Catch Up

24 March 2013 – 14 April 2013, Manhattan, NY and Tucker’s Point, Bermuda

Lots of travel, golf and work set me back a few months on the blog so here’s my catchup post.

Prior to Dan and Sul’s move to London, Anthony, Jennifer, Diane and I joined them for a memorable dinner at Gramercy Tavern. We started with Dom Perignon at Anthony’s apartment beforehand and had two delicious but totally different wines with our meal:

2011 Anthony Nappa Wines "Anomaly" White Pinot Noir

2011 Anthony Nappa Wines “Anomaly” White Pinot Noir

A white pinot noir from the Finger Lakes of NY, this was refreshing and clean but with a red fruit flavor. The wine is made from Pinot Noir but the juice is immediately pressed and does not ferment with the skins, stems or seeds. The wine has a slight rose color despite the name and no tannins – great for appetizers and seafood.

The second wine of the night was my contribution:

2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Santo Stefano di Perno

2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Santo Stefano di Perno

Giuseppe Mascarello’s Barolo from Monforte and his less heralded wine was drop-dead gorgeous. The floral and earthy aromatics led to an elegant mixture of red fruit, tannins and structure. Extremely delicate for a 2001 Barolo and in my opinion, drinking better today than the 2001 Monprivato.

Before Dan and Sul took off, we spent one evening setting up a Slingbox for them in our apartment (don’t think they get NFL Redzone yet in London). We opened two California reds that night and both were juicy, young and delicious:

2009 Bryant Family DB4 & 2009 Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon

2009 Bryant Family DB4 & 2009 Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon

The Bryant Family was a huge, inky, dark wine with strawberry, cherries and spice. Huge body and a bit too bold for me right now (will leave the other two bottles in the cellar for a while). While everyone else preferred the DB4, I liked the Paul Hobbs which had a similar fruit profile but more spice and leathery/earthy characteristics. It is also a wine I’ll wait a few years before tasting again.

Our second annual pre-golf, golf trip was female friendly so Diane came this year and we stayed at Tucker’s Point in Bermuda. The last night we had dinner at the hotel restaurant, The Point, and picked a new wine for both of us:

2005 Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin

2005 Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin

A balanced and subtle Burgundy with plenty of bright red fruit but with a good backbone. It paired well with our fish dishes that had more complex sauces and seasonings. Medium body with a long finish.

We opened this last bottle after I got back from the 4th annual actual golf trip (AAA victorious!). Diane’s mom came into the city and we decided to go to dell’anima last minute. We brought:

2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato

2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato

As I said above, I think that today, the Santo Stefano di Perno is drinking better than his flagship wine from Castiglione Falletto. I decanted this for a few hours and it was still continuing to evolve in the glass at the restaurant. While it wasn’t shut down, it took lots of swirling to coax the fruit out of the glass and the aromatics still have a ways to go before producing the perfume you’d expect from a Monprivato. Great wine but I plan on waiting at least three to four years before opening my next bottle.

** 2011 Anthony Nappa Wines “Anomaly” White Pinot Noir $19

*** 2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Santo Stefano di Perno $85

*** 2009 Bryant Family DB4 $100

*** 2009 Paul Hobbs Cabernet $75

*** 2005 Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin $150

*** 2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato $125

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Dunn Vineyards Winemaker Dinner

26 January 2013, 21 Warren Street, Tribeca

In late January, Diane and I along with Cohen and Michelle had the privilege of meeting Mike and Kara Dunn at a winemaker dinner hosted by New York Vintners. Down to earth., friendly and knowledgeable, they demonstrated how some Napa producers, like their Bordeaux brethren, have figured out not only how to make subtle, age-worthy wines but also how to pass that knowledge down through the generations.

The vineyard began with Randy Dunn, Mike’s father, acquiring a small parcell of land on Howell Mountain in 1978. Today they produce two wines: the Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon made exclusively from their own vineyard site, as well as a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that can include purchased grapes. The Howell Mountain Cab is the more serious of the two wines and has the greater aging potential. From a 30 acre plot with average yield of 2-3 tons / acre, the wine is aged for 30 months in barrels with minimal racking. Shockingly, despite their Bordeaux style of more austere, less fruit-driven wines, theirs are exceedingly approachable at a young age.

