Trip Report: Napa and Sonoma Valley, July 2008

Some families go on vacation to Disneyland. My family goes to the wine country. (Hey, don’t feel bad for the kids. There is a TON of stuff to do up there, from swimming to amusement parks to visiting the Jelly Belly factory… all of which we did this time up.)

Spending five days tasting wine, you drink a lot of vino and you see a lot of stuff. Strangest sight this trip: A trio of yuppies who mistook the crystal decanter (with wine in it) in a tasting room for a dump cup, carefully pouring their unwanted wine down the neck of the decanter to mix with the wine below. At least they soon realized their mistake and fessed up to the aghast tasting room staff. (That said, the decanter had been previously filled with $25 Merlot which the server was trying to use to demonstrate how differently decanted wine can taste to wine straight from the bottle. Sometimes, yes. In this case, not at all.)

As usual, I tried to take this tasting trip to a few off-the-beaten-path locations, but since we had five days to explore, perhaps I went a little overboard this time. At least two of the wineries I’d picked out were not just closed, they didn’t exist. Davis Bynum, clearly shown on maps of the area, had no tasting room where indicated (instead there was a gate with some residential houses behind it). We also spent 45 minutes taking wrong turns and single lane roads (and that’s being generous) to find Venge Vineyards, only to discover that the place had been sold several weeks earlier and was in the process of being transferred to new owners.

The wine country feels like a sleepy, small place… but it’s very large and things change all the time.

So, on to the wine!

One easy favorite stands out: Lambert Bridge. I’ve driven past Lambert Bridge dozens of times and never thought to stop since I’d never heard of it. What a mistake. Here’s a winery where virtually everything is exceptional, but I nabbed a couple of quality Petite Sirah bottles, a grape that few wineries work well with but which Lambert turns into a silky, rich, easy-drinking experience.

God bless Freemark Abbey, which was pouring not one but two library wines, both 1990 single-vineyard Cabernets which it contrasted with 2003 versions from the same vineyards. The Bosche Vineyards bottling was a bit better from both vintages, but at $65 (for the 2003) it’ll really have to be a “special occasion” wine for me to break open.

We had a delightful time at Casa Nuestra (and the kids loved being able to feed the goats). Lively conversation with tasting room operator Bailey (“one of a kind” per his business card) was matched with some interesting wines, my favorite being the field blend Tinto Classico, a rich, spicy, and earthy bottling that still has me thinking about it.

Over at Trefethen, the wines were good, but the hospitality was exceptional. The server actually gave our kids unopened geodes, which we smashed open with a hammer, right on the winery floor. I’ve never seen someone go so out of their way to make kids feel at home. They loved it (and it was our first stop on the trip, too).

Finally, I haven’t been to Beaulieu Vineyards in many years, but going back was worthwhile. I have always been a fan of its Tapestry blend, but getting to try two vintages of its heralded Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon side by side (one from 1995) was a real delight. In the end, though, we brought home the Tapestry.

