Thursday, December 24, 2009

For the True Love of Wine

Yesterday was a slightly abbreviated day of tasting as the Holidays draw near. But, that did not deter making a few stops at some places that I had not been to before. This venture was going to be one of true tradition as we had sights on the oldest winery in Napa, Charles Krug, (just outside St. Helena) run by the Peter Mondavi family...if nothing else, good for your wine trivia friends. After the usual lunch at the Rutherford Grill, my wife and I were off with our bellies full and prepared for the day.

As luck would have it, while we were tasting, Mr. Peter Mondavi, Sr. himself was at the tasting room with a friend. Now, this is one of the most iconic figures in Napa outside his now deceased brother, Robert Mondavi. At 95, Peter was moving around just fine and I wished I had been able to corral him for second to get a picture but he was busy with his friend. All I could muster up was a quick "hello" and praise about the wines I had just tasted. Charles Krug is making some surprisingly good wines these days combining a few great value wines with the usual high-end stars. My favorite among the value wines was the 2007 Zinfandel ($25). On the private reserve side, my two favorites were the 'Voltz' Cabernet ($80) and the 'X' Clone Reserve Cab ($100). All in all, a really nice job of bringing the wines to premiere status again.

Our second stop was at a small private winery, Allora Vineyards, owned and operated by the Klein family. Terry and Nancy Klein along with their children have created quite a slice of paradise here that any of us would aspire to. They live on the property with 10 acres of vineyards and create an enticing 'Tuscan' feel amongst the California landscape. We tasted in the cave below their house where all 1000 cases of production reside. It had all the elements of small, artisan style production along with the personal touch of being hosted by the family and Terry Klein himself and his daughter, Cortney. All the wines were as friendly and enjoyable as the hosts. We loved the Super Tuscan 'Cielo' ($40) and the 'Tresca' Cab/Cab Franc ($50). Terry and Cortney were very gracious spending a good amount of time with my wife and I telling all the stories about the wines, the backgrounds and some fun anecdotal bits about the famous artist, Margaret Keane, in creation of the 'Lusso' Cab ($100) label art.

Our last stop was a winery I was very familiar with, but had never had a chance to visit the tasting room, Ehlers Estate. This group has been know for its wines for quite a while, but arguably more known for its philanthropic efforts. They donate all proceeds to the Leducq Foundation that is 100% focused on research to fight cardiovascular diseases. They are also an organic vineyard and bio-dynamic farming estate. But, make no mistake, their wines are phenomenal and hard pressed to pick out a favorite. If had to pick my two that combine good value and early drinkability, it would be their Merlot ($45) and my personal favorite, their 'One-twenty Over Eighty' ($45) (i.e. perfect blood pressure numbers) Meritage red. However, for outright weight, complexity and well-structured big red, the '1886 Cab' ($95) is well worthy of cellaring for several years and the '05 I tasted had the 'WOW!' factor. The bottle design and overall package alone make this wine must-have. Along with an incredible historic structure for the tasting room and background, the staff (Mo & Scott) make this one the must visits when heading north past St. Helena.

Ahhh, just another day in wine country where the holidays seemed so distant only to realize it was Christmas Eve-Eve. Time to prepare for wrapping up 2009 and see what 2010 has to bring.

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