Three flights and 14 wines wines later, I was infatuated with the wine and loved their vintage variation and how incredible their older wines showed:

Part of the 14-wine lineup

Part of the 14-wine lineup

  1. *** 2003 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – herbaceous and structured with tannins just starting to integrate into the otherwise austere wine. Would still give it another 3-5 years but expect this to be a great example of a restrained, elegant wine in years to come. $107
  2. **** 2007 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – much more fruit than the 2003 with a dark chocolate/mocha finish. Closer in style to a rich California Cabernet but delicious today and something I’d like to taste over the next 10-20 years. My wine of the first flight. $98
  3. *** 2008 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – a more classic style for their wine, very astringent and more tannic than the 2007’s which have yet to integrate. Could drink today but would be a waste – wait at least 5 years although I suspect it will require more time before hitting it’s peak. $95
  4. *** 2009 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – tastes younger than the structured 2008 but still needs time to develop. Could still be an interesting wine in the future but 2008 and 2007 are superior years. $90
  5. **** 1997 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – earthy aromatics of cedar and leather, sweet red fruit, balanced and well-integrated with the tannins and acid. My wine of the second flight. $125
  6. ** 1998 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – wine was shut down at this phase, decent fruit but not the same expressive aromas or secondary flavors. $115
  7. ** 1999 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – highly acidic and very tart on the palate. Not as balanced as the better wines of the night. $90
  8. ** 2001 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – more well balanced than the 1999 but still lacking the secondary aromas one would expect at this point. I’d guess that the 1998 and the 2001 have shut down in the bottle but could be interesting in the next 5-10 years to see if they break out and plateau after this phase. $110
  9. **** 1986 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – the wine of the night for me; balanced perfection with complex floral aromatics, sweet red fruit and tertiary flavors of cedar and tobacco. Delicious. $200
  10. **** 1987 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – a close second to the 1986 but not as complex or as developed. Still, on any given night given bottle variation this is right up there. $200
  11. *** 1993 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – silky smooth tannins and still showing great structure. May eventually get to the level of drinkability of the 1986 and 1987 but would wait another 3-5 years. $150
  12. *** 1995 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – more herbal than the other wines in the final flight, austere and feels like it’s just coming out of a phase where it’s been shut down in the bottle. Like the 1993 but a few years behind in development. $150

The last two wines of the night (as if we needed more) were the 2004 and 2008 Napa Valley Cabernets out of magnums. While these wines were great in their own right, they reminded me more of typical valley floor Cabernets and I didn’t take notes on them. The salient memories of this tasting were both the ability of Napa to produce truly incredible, restrained and elegant Cabernets as well as the great value these wines offered compared to other top tier Napa or Bordeaux labels. Shockingly, I bought a huge vertical and can’t wait to try them going forward.

The food prepared by Ryan Smith was a great pairing and delicious as always:

  • Antipasto – assorted cured meats and cheeses
  • Garganelli with sea urchin and wild mushroom (good enough to go up against any Italian restaurant’s best pasta dish)
  • Springer Mountain Farm’s free range chicken with gigante beans and berkshire sausage
  • Birthday Cake – it was Mike’s birthday this weekend. What a great way to celebrate his wines!
Myself, Diane and Mike Dunn

Myself, Diane and Mike Dunn

Christmas

14 December 2012, 100 Jane Street, West Village

With a newly decorated Christmas tree in our apartment, Diane and I decided to have some friends over for the holidays to celebrate. Nicole, Elliott, Pedro, Christina, and Manoj came over for appetizers and wine:

The Lineup

The Lineup

The food during the night was (in no particular order):

  • Cured meats and cheeses – my favorite cured meat in the world is the Jamon Iberico from Spain. Nearly impossible to find in the US, Murray’s Cheese typically carries some and is where I usually load up. Our favorite cheeses including the clothbound Cabot cheddar and aged manchego also made an appearance.
  • Mini cheese-burgers and portobello-mushroom-burgers – the beef was from our local butcher, Florence Meat market with minimal seasoning and American cheese. The mushrooms were marinated in a balsamic vinegar sauce. Both cooked in the oven broiler.
  • A few assorted desserts  – cookies and ice cream

