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Napa Valley [all categories]
Napa Valley - Wineries to Visit
October Trip, Day 7 and 8
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posted 11-14-2011 08:55 AM
What a fabulous trip! I've enjoyed reading all about it - and dreaming of when we get to visit these wineries.
Are you feeling any better? Maybe gonna start planning the next trip soon??
posted 11-14-2011 07:00 AM
Day 7, Monday, October 31
We picked up a picnic lunch at Palisades Deli for the trip today was going to be up on Howell Mountain and there is no place to eat up there.
This is the day that I have been anticipating since I began to put the itinerary together back in the summer. All of these wineries are on Howell Mountain. The highest we have previously been on the mountain is Ladera, and these are waaaaay above that. The first two wineries are Thomas Rivers Brown made wines. These will be the third and fourth wines by TRB that we will have tasted on this trip. You need to plan extra time to get to these wineries, because they are certainly off the beaten track.
Black Sears Winery. When I asked for directions, I was told to go up Deer Park Road, then White Cottage Road and take a left on Summit Lake Drive and go until you cross the cattle guard and you are there. It certainly was the endo of the line. We were met by Chris Jambois, the winery manager and taken on a tour through the caves. Thomas Rivers Brown makes their wines plus some of his own label, Rivers-Marie at this location. We were not disappointed. TRB talks about the 09 Estate Zinfandel, “The Fowler Vineyard is owned by Don Fowler. This vineyard is located in the upper watershed of Knights Valley just a stones throw from the Napa county line, in the hills between the towns of Calistoga and Santa Rosa. The soils are composed of Forward and Bressa Dribble complexes and it has the steepest slopes of any of the vineyards in our line up. Because of its location the vineyard is exposed to strong afternoon breezes resulting in thicker grape skins which help to produce wines of intense color and tannin structure. The vineyard is planted using Clone 337 in its entirety. The elevation of this vineyard is about 1100 ft. above sea level”. I was blown away by this wine. $45. Next was the 08 Estate Cab. Again TRB, “The wine has exceeded all of our expectations. The density of the palate alone reflects the vintage with the wine being built like an ’02 Cabernet. The nose features notes of espresso roast, pain grille and black currants. Palate weight on this wine comes quickly saturated with milk chocolate, blackberries and mocha. The Howell Mountain tannins do creep in at the end providing some delineation to the wine, keeping it focused and true to its hillside origins”. $80. Chris took us out to the vineyard and showed us bear tracks, a mama and two cubs . . . kind of neat. We asked if they liked grapes and he told us that they eat a few, but not enough to chase them off.
Just back up Summit Lake Drive a short distance was Outpost Winery, another TRB made wine. He also makes wine for some of his other clients here. The views from here were fabulous and I would recommend you bring your picnic lunch to eat here. I did not get the name of the young lady who hosted us but she did a very nice job. We walked around to various spots on the property and wine was waiting for us at each stop. They make a Zin, a Cab and a Grenache. We purchased the 09 Howell Mountain Cab that has not even been released yet. $65. Another recommended stop.
We were told that our GPS would not find the O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery. No truer words were ever spoken. Shirley, our GPS, was a total wreck trying to find this place. We were told to look for a rusty black gate . . . do you know how many black gates are in the area? Hundreds! Finally, we saw some vineyard workers and although we had a difficult time communicating, they seemed to know the name, O’Shaughnessy. One of them got on a 4 wheeler and indicated that we should follow him. We did go through a black gate, but then it seemed forever before we came to a little side road where the worker indicate that we go. Folks, this place is very difficult to find, but well worth the trip. We were met by a young lady, Penny Wilson, dressed from head to toe in grape colored balloons, like a “bunch of grapes”. After all, this was Halloween. We had planned to eat our picnic lunch here, so Penny showed us their picnic tables which were set up to overlook the vineyards. After our lunch, we followed the grape lady around the winery, watching the actual crush and other facets of wine making. Because of some late rains, harvest was a little late this year. They make a Chardonnay, Savignon Blanc, Merlot, Syrah, and those luscious Cabs. Our first Cab to taste was the 08 Howell Mountain Estate Cab, “It has a dense purple color, a wonderful, crystalline nose of crushed rock, camphor, creme de cassis and spring flowers, and a full-bodied mouthfeel. The tannins are moderately high, but they are soft and well-integrated. This is a wine of tremendous intensity and plenty of up-side. Give this wine 2-3 years of bottle age and drink it over the following 20-25 years”. Robert Parker gave it a rating of 94. The second Cab we tasted was the 08 Mount Veeder Cab, “Dense bluish purple to the rim, with a sensational nose of forest, flowers, graphite, and blueberry liqueur intermixed with creme de cassis and burning embers/charcoal, this wine has fabulous fruit, a remarkably full-bodied texture, great purity, and a finish that goes on for close to 50+ seconds. This is an awesome 2008 and one of the great wines of the vintage. It should drink well for 25+ years” Received 98 points from Robert Parker. We joined their Cab wine club, so there was no tasting fee. WOW, what Cabs!
The last visit of the day was to Arkenstone Cellars, where the owner, Susan Krausz gave us the tour and hosted our tasting. Susan said we were the first to taste in their new tasting room. We enjoyed their 2007 Howell Mountain, Coliseum Block Cab and purchased a couple bottles to bring home. Of the four wineries on Howell Mountain, this was our least favorite. I can’t give you a definitive reason, the wines were good, it just seemed cold. I believe if I were to make the trip again, I would replace it with Ladera, Burgess, Bremer Family, or one of the others on the mountain.
I would definitely do this trip again, with the above suggested change. These were some awesome Cabs.
Day 8, Tuesday, November 1
This morning, we were to taste at two small family wineries on our way back to Sacramento. Eight days of tasting is a lot, but it seemed that we had just gotten there. Oh, well, all good things must come to an end.
Our first tasting was at Diamond Terrace Winery on Diamond Mountain, a Thomas Rivers Brown made wine, and hosted by Maureen and Hal Taylor, the owners. We were invited into their home to taste two great Cabs. We tasted the 08 Diamond Mountain Cab first. A great TRB wine with lots of body and fruit with a fabulous smooth finish. Then we were given the 08 Howell Mountain Cab, again a TRB made wine, which was even better. After the tasting, we were told that they would no longer be making wine after the 08 vintage . . . they will continue to grow their grapes and sell them, but will not make wine. They said that they wanted a little more freedom and now that their kids were gone from home, they wanted to travel. What a disappointment, we find a great wine, and will no longer will be able to purchase it. You can believe that we will order some more before they are sold out.
The second tasting was at Dyer Straits Winery on Diamond Mountain. We were greeted by the owner, Dawnine Dyer in her home. This winery is so small that they only make one wine, Diamond Mountain Cab. We sat in their dining room which looked out over their small estate vineyard. We tasted a flight of their 06, 07 and 08 DM Cabs with Dawnine relating about each. We found ourselves liking these wines very much and came home with the 07 Cab, “fruit aromas of black cherries, cassis, and blueberries and with back notes of anise, sandalwood and tobacco. In the mouth, it is rich and bright and reinforces the impression of ripe fruit. The finish is dark and brooding with muscular tannins and lingering minerality”, and the 08 which was very similar.
On the plane trip to California, I sat across the aisle from a man who sniffed, snorted, sneezed and coughed all the way without covering his mouth or nose. I now have that cold. The 4 hour (an hour shorter going back) trip to Atlanta was not going to be fun. It was a tough flight . . . then we had a 3 hour layover in Atlanta for our connecting flight.
Another visit to Napa Valley in now a memory.
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