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Posts Tagged ‘Napa Valley’

Spring finally seemed to have sprung today, but after enduring the wettest winter ever, I’m not counting my chickens. So while I did put a bottle of red in the fridge (gasp!) late this afternoon, around the time that our house began to sweat, I’m still not quite ready to start drinking white.

The solution? What this between-seasons moment calls for is really a lovely “medium red”—a Pinot, maybe a red blend or Merlot—anything that satisfies without feeling too much like a warm blanket. Here’s a roundup of some we’ve recently enjoyed, listed from north to south, inland to coastal, U.S. to Italy. Salute!

2007 Waterstone Napa Valley Merlot, $18. The pungent berry bouquet and tannic mouthfeel of this Merlot screamed Napa to me—in a good way. We also liked its not-very-Napa price tag.

2009 La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, $24. Lots going on in this offering from the land of lusted-after Pinots: an aroma of dense dark fruit, sweet smoke and spice, and a bit of cedar. It tasted of black cherry, with gamey notes and a little Chinese spice.

2009 La Crema Monterey Pinot Noir, $24. We wondered briefly if La Crema’s winemaker felt that these two 2009 Pinots were rushed to market a bit early. . . . Great potential was the dominant takeaway with this one, but we liked its dark fruit aroma, rough-silk mouthfeel, and pleasant finish. Not particularly Pinot-y.

2007 Intelligent Design Central Coast Cuvee, $38. I got lots of earth and oak on the nose of this Rhône-grape blend from Wesley Ashley Wines—and must admit that I missed some of what captivated Thomas of The Blog Wine Cellar last summer. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed his review and agree that it’s a wine worth trying. Velvety on the palate, with a long strong finish

2007 Lucente Tuscan Red Blend, $30. This simple blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cab earned its Super Tuscan stripes with a jammy aroma, smooth mouthfeel, and very nice, long finish. Our favorite wine merchant calls it “nicely made”—and he doesn’t dish out the compliments easily.

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I’m sure we all have one: a Worst Valentine’s Day Ever. Mine involved teddy bears holding Mylar balloons, and I’m sure it’s partly to blame for the little shiver I get every time I’m sent a heart-sprinkled press release advertising a Valentine’s special. So I was relieved to see that instead of doing something schmaltzy on February 14, Napa’s Ehlers Estate winery is doing something classy on February 4.

To honor National Heart Month, winemaker Kevin Morrisey will preside over a tasting party from 6 to 8 p.m. at MO Bar in San Francisco’s Mandarin Oriental hotel. For the $30 price of admission, guests will enjoy appetizers paired with several Ehlers Estate wines, including the winery’s signature “One Twenty Over Eighty” Cab blend. Proceeds from the event will go toward a gift to the San Francisco Chapter of the American Heart Association.

This pairing between winery and cause is much more than a well-timed marketing campaign; all year long, 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of Ehlers Estate wines goes to the Leducq Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to international cardiovascular research. For more information, visit fondationleducq.org.

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A couple of weeks ago, Peter and I recruited two friends to help us with the difficult work of tasting three premium Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons. Due to a way-too-strong fondness for alliteration in my old budget-wine column, these friends appeared in that space as ‘the Tuscan Tipplers’ — a honeymoon reference. Here we’ll just call them the TTs.

The wines we tasted with the TTs were, in order of price, a 2007 Cab from Mount Veeder Winery ($40), a 2005 Stag’s Leaps District Cab from Clos Du Val ($70), and a 2006 Reserve Cab from Robert Mondavi Winery ($135).

I really liked the Mount Veeder and noted its strong tannins, which indicated to Peter that the wine could benefit from a few more years of aging. Mr. TT was neutral on this one, but it was Mrs. TT’s favorite of the bunch: “smooth and yummy.”

I loved the Clos du Val 2005, especially that pencil-shaving aroma I always associate with great Napa Cabs. Mr. TT found it open and pleasant, with berries on the palate. Mrs. TT really liked it too and found it pungent—”fumey,” she said, but not in a bad way, as well as strong and rich. Finally, Peter praised its super-dark fruit; nice, not-overpowering oak; and good balance.

None of us were big fans of the 2006 Mondavi Reserve: the TTs complained of its “puckery” quality, and Peter simply said it was “going downhill.”

Mondavi redeemed itself to me a few days later, however, when I thoroughly enjoyed a glass of the 2007 Cab from its Oberon label, which I found online for as little as $14.99. Another lesson that with Napa wines, you don’t always get when you pay for — except when you do.

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I mentioned in my last (and so far only) post that my husband is a winemaker, so during the harvest months of September and October, his long work days begin before dawn, and his weekends are nonexistent. You can therefore imagine the twinge of panic we felt upon learning that our first child’s due date was September 3 of this year — a date that can often mark the harvest period’s beginning.

Well, it turns out that our happy and healthy new daughter, Willa, sensed the urgency and decided to arrive a month early — which accounts for the long lag between that first blog entry and this one. Her considerate timing afforded Peter a few calm weeks with her before harvest chaos descended (which happened, at his winery at least, on September 4th).

My return to the blog coincides with the October issue of Marin Magazine hitting the stands, arriving in mailboxes, and appearing online. I plan to devote the next couple of posts to ‘outtakes,’ if you will,  from “Original Zin,” the article I wrote for the October issue about Zinfandel, California’s signature grape. But let me quickly address here one correction:

A sentence in the story’s introduction refers to Zinfandel as the second-most-planted grape in California. While it’s true that Zin is the second-most-planted *red wine* grape in the state, after Cabernet Sauvignon, both Thompson and Chardonnay have it beat in the non-wine and white wine categories, respectively. My apologies for the error.

Finally, with all due respect to my beloved Zinfandel, I want to mention a great-value Cab I recently discovered. The 2007 Bon Anno Cabernet Sauvignon, from Napa Valley, has an aroma of leather and dried cherries, with big, ripe, flavors and soft tannins on the palate. At $20, it’s a rare — and delightful — Napa bargain.

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