I spent a fair amount of time planning the progression of wines and thought it worked out fairly well:

  1. *** NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rose – my go-to rose Champagne. Reasonably priced and delicious with food or as an aperitif. Floral and fruity with a lighter body, I like drinking it out of a white wine glass to allow the bubbles to dissipate and wine to warm a bit. It gives me a better sense of the aromatics and freshness. $80
  2. ** 2010 Copain Chardonnay Tous Ensemble – as I mentioned before, the best value wine I had on my trip to California. Completely unoaked and an old-world style wine. This was served at the same time as our next white wine to compare it against. $28
  3. ** 2007 Martinelli Chardonnay Three Sisters Vineyard – a classic example of a well-made California style Chardonnay. Plenty of oak and vanilla and a much heavier mouthfeel than the Copain. While most enjoyed both wines, the majority preferred the Copain (at less than half the price!). $60
  4. *** 1999 Bruno Giacosa Barolo – the Azienda Agricola (non-estate) bottling, this was sadly my last bottle of this great value/entry level Giacosa Barolo. Still young and powerful, I decanted the wine for 6 hours and it still had plenty of sweet red fruit and smooth tannins. This wine was served at the same time as the next red to compare. $95
  5. ** 1981 Il Colle Brunello di Montalcino – not as aromatic or open as the last time I tried this wine a few months ago. More tar and leather than fruit in the aroma or palate; I was a bit disappointed compared to what I tasted the first time I had this at dell’anima. The opinion here was split but more people preferred the Giacosa. $85
  6. * 1969 Hugel Traminer “Hugel” Reserve Exceptionelle – a wine we tried more to explore than anything, the bottle was in surprisingly good condition for its age. On the palate a bit disappointing, well past its prime, it was barely clinging on to the fruit and acidity it probably once had and just retained its residual sweetness. $80
  7. ** 2010 Domaine des Bernardins Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise (375 ml) – great wine for the price. Lots of sweet stone fruit and honey, medium body for the sweetness and well balanced. Great after dinner digestif. $15

Bea and Bryant

November 2012, Manhattan

Two memorable wines from the month of November came at two great restaurants:

The first was a sommelier’s choice (on this occasion, Joey Campanale) at the newly opened L’Apicio in the East Village. A somewhat impromptu dinner with Diane, Pedro and Christina led to a bottle of wine that I had nearly forgotten about, having last consumed it a couple years ago at Anfora:

2006 Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco

2006 Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco Pagliaro

A stunning wine from Umbria, made by a very traditional producer, this wine is huge and structured but with fruit and balance to match. Big mouth feel and a good match for meatier foods. The wine spends 38 days on the skins, 10 months in stainless steel and 25 months in casks before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. At $60-$70 / bottle, decent value for a top wine from its region.

The second meal was Diane’s birthday dinner at the NoMad Restaurant in Flatiron. The meal and service were great as expected and the piece de resistance of the night was the chicken for two. We brought our own bottle of wine for the night:

2003 Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon

2003 Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon

Bryant Family was one of the first, big new world Cabernet’s that I fell in love with and this bottle did not disappoint. Possibly the biggest body wine I’ve ever had, this needs some serious food and flavor to compete with the huge fruit and textures you find in the wine. Fortunately the foie-gras enhanced chicken was up to the task.

*** 2006 Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco Pagliaro $70

*** 2003 Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon $350

Bond Estate Tasting – NY Vintners

September 2012, 21 Warren Street, Tribeca

New York Vintners recently had a Bond Estate tasting where we got to try two different vintages from each of their vineyard sites. It was a rare opportunity to compare vintages within a specific vineyard site as well as across the different vineyard sites. This was a particularly exciting tasting to me because you really got to see how the different terroirs influenced the wine and how that could change year to year.

