Thursday, November 19, 2009

HIt the Mark Right Out of the Gate

Today is the first in what I hope will be an insightful series of weekly reports back on my ventures in wine country here in Napa and Sonoma. Let me state my goals here and then I will go on to report on my day.

I want to accomplish three primary things in doing these weekly outings on Wednesdays to have my followers tune in on Thursdays to see what transpired - 1) Showcase a new wine or winemaker that I discovered making something special that you will want to try, 2) Present real-time events, conversations or observations of what a day in touring wine country provides, 3) Give readers an "insiders" view of some anecdotal perspectives of what life in Napa Valley and beyond looks and feels like.

My first (reporting) day out yesterday did not disappoint in the least....

As with most 'tasting' days, you need a good meal in you to get started. My favorite spot (as is with most in the industry) is Rutherford Grill off Hwy 29 right next to BV Winery. I've made more connections and done more business there than anywhere else outside my office. There is always just such a buzz there and is the true melting pot for anyone in and around wine. As usual, I sat at the bar in between two people and just waited for conversations to flow as they most inevitably do. Without a corkage fee there, you always have someone that has brought something to the bar and it is always easy to solicit a quick sip or three.

I tried two wines there, '07 Silverado Zinfandel from a couple a guys who brought it in as part of their stop-over there and an '07 Anaba Carneros Pinot Noir. With my seared Ahi tuna salad, they actually both went quite well. I struck up a conversation with the girl next me, she was from Boston visiting her sister in Yountville, and she knew the valley decently along with some people in the industry. Our discussion was interesting from a consumer standpoint as we delved in to why people try new wines or are loyal to certain wines. Her view was that she liked to know or follow certain winemakers and when wineries changed winemakers. Since this has been fairly prolific as of late with winemakers doing so many alternative or personal projects, the movement has been more than ever and very tough to keep up with. I, of course, disclosed to her that in the Access Wine Club (AWC) catalog and website, we do a very good job of giving the winemaker their voice along with a link online to 'About the Winemaker' for each wine. She liked this feature a lot. After giving her and the other guys a copy of my catalog, I was ready to be on my way to venture out up-valley. Quick bit of business once again at "The Grill".

After making notes of a few wineries I passed to possibly hit on the way home (you always seem to pass a few that you say to yourself "ahh, I need to check them out...") I decided my first stop would be a winery "collective" tasting room just north of St. Helena called - A Dozen Vintners - where you get to try several wines from various 'artisan' style winemakers or smaller production wineries that do not have formal tasting rooms. The utilize these type of co-ops to be able to display their wines without the cost of running a tasting room themselves...there a few of these that have cropped up in the valley and are quite popular.

I spent quite a while there with the manager, Jack Wall, and we tasted through probably 12 wines while chatting about the state of the 'industry'. I was very fortunate in that no other customers came in this window and was able to spend quality time exploring some new exciting wines. The two standouts of the entire day were wines I had never heard about before; 2005 WaterMark Cabernet and 2004 Adams Ridge Cabernet. Both of these had what I refer to as the "WOW!" factor right off the bat.

2005 WaterMark is made by a pretty well-known winemaker, Phil Steinschriber, who is the winemaker for famed Diamond Creek Vineyards. No surprise here that I loved this wine. It is a Bordeaux style blend of Cab, Merlot, Cab Franc and Petite Verdot with rich black fruit properties and very approachable now but surely even better with time. And, at ~ $50, a real gem of wine that would be hard to beat at this price (only 434 cases made). I spoke to Phil briefly later that afternoon and if you want to get this wine, contact me directly at - - and I might be able to make a good deal for you directly...wink, wink.

2004 Adams Ridge Cabernet was also a superb wine that initially caught my eye with the beautiful drawing of their wine cave on the front of the label. As this is AWC's front catalog cover icon, I was immediately drawn to this bottle. Little did I know that what was inside was even more compelling. Primarily Cabernet with a little Merlot (5%) thrown in, it was richly Stag's Leap District style Cab that comes from two distinct vineyards, Stelzner and Rutherford Bench that have always produced great wine. Ronald & Susan Adams are the proprietors and the winemakers themselves and have done a tremendous job right out the gate. This is definitely one to watch and I cannot wait to meet them and explore their cave...maybe the cover for the next catalog...?

I then ventured further up-valley making a few quick business pit-stops and finally ending up at the Wine Garage in Calistoga. This is an interesting little shop where almost all the wines are at $25 or below. they also make their own wine label called - Garage Wine - that includes several varietals and blends from whites to reds all reasonably priced $10 and up. I actually picked up a couple of fun zin/petite sirah/tempranillo blend wines - '06 Fortitude ($20, by Etude wines) and '07 John Robert Eppler wine ($13).

All in all a very productive and revealing day with a couple of great discoveries. That is about all I could fit in to one day as I got a bit of a late start. It was time to start heading home, pick up a pizza at Tra Vigne Pizzaria, and enjoy the fruits of my labor when I got home wines in hand.

Until the next sip, swirl ya' later!

Chief Wino
twitter - Chief_Wino

No comments: