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Posts Tagged ‘napa’

A couple of weeks ago I brought a bottle of 2008 Gramercy Cellars Columbia Valley Tempranillo to a book club meeting. I’d been curious to try the wines of this Washington state–based outfit dubbed Best New Winery, 2010, by Food and Wine magazine, and while we all liked the Tempranillo quite a bit, our comments about it were less interesting than our various opinions on how best to smell it.

Elizabeth had just been to an informational wine and cheese tasting where she’d been advised to do big swirls with her hand sealing the top of the glass and then sniff. Heather, on the other hand, brought up a notion many wine experts agree with: that little sniffs (like a dog) are better than one big snort for really getting the full bouquet.

In the week that followed that meeting, I tried out these dueling techniques on both another Gramercy wine, the 2008 Walla Walla Syrah, and on a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend from Napa’s Melka Wines. And I discovered that little sniffs just don’t work a bit for me—I think it’s a personal thing, everybody’s different—but I did get different aromas when I sniffed a swirled-while-covered glass of the Syrah (tar!) versus an uncovered one (lots of blackberry). This technique paid off most with the Melka, however. I loved this wine in large part because of a deeply floral bouquet that my hand-covered swirl seem to release—but that made little sense, since Cabs have a distinctive aroma that’s rarely if ever floral. I was validated when Peter, who is the olfactory equivalent of a supertaster, tried the wine and gushed about it—adding, ‘Can you believe how floral it is??’

The nose knows…

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Last week I interviewed Doug and Janet Fletcher about the role that food and wine have played in their relationship. The short answer is “a big one”—no surprise given that Doug is a vice president at Terlato Wine Group, overseeing winemaking at Terlato’s wineries in Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Barbara, and Janet is a prominent food writer who pens the cheese column for the San Francisco Chronicle and has written award-winning cookbooks.

I’ll save the juiciest bits from the interview for my upcoming Marin Magazine article featuring the Fletchers, but let me share this: the couple has invented a Friday night cocktail. It’s called a Rosebud, made with four ounces white wine to one ounce Campari—shaken and served up, with an orange peel twist. “It’s fresh and a little bitter, which Janet and I both like,” says Doug. Sounds delicious, and I can’t wait to sub it for my usual Friday night cocktail, a traditional gin martini (Bombay Sapphire, shaken, served up with three olives if I make it, two if my husband does).

I must have had aperitifs on the brain after this interview, because while eating at the Front Porch in Bernal Heights on Saturday, I scanned the “bevies” menu and was immediately drawn to something called Tha Dirty South: amontillado sherry shaken with ice and served up, with an olive. Oh wait, does that sound familiar? Yes, it’s basically a sherry martini, but drinking it I somehow felt a little more… genteel, I guess you could say. Goes great with crab fritters.

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Recently earning raves in my household was a 2007 Merlot from Napa Valley’s Shafer Vineyards. I found the aroma on this wine oh-so-very Napa, evoking cedar and pencil shavings, while my husband noted blackberries and plums. He commented that the Shafer was bright and ripe with great acid and good balance, and I agreed — although we parted ways on its finish, which I found smooth and delightful. Peter complained that it was just a little too hot (high alcohol) — although at 14.9 percent, the alcohol content is actually pretty modest for a Napa red.

At $48 a bottle, the price of Shafer’s Merlot is fairly modest as well, coming from a winery whose Cabernet Sauvignons range in price from $70 to $215. Interesting bit of trivia on that topic: Shafer’s vineyards are overseen by David Ilsley, whose family business, Ilsley Vineyards, happens to be right next door. The Ilsleys’ land abuts Shafer’s reknowned Hillside Vineyard (the two properties aren’t even separated by a fence), whose grapes produce the highly acclaimed $215 Cab known as Hillside Select.

Now, the scuttlebutt in the Stags Leap District that is home to both these wineries — at least among devotees to the concept of terroir — is that Shafer Hillside Select and Ilsley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($55) are nearly identical wines with a $160 price difference. While this theory doesn’t do justice to the obvious talents and varied techniques of Shafer winemaker Elias Fernandez or Ilsley winemaker Craig MacLean, you can’t argue against the Ilsley Cab as a great value.

Just like that Shafer Merlot.

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Hello, welcome to my first-ever wine blog for Marin Magazine. I thought I’d get things started by plugging a party taking place this Saturday night, August 8, at the Clos du Val winery in Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District. As a wine writer who’s married to a winemaker, I definitely attend more than my fair share of wine events, but last year’s reserve release party at Clos du Val was bar none the most enjoyable and festive that I’d been to in a long time. The theme didn’t hurt: Gods and Goddesses, with attendees and winery staff all decked out in togas and laurels, feasting on an incredible array of gourmet treats and drinking not just Clos du Val’s current releases, but a couple of vintage Cabs from the ’70s as well.

This year, ancient Greece and Rome have been traded in for a Prohibition-era Speakeasy, so get out your Jazz-Age finery and make the quick trip from Marin to the southernmost winery on Napa’s Silverado Trail (click here for directions). The cost is $75 per guest if you’re new to Clos du Val, $35 for wine club members.

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