All of the wines are made by Bill Harlan’s team – from vineyard management to winemaking. With the same winemaking team at the helm and a consistent aging process of 26 months in oak followed by 16 months in the bottle, the differences in these wines were driven by their terroir and to a small extent varietal selection. The five vineyard sites are in their map below, showing the different elevations, sun exposures and soil types they use:

The five vineyard sites of Bond Estate

We tasted 10 wines in total – two from each of their vineyard sites. Notes and recommended food pairings by their estate director, Paul Roberts, are listed below. I ended up purchasing a 5-pack of the ’06 wines across all vineyard sites:

  1. *** 2005 and 2006 Bond Melbury – 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, powerful aroma of floral fruit with a palate of crushed red berries. Slight preference to the ’06 here which came across as more well balanced despite being a year younger. Rocky hillside vineyard with a Eastern and Southeastern exposure. Sedimentary soil with compressed clay. Recommended food: chicken, turkey. $295
  2. *** 2006 and 2008 Bond Quella – 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, more tannins noticeable than in the Melbury. Cedar with darker fruits – less enthusiastic about Quella then Melbury and a slight preference to the ’06 vs. the ’08 which still felt way too young. Vineyard site is an old riverbed of cobble and rocks with pockets of volcanic ash. Southwest exposure. Recommended food: anything with lots of salt. $295
  3. **** 2006 and 2007 Bond St. Eden – my favorite of all the vineyard sites, just beating out Vecina. This is what I think of when I think of a big, well done California wine. Slight preference to drinking the ’06 today although the ’07 may be the better wine in the long run. Dark chocolate, black fruit and huge body and mouth feel. Red, rocky soil with a Northern exposure. Recommended food: steak; anything braised; spicy food. $295
  4. **** 2003 and 2006 Bond Vecina – A powerful but balanced wine with plenty of black fruit and herbaceous aromas. Juicy. I preferred the ’06 which seemed to have more substance and body than the ’03 although it was very close. Bedrock with fine grained alluvial wash with an Eastern exposure. Recommended food: anything with tomatoes. $295
  5. *** 2004 and 2006 Bond Pluribus – More concentrated and powerful the Vecina, less so than the St. Eden but lacking the balance of either. Licorice, dark fruit and coffee with a spicy finish. Slight preference to the ’04 but probably just do to a bit more bottle age. Decomposed volcanic soil with a North and East exposure. Recommended food: lamb; game, cheese. $295

 

California Wine Tasting – Day 3, Sonoma

11 July 2012, Sonoma, California

Our last full day of tastings took us to Sonoma County. Much larger in size than Napa, the wineries here tend to focus more on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (and to a lesser extent Syrah and Zinfandel). In terms of value, Sonoma was priced at much more reasonable levels than Napa and we found the quality to be on par with the best vineyard sites we saw the prior few days.

We started our day at Martinelli: a farming family at heart, they own 400 acres across Sonoma and sell 85-90% of their grapes to other winemakers. They make several estate wines with the grapes they keep.

Martinelli Tasting Room

We tasted 9 wines in total, in their tasting room:

  1. ** 2007 Martinelli Road Chardonnay (bought 2 bottles) – spends 10 months in new French oak after undergoing barrel fermentation. Pears and vanilla are the primary flavors but this is a big, rich wine. $48
  2. ** 2007 Martinelli Chardonnay Three Sisters Vineyard (bought 2 bottles) – also sees 10 months in new French oak but had more lemon zest and citrus on the palate with a butterscotch finish. Between the two Chardonnays, Diane and I preferred the Martinelli Road. $60
  3. ** 2009 Martinelli Pinot Noir Bondi Home Ranch – a delicious Pinot that I didn’t buy because I preferred some of the others we tasted later (although Diane picked one up). Sweet red fruit with an earthy must in the nose.  Herbs and raspberry tea. 14.3% alcohol, $60
  4. *** 2008 Martinelli Pinot Noir Zio Tony (bought 3 bottles) – a great Pinot, I think the extra year of bottle age may have helped compared to the younger Bondi Home Ranch. Raspberry and plums and hints of licorice. A spicy start to the finish that is very long. 15.3% alcohol, $60
  5. *** 2006 Martinelli Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast (bought 4 bottles) – a blend of grapes from the Three Sisters and Blue Slide Ridge vineyards. Great lightness accompanying the floral and red fruit bouquet. 15% alcohol, $45
  6. ** 2008 Martinelli Syrah Terra Felice – huge nose and a huge win.  Big body of black fruit, sweet tabacco and leather. Diane bought one of these but I preferred the second Syrah we tasted. 15% alcohol, $45
  7. *** 2006 Martinelli Syrah Lolita Ranch (bought 4 bottles) – jammy dark fruit with black pepper. This would be great with spicy food. Easy, sweet finish. 15.6% alcohol, $75
  8. ** 2008 Martinelli Zinfandel Vigneto di Evo (bought 2 bottles) – another easy drinking wine with figs and red fruit on the palate. Medium finish and great value. 15.8% alcohol, $30
  9. *** 2009 Martinalli Jackass Hill Muscat (bought 4 bottles) – a light delicious dessert wine with honeysuckle and vanilla on the palate. Reminded me of a Picolit from Friuli (which is a big compliment). 16.1% alcohol, $28 for a 375mL

