Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hey Napa, How About Some Ribs?

The streets were filled with beer loving, BBQ eating, blues happy people in downtown Napa on Saturday.  It was the 3rd annual Blues, Brews & BBQ festival.  Main Street was closed off to all traffic as locals and visitors alike danced to 7 local Bay Area blues bands.  Rumor has it there were 20 micro brewed beers in the Beer Garden. There were many vendors serving different styles of barbecue, but I was in Bounty Hunter rib heaven all day, so I didn’t see much else except the blue haze from the multiple grills cooking hundreds of pounds of food.

We had a booth set up next to the main stage - thank you Downtown Association for the awesome placement.  We rolled our smoker right to the edge of the booth and served piping hot, perfectly spiced ribs from about 1pm until 4:45pm, when we sold out for the first time in the 3 year history of the event. Thanks to all of you who stopped by and had (at least) a half rack.

The highlight of the day was the Rib Eatin’ Contest, which we set up a little differently this year. Instead of local winemakers competing for the glory, we held two raffles allowing locals to compete for the coveted Golden Smoker award.  We selected 6 contestants from our raffle in the Wine Bar and 6 contestants from a raffle on The Vine, KVYN, one of our local radio stations.  Last year’s winner Matthew Peck also competed in the contest.  He gave it his best shot, but there’s a new champion who can bask in Rib Eatin’ Glory….Darren Turbeville, owner of Toy-B-Ville specialty toy store, who smoked the competition at 27 ribs!!!  Throughout the contest, he had a few hardy challengers, but towards the end of the 10 minutes he pulled ahead.

Thank you to all the contestants for coming downtown and making it a fantastic event.  And a big congratulations to Darren!  We look forward to watching you defend your title next year.

Next up for the BH crowd is to take this show on the road!  We’re packing our corkscrews and heading to Laguna Beach next month for an evening filled with exceptional wines and hors d’oeuvres with a good-time guarantee.  If you’re down that way, look us up!

--Summer Olson, Event & PR Manager

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Evolution of a Winery

Ray Signorello Jr.
It’s a remarkable thing to experience when a string of vintages are lined up in a row of glasses and you can actually taste the progress of a cellar program. I was invited to a lunch at Signorello Estate along with a small group of trade professionals and was able to see just that. It was something like the wine equivalent of the evolution of man chart with the changes that started a few years back slowly moving towards walking upright. Credit is due to proprietor Ray Signorello Jr. for implementing a hyper-aggressive approach to quality control as his winemaking team has definitely responded to their new charge.

The changes Ray has implemented would literally be impossible for a winery that wasn’t self-financed. Try telling your banker that you’re going to cut production by 90% without cutting costs and wait for the laughter to subside before explaining that you’re serious. Ray instructed his winemaking team that anything less than the very top cut of fruit was no longer good enough for their Estate-tier wines and would be sent elsewhere. He then brought on Luc Morlet (Peter Michael, Staglin, Newton) as a consultant to help with the nuts and bolts cellar changes. Luc doesn’t hitch his name and reputation to a project unless he believes in its potential, and he saw what was possible on the property.

Signorello Winery
The meal started with their delicious ’10 “Seta” Sauvignon Blanc – Semillon blend, a leesy yet minerally style that demonstrates Morlet’s golden touch with white Bordeaux blends. It was followed by their ’09 “Vieilles Vignes” Chardonnay produced from the original 30+ year-old block planted when Ray’s father bought the property. But the real stars of the show were the next two flights. The Estate Cabernet and “Padrone” flagship red were presented beginning with ’07 and concluding with 2010 barrel samples. It wasn’t difficult to see that slashing production, employing some of Luc’s winemaking philosophies and tweaking the blends to suit the vintage were paying serious dividends. The pleasure meter kept tilting right as the tasting moved forward.

The wineries of the Silverado Trail just south of the Stags Leap District have never really received the sort of press and attention that their terroir deserves largely because no one has ever played a hand like this before. Kudos to Signorello for their moxie in proving that this section of the Valley can compete with the big boys.

--Rhett Gadke, Wine Director

Monday, August 1, 2011

Touring Silver Oak Cellars

Last Friday, the Wine Scouts traveled to Silver Oak Cellars in Oakville for a guided tour of their new facilities by none other than their General Manager, David Duncan. Silver Oak Cellars had experienced both a flood and fire in 2006, leading them to re-invent their winery and tasting room. We first visited a beautifully appointed tasting room which then led to the first barrel room. David gave us a little history about the winery, its grounds, his father Ray and Ray’s long time friend and business partner, Justin Meyer.

Along the guided tour we saw the new tank room (David pointed out that it has the best sound system in the Napa Valley), where and how the barrels are stacked, the upstairs lab and the VIP tasting room.

Last but not least, he escorted us through an amazing tasting of a few Twomey Pinot Noirs, along with the 2006 Silver Oak Alexander and Napa Valley Cabernets – and of course, the current release of the 2007 Alexander Valley Cabernet.  The wines were fantastic examples of Silver Oak’s style, but we all had to agree that the 2007 Alexander Valley Cab may be their best vintage in a decade!  It was a real treat to be hosted in such style – we owe a big thank you to David and the entire Silver Oak team. (click the images to make them bigger)

Until our next fun outing,

--Ryan Hughes, Wine Scout