The only way to stay on top of the game it to taste. Constantly. There’s nothing like getting acquainted with the goods to see who is doing what and where the next great discovery is likely to appear. And one of the best forums to taste a lot of wine in one setting is an event like the one the collective marketing group “In Vino Unitas” put on at the Westin Verasa in Napa. It’s a chance to get some face time with suppliers and knock out a lot of sniff and swirl sessions in one afternoon. Here are a few thoughts and highlights:
- The quiet renaissance of “Bonny’s Vineyard” made legendary by Silver Oak is worth noting for fans of that house. The Meyer family kept the property when the winery was sold some years ago, and are once again making brawny Cabernet from that site. What was unofficially “Reserve” Silver Oak last seen in the ’91 vintage is back in play.
- Ann Kraemer’s Shake Ridge Vineyard continues to distance itself from the pack in Amador. A charming woman and serious farmer – she used to tend to the precious plants at Cain, Calera and Shafer – it’s a Secretariat at the ’73 Belmont situation relative to her neighbors. She’s just doing things on another level up in Gold Country.
- Gargiulo Vineyards “Aprile” continues to be one of the finest Sangiovese-based wines made in California. It flies in the face of conventional wisdom that the famous Italian varietal can’t succeed in the U.S. Take a sip of their ’07 and tell me that it can’t be done well.
- The second label for Gemstone Vineyard known as “Facets” may have been the star of the show (and at $75 a relative bargain compared to a lot of the wine on display). The ’08 was unreal. The depth, concentration and texture are off the charts, a real testament to the winemaking skill of Philippe Melka. We are definitely going to take a position on it before the press gets it.
- Heidi Barrett’s “Moscato d’Azul” (made from Muscat Canelli) under the La Sirena label remains one of the most fun and unique whites in Napa Valley. Crisp and delicious with just a little hit of sugar, this is a guilty pleasure that seems to appeal to the wine geek and novice alike. I have visions of mermaids and hot tubs…
- There was a newbie in the room called Quill that was getting some buzz. Their Cabernets from Howell and Diamond Mountains have a lot going on. They’re not cheap at $95, but in fairness, they taste expensive. With Ehren Jordan of Turley Cellars fame taking the helm in the cellar, we suspect good things are in store for this house.
- Perhaps the biggest surprise was Team Bounty Hunter’s favorite white in the room… the ’07 Mayacamas Sauvignon Blanc. Don’t let the vintage fool you – it’s a current release. It’s incredibly clean and enjoyable. They make very little, but if you see it, try it. It’s well worth a cork pull.
Stay tuned on the tasting front as we’re gearing up next week for Frederick Wildman’s 2009 Burgundy showcase in San Francisco. It should be a seriously enjoyable afternoon. We continue to suffer for your benefit…
--Rhett Gadke, Wine Director