Our second stop was Copain Wines – probably our favorite stop in Sonoma on this trip. They make less extracted, lower alcohol, subtle but incredibly interesting wines. What a change from the Napa wines we had earlier in the week:

Our tasting list at Copain

My biggest gripe is their confusing and convoluted distribution system. I think I’m part of two wine memberships to get access to the wines I want and I’m still not sure what I have access to, what I have to buy and what I can select. Hopefully they simplify this and figure it out soon because the wines are great.

The tasting itself was incredible – we were overlooking Sonoma on their picturesque property with a picnic lunch to accompany our tasting. Highly recommend the tasting experience alone.

We tasted seven wines:

  1. ** 2010 Copain Chardonnay Tous Ensemble (bought 4 bottles) – after spending 10 months on the lees with no oak contact, the wine the emerges is delicious and light. Lemon with good acidity and clean minerality. In my opinion, the best value wine of this trip. 13.3% alcohol, $28
  2. *** 2010 Copain Chardonnay Brousseau – the lightness of the Tous Ensemble but with added complexity – creamy stone fruit with minerality of the soil. Great wine and wish I was able to buy some there. 13.7% alcohol, $55
  3. ** 2011 Copain P2 (bought 2 bottles) – another light but full flavored wine, this is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Pinot Gris. Strawberry and raspberry aromas with lemon/lime on the palate. Reminded me of Beaujolais but much better. 13.2% alcohol, $25
  4. ** 2009 Copain Pinot Noir Les Voisins (bought 2 bottles) – a flora aroma with bright red fruit. 13.5% alcohol, $40
  5. *** 2009 Copain Pinot Noir Kiser en Bas – dark, earthy, with black cherries and plum. More tannins and complexity than the Les Voisins but we weren’t able to buy this at the vineyard. 13.7% alcohol, $65
  6. * 2009 Copain Syrah Les Voisins – wasn’t crazy about this one, simpler wine with spicy black fruit, tons of tannins and not that complex or integrated. 13.7%, $34
  7. ** 2010 Copain Syrah Brousseau – intricate, complex nose with spice. Cassis and black cherries on the palate. 13% alcohol, $45

Our last stop for the day was at Walter Hansel Winery where we did a simple tasting on a wine barrel right next to their vines:

Tasting at Walter Hansel

We tasted four different wines and outside of the Sauvignon Blanc, I thought they were all great values although not the most complex wines:

  1. * 2011 Walter Hansel Winery Sauvignon Blanc – crisp, lemon and grapefruit. Exactly what you’d expect from a nice, clean Cali Sauvignon Blanc which I’m not a big fan of. 13.4% alcohol, $15
  2. ** 2010 Walter Hansel Winery Chardonnay Cahill Lane – their chardonnays spend 10 months in barrels on the lees in 100% French oak (about 30-40% new). Lightly oaked with creamy stone fruit. 14.5% alcohol, $40
  3. ** 2010 Walter Hansel Winery Chardonnay North Slope – better acidity than the Cahill with more lemon and citrus zest, white pepper spice on the finish. 14% alcohol, $40
  4. ** 2010 Walter Hansel Winery Pinot Noir Estate – jammy strawberry and raspberry and bright cherries. This sees 10-11 months in oak. 14.5%, $40

California Wine Tasting – Day 2, Napa

10 July 2012, Napa, California

After our group tasting on Sunday, Diane and I settled in at the Carneros Inn for our final three days of tasting. We had our own private cottage with a patio area, outdoor shower and personal fireplace. After a relaxing first night, we had a full day of tastings at some of Napa’s greatest estates.