The full report on 103 wines tasted (in semi-random order) follows…

Complete Napa / Sonoma Tasting Report

2006 Pedroncelli F. Johnson Chardonnay – $14.00 / B+
2006 Pedroncelli Zinfandel Rose – $10.00 / B
2006 Pedroncelli Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – $18.00 / B
2005 Pedroncelli Merlot Bench Vineyards – $14.00 / B
2002 Pedroncelli Mother Clone Zinfandel – $8.00 / B-
2006 Pedroncelli Mother Clone Zinfandel – $15.00 / B+
2000 Pedroncelli Midnight Run Zinfandel – $20.00 / B+
2005 Pedroncelli Cabernet Sauvignon Block 007 – $25.00 / B
2005 Pedroncelli Cabernet Sauvignon Morris Fay Vineyards – $18.00 / C
2003 Pedroncelli Vintage Port – $18.00 / C
2006 Clos du Val Carneros Chardonnay – $24.00 / B
2006 Clos du Val Carneros Pinot Noir – $30.00 / B
2005 Clos du Val Napa Valley Merlot – $26.00 / B
2005 Clos du Val Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – $32.00 / B+
2007 Clos du Val Searle Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley – $18.00 / B+
2004 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District – $70.00 / A
1990 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Bosche Cabernet Sauvignon – $140.00 / A-
1990 Freemark Abbey Sycamore Cabernet Sauvignon – $110.00 / B+
2003 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Bosche Cabernet Sauvignon – $65.00 / A
2003 Freemark Abbey Sycamore Cabernet Sauvignon – $55.00 / A-
2002 Freemark Abbey Zinfandel Port – NA, B+
2007 Casa Nuestra Dry Chenin Blanc, Old Vines, St. Helena Estate – $24.00 / B+
2007 Casa Nuestra Dry Rosado, St. Helena Estate – $23.00 / B
2007 Casa Nuestra Off Dry Riesling, St. Helena Estate – $23.00 / B+
2006 Casa Nuestra Tinto, St. Helena Estate – $30.00 / B-
2005 Casa Nuestra Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena Estate – $55.00 / A-
2005 Casa Nuestra Meritage, St. Helena Estate – $45.00 / A-
2006 Casa Nuestra Tinto Classico, St. Helena Estate – $40.00 / A-
2005 Chandelle Chardonnay Sonoma County – $25.00 / C+
2007 Chandelle Muscat Canelli Lake County – $24.00 / B
2006 Highway 12 Syrah Sonoma Valley – $28.00 / C+
2006 Highway 12 Abandon, Aleatico – $26.00 / D
2006 Mayo Pinot Noir Barnstormer – $30.00 / B+
2006 Mayo Gewurtztranimer Late Harvest, Kunde Ranch – $30.00 / B+
2004 Richardson Synergy – $20.00 / C
2001 Richardson Cabernet Sauvignon Home Vineyard – $30.00 / C-
2004 Sunset Cellars Barnera Twin Creeks Vineyard – $22.00 / C
2003 Sunset Cellars Petite Sirah – $30.00 / C
2007 Rochioli Estate Sauvignon Blanc – $26.00 / B+
2006 Rochioli Estate Pinot Noir – $48.00 / A-
2006 Lambert Bridge Viognier Mendocino County – $30.00 / B
2005 Lambert Bridge Petite Sirah – $40.00 / A-
2004 Lambert Bridge Crane Creek Cuvee – $85.00 / A-
2004 Lambert Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon – $90.00 / A-
2006 Lambert Bridge Chardonnay – $35.00 / A-
2004 Lambert Bridge Merlot – $40.00 / A
2007 Trefethen Dry Riesling – $22.00 / B
2006 Trefethen Chardonnay – $33.00 / B+
2007 Trefethen S.I.N. Rose of Pinot Noir – $24.00 / C
2004 Trefethen Merlot – $35.00 / B-
2005 Trefethen Double T Red Wine – $25.00 / B
2004 Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon – $50.00 / A-
2003 Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon – $45.00 / A-
2001 Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon – $80.00 / B+
2003 Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – $100.00 / A-
2005 Beaulieu Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve – $40.00 / A-
2005 Beaulieu Vineyard Pinot Noir Carneros Reserve – $45.00 / A-
2004 Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve – $55.00 / A
2004 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – $105.00 / A-
1995 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – $135.00 / A
2004 Beaulieu Vineyard Port – $35.00 / B
2005 Steltzner Malbec Estate – $36.00 / B
2006 Steltzner Merlot Estate – $34.00 / B+
2006 Steltzner Claret – $20.00 / B-
2005 Steltzner Cabernet Franc Estate – $42.00 / B+
2005 Steltzner Cabernet Sauvignon Estate – $40.00 / B+
2006 Rombauer Chardonnay Carneros – $29.75 / B
2005 Rombauer Merlot Carneros – $32.00 / B-
2002 Rombauer Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Selection – $60.00 / B-
2006 Rombauer Zinfandel Napa Valley – $29.75 / B+
2006 Trentadue Sauvignon Blanc Dry Creek Valley – $14.00 / B+
2006 Trentadue Grenache Rose Monte Lago Vineyard – $10.00 / B+
2005 Trentadue Old Patch Red – $14.00 / B+
2005 Trentadue Zinfandel – $18.00 / B+
2005 Trentadue Cabernet Sauvignon Anderson Valley – $24.00 / B
2004 Trentadue La Storia Zinfandel – $28.00 / A-
2004 Trentadue La Storia Cuvee 32 – $32.00 / B
2004 Trentadue La Stroia Petite Sirah – $28.00 / B-
2006 Trentadue Viognier Port – $25.00 / B+
NV Trentadue Chocolate Amore – $25.00 / B+
2005 Sausal Family Zinfandel – $19.00 / C
NV Sausal ZIN XXXV – $35.00 / B-
2005 Sausal Century Vines Zinfandel – $35.00 / B+
2005 Sausal Private Reserve Zinfandel – $23.00 / B
2003 Sausal Cabernet Sauvignon – $24.00 / C+
2006 Sausal Purrfect Petite – $15.00 / C-
2007 Field Stone Sauvignon Blanc – $16.00 / B+
2006 Field Stone Chardonnay – $20.00 / B
2005 Field Stone Sangiovese – $20.00 / B
2004 Field Stone Merlot – $20.00 / B-
2004 Field Stone Cabernet Sauvignon – $24.00 / B-
2006 Field Stone Petite Sirah – $25.00 / B-
2006 Jacuzzi Arneis – $22.00 / B-
2006 Jacuzzi Giuseppina – $30.00 / B
2006 Jacuzzi Pinot Grigio – $21.00 / A-
2006 Jacuzzi Pinot Noir – $24.00 / B-
2005 Jacuzzi Sangiovese – $24.00 / B+
2006 Jacuzzi Dolcetto – $22.00 / B-
2006 Jacuzzi Nero D’Avola – $26.00 / A-
2006 Jacuzzi Barbera – $28.00 / B+
2006 Jacuzzi Primitivo – $22.00 / B-
2006 Jacuzzi Cabernet Sauvignon – $40.00 / B-
2005 Jacuzzi Valeriano – $48.00 / B

Similar Posts:

One Response to Trip Report: Napa and Sonoma Valley, July 2008

  1. Pingback: grape jelly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>