calistoga Cab, and the 08 St. Helena Cab.

I finished my day on Pritchard Hill visiting Bob Long and winemaker Nile Zacherle at David Arthur Vineyards and Montagna.  Both are by appointment only, but well worth a drive up the hill.  Really special wines and breathtaking views.  I was remiss in my duties here and did not take notes.  We tasted DAV Chardonnay, Cab Franc, Old Vine Cab and Elevation 1147.  All superb wines. 

Then Bob and I ventured down to Montagna where I tasted his terrific Syrah and La Presa One South, both 2009.  Super tasty and special wines and these views. 

I was palate fatigued as there was no spitting at DAV and Montagna, so dinner was next.  I was in St. Helena and enjoyed a wonderful meal at Farmstead.  Magnificent beef from their grass-fed cattle at Long Meadow Ranch.  Nice casual vibe and really awesome food!

My next full day began at Grgich.  Been here before too, but always like to see what Mike's coming out with, plus they have all the 90th birthday regalia out and they open a half hour earlier than surrounding wineries.  I got to taste the special release 2010 Paris Tasting Chardonnay which Mike apparently crafted in the same style as the winning 73 Montelena.  Also really enjoyed the 2011 Essence Sauv Blanc, 06 Cab  and the 09 Violetta Late Harvest.

Peju was next.  I didn't love the wines as a whole, but all were 85-89 points with the following exceptions.  The real treat here was the beautiful facility and my host was a very entertaining, rapping, yodeling and guitar-strumming fellow who was so much fun! I really liked the 12 Sauv Blanc and the 08 Reserve Cab.

Heitz is always a must-go for me as I appreciate their wines and they're probably the only winery who doesn't charge a tasting fee.  Some special finds and he had open some older vintages of Trailside and Martha's Vineyard cab.  Needless to say I left with some of these!  The 08 Cab is drinking wonderfully right now!  Also drinking magnificently, the 03 Trailside VY Cab , 01 Martha's VY Cab and 08 Ink Grade Port. They also do a nice Grignolino.

Next, I went to Prager on the recommendation of the friend who turned me on to Venge, so I trusted him.  I expected "Napa" ports, but they really are doing some special port wines and many made from true port varietals.  Favorites (all were good) were the 08 Napa Port, 07 Tómas Port07 Royal Escort , Noble Companion 10 Year Old Tawny and the interesting 08 Aria White Port. The facility is... unique.  This shelf caught my eye. 

Next, on to Markham, as I always consider their Napa chard a nice quality go-to and had heard good things about their reds.  A more large, commercial place, but some really nice wines.  Of course the 11 Chard was good.  I also liked the 10 Pinot Noir Rosé, 10 Yountville Estate Merlot and 08 The Altruist Cabernet from Calistoga. 

I'd heard some buzz about Clif (yes, the Clif Bar people), so went to VeloVino which is a fun place if you like cycling, espresso/coffee drinks, etc.  Fair wines, but nothing I really found remarkable.  The 12 RTE Sauv Blanc was really nice. 

I then had to visit Turnbull, having never been there and somehow, never tasted a single wine of theirs.  I am glad I did, as I am a big fan of Turnbull now.  It looks like GDP and myself both enjoyed a fair amount of their current wines (perhaps he was there in March?).  High rating wines for me here were the 09 Fortuna Merlot , 09 Fortuna Cab, 09 Amoenus Cab, 09 Leopoldina Cab, and 09 Petit Sirah.

I was on a mission to find my Zin-loving friend a good Zin in his styl, which is hard to find in Napa.  I went to Napa Wine Co. as I enjoy Rob Lawson's wines (Pavi, Fisticuffs, Ghost Block) and they represent some zins.  Pahlmeyer, Michael Pozzan and many others are available here.  It's a great custom crush collective with a broad range of wines to taste.  Highly recommended stop.  Top wines from this stop were the 10 Ghost Block and 07 Ottimino Primitivo.  It was either Miner or ZD next and for whatever reason, I went to ZD.  All nice wines.  Big, bold and powerful wines.  Here, I really liked the 2011 Chardonnay, 2011 Reserve Carneros Chardonnay, 11 Carneros Pinot, and 09 Reserve Cab.

As time was short, I again opted for a "known" open-later stop at Cosentino.  I have always really enjoyed Mitch's wines and found many of them to be a tremendous value for their quality.  I have got my hands on some older vintages of his chard and reds and all age nicely and are built for the distance.  I highly recommend this stop and Cosentino wines.  They drink like far more expensive wines.  Liked many over 90 here, like the 11 Il Chiaretto Sangiovese, 2011 The Franc, 06 Meritage, 08 Napa Cab, and 09 Reserve Cab. If you're near the valley soon, they have a great bargain in 03 Hoopes Ranch Cab for only $20 and some great mags of 03 Merlot and Reserve cabs available.  I trust the provenance of these and having recently had 03 and 05 vintages of Cosentino cab and merlot, these are steals!  Get some. 

Well if you read this far, thank you.  I hope you find the suggestions helpful.  Cheers!


Reply by outthere, May 22, 2013.

Nice write up Vegas. Not sure how you pile so many stops into one day but more power to you. Well done!

Reply by VegasOenophile, May 22, 2013.

Sip 'n spit! lol

Reply by JenniferT, May 22, 2013.

That was a really nice read....thanks for posting it.


Reply by EMark, May 22, 2013.

Excellent report, VO.  I really appreciate your combination of off-the-beaten-path producers and very-much-on-the-beaten-path producers.

Reply by JonDerry, May 22, 2013.

I just recently heard Heitz is a free tasting, what class...would love to try their 01' Marthas...just might have to stop by when I'm up!

Reply by Richard Foxall, May 28, 2013.

Nice work, VO.  I'll add some notes to this later when I have digested my recent visit to Bell.

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