We started at Del Dotto’s winery in St. Helena. The building itself was incredible – modeled after a Venetian Chateau. In the middle of Napa, it felt like you were walking into a Las Vegas hotel:

Lobby at Del Dotto

Although they seemed to have hundreds of different wines based on their various vineyard plots and barrel aging techniques, the architecture was far more impressive than the viticulture. The tour consisted of “barrel” tasting samples in their cave:

Barrel cave at Del Dotto

We tasted ten wines in total:

  1. * 2011 Del Dotto Sauvignon Blanc – very basic Sauvignon Blanc. Green fruit, citrus with a crisp bite. Factoring in the price and my general dislike of Sauvignon Blanc, I would never recommend buying this. $39
  2. ** 2010 Del Dotto Napa Valley Sangiovese (bought 2 bottles) – 100% Sangiovese, simple, acidic with a long finish. Good food wine although a bit pricey at $55, I bought a few bottles to enjoy another Cali Sangiovese (not nearly as good as the Gargiulo Aprile). $55
  3. * 2010 Del Dotto Cave Blend Bordeaux Blend – primarily Cabernet Sauvignon. Sweet black fruit aroma, simpler mid-palate with spice and vanilla on the finish. $49
  4. ** 2011 Del Dotto Pinot Noir Cinghale – jammy, red fruit with a good amount of earthiness. Decent wine but not at this price point. $75
  5. * 2009 Del Dotto Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – herbaceous, bitter chocolate. Also relatively simple and a spicy finish. $65
  6. ** 2010 Del Dotto Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon Ca’ Nani (American Oak) – heavily toasted American oak, grooved to provide greater surface area. Forrest, cedar and vanilla with huge tannins. This wine, along with the next were an interesting tasting in that they are identical wine just aging in different barrels. $145
  7. ** 2010 Del Dotto Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon Ca’ Nani (French Oak) – medium+ toast. Floral, rose aroma. Longer tannins and finish with creme de cassis on the palate. $145
  8. *** 2010 Del Dotto St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon – silky chocolate with smooth, well-integrated tannins. Blackberry. $165
  9. *** 2009 Del Dotto St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon (bought 2 bottles) – similar to the 2010 but slightly more approachable today. I was most impressed by these two wines and felt that they could become extremely compelling wines with 5-10 years of bottle age. $165
  10. ** 2010 Del Dotto Oakville Cabernet – herbaceous, full bodied and a long finish but lacking complexity. $145

One sidenote: our tasting group consisted of Diane, myself, Andy Dalton (starting QB of the Bengals) and his wife, Jordan. They were both incredibly nice and I hope Andy does well this season … except if they happen to play the Giants … in which case I hope he throws about 10 picks:

Me, Diane, Jordan and Andy at Del Dotto

Our second stop for the day was Roy Estate for lunch. We had a quick tour of the property and went to the owner’s home for the tasting. Shirley Roy was full of energy and enthusiasm about wine and the vision for Roy Estate. I think it helped that she and Diane both bonded over being from New Jersey.

Roy Estate entrance

The property itself is 42 acres with 17 acres of plantined vines. Primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. They are an extremely small production winery making about 2,000 cases on average each year. The vineyard was initially planted by Helen Turley and John Wetlaufer but the current winemaker there is now Philippe Melka.

We sat down in the kitchen for a informal, but delicious lunch and tasting. We only tried two wines here but loved them both:

  1. *** 2007 Roy Estate Proprietary Red (bought 4 bottles) – 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot. Aged in 100% French oak for 17 months, the wine had great earthiness and balancing fruitiness. Black pepper spice on the finish. 14.1% alcohol, $120
  2. *** 2006 Roy Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (bought 2 bottles) – 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine spent 24 months in oak. More tannic and a longer finish than the Proprietary Red. Bitter chocolate and new leather – delicious wine. 14.2% alcohol, $120

Our third vineyard of the day was a special treat set up for us by Jesse from NY Vintners. We were able to taste and visit one of the premier winemakers in Napa Valley and, arguably, in the world. We actually tasted wine from three different estates: Harlan, Bond and Promontory (Bill Harlan’s latest project). We met with Julia who guided us through the history of the vineyards and the tasting included two wines from their newest project that haven’t even been released!

Tasting room with Julia taking us through Promontory, Harlan and Bond Estates

Harlan Estate – Bill Harlan’s first winery in Napa – consists of a 240 acre estate, of which 40 acres or so are under vine right now. The estate was founded in 1984 and they didn’t produce their first wine until 1987. The first public release occurred for the 1990 vintage. They produce roughly 1,200 cases per year and about 800 cases of their second growth, the Maiden.

Bond Estates was a project started by Bill Harlan and his winemaking team (including Bob Levy and Michel Rolland) whose goal was to find a portfolio of different terroirs within Napa, get commitments to long term leases and start producing some of Napa’s best, terroir-driven wine. Their portfolio currently consists of five vineyard sites including Melbury, Pluribus, Quella, St. Eden and Vecina. Across all five vineyard sites, they produce roughly 2,500 cases and about 1,000 cases of a second growth called The Matriarch.

Harlan’s most recent project is a new vineyard site currently called Promontory which is a huge plot of land but only 60 acres under vines right now. Their first vintage is the 2009 which should be released next spring.

  1. ** 2009 Promontory – 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec. Spicy, earthy, black currant with a big, bold aroma. Huge tannins with an incredibly long finish. Fermented in 70% concrete, 20% barrels and 10% stainless steel. Aged in 100% new French oak.  $TBD
  2. *** 2010 Promontory (barrel) – they had just finished their first barrel blend of the 2010 Promontory and we got to try it in the barrel room! Fruitier, not as tannic as the ’09. Floral notes and blackberry on the palate. Delicious. $TBD
  3. *** 2008 The Matriarch – lush, full body feel wine with medium+ tannins and an extremely long finish. Bitter chocolate and cocoa on the palate. I would wait at 3-5 years before drinking. $95
  4. *** 2006 The Maiden – big body, explodes onto the palate with strong, bitter tannins, black fruit, cedar and creme de cassis. Would wait at least 3-5+ years before drinking. $160
  5. *** 2006 Bond Vecina (bought 2 bottles) – very subtle initial mouth-feel, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon with an aroma or dark cherries and cola with a violet finish. Should continue to develop for over a decade and still think it’s too tight to drink today. $295
  6. *** 2000 Bond Vecina – drinking incredibly well right now but I would personally still keep it in the cellar for a bit if possible. An earthy, leathery aroma leads to tobacco and sweet cherries on the palate. Great wine. $160

The first finished blend of the 2010 Promontory that we tasted

Our final stop for the day was Abreu Vineyards. Brad Grimes, the winemaker took us to their cellars and talked to us about everything ranging from their winemaking philosophies to his thoughts on other producers in the region – an incredibly interesting discussion.

At Abreu, they co-ferment all their grapes so they don’t separate their Cab from their Merlot or Petit Verdot, they ferment based on when the grapes are picked, not what varietal they are. 100% stainless steel fermentation produces only 1,000 cases. Sadly, Abreu had no wines to sell (they were sold out to their mailing list) and the only wines we were able to try for the 2010’s that were in the barrel. Brad was kind enough to open up a fresh barrel for each wine we tried and told us about each vineyard site:

Brad, pouring us barrel samples

All of these wines were incredible but were wines that I would love to try every 5 years for the next 30 years – I think they’ll continue developing at least that long.

  1. *** 2010 Abreu Cappella (barrel) – herbaceous, dark fruit with big body. Silky chocolate and black currents on the palate. Aged for two years in oak and two years in bottle. $490
  2. *** 2010 Abreu Madrona Ranch (barrel) – less tannic and harsh than the first wine, dark berries and smoke. This wine comes from older vines. $500
  3. *** 2010 Abreu Thorevilos (barrel) – 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot and 5% Merlot. Dark fruit and black currants – extremely long finish. $500
  4. *** 2010 Abreu Howell Mountain – lighter tannins compared to the others. Blackberry and dark fruit – needs lots of time. $450

Our last day in Napa was memorable but our palates were completely shot on all the Bordeaux blends and Cabernets we were drinking.  The next day and a half would be dedicated to Sonoma.