Napa Valley: Day 5 Anderson’s Conn Valley, Rudd, Buehler etc.

Our fifth and final day started off at Anderson’s Conn Valley. It was actually quite a journey out there because like a few of the other places we visited it is off the main strip. When we finally got out there, we were directed to the top of a hill where there caves were located.

As you can see the rain was coming down again. Once inside, we were treated to a pleasant informal tasting in the cave.  The first wine we tried was the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. I thought this was very nice with some fresh grapefruit flavors and a lively acidity. Sourced from Lake County, that traditionally is known for its value win, I was a little surprised by the $40 price tag considering the nice prices Conn Valley sells their reds for. Nevertheless, it was a very nice. Next we moved onto 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.  An extremely impressive wine, and like all of their reds, made in a style that almost bridged the new and old world styles. This had blackberry and cassis flavors but the enough tannins to support long-term aging. A very dark wine, this is $100 quality for around $65.  For the money it is a steal! We tried the 2006 Pinot Noir next. Made in a Burgundian style, this was the only wine that did not appeal to me. Had very earthy flavors and not much fruit.

This is a shot from our tasting table. It was placed in the middle of a row of barrels, which you can see above. We then came back to the cabs with the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Black Label. This was interesting because it had a few years of age on it but the fruit was nicely integrated into the wine. IT had the blackberry flavor again but with some mushroom, meat and earthiness to it.  Just a great example of how their wines age. We then got into two vintages of their Eloge. The 2006 was a classic left bank wine, with very nice plum, cherry, vanilla and leather flavors.  The tannins were a little firm so it needs some age or a few hours in the decanter. I thought this was my favorite wine until we tried the 2007. This was drinking beautifully! A more concentrated than the 2006 with very silky tannins. The wine had big black fruits with licorice and a touch of earth, then ended with a nice complex finish that had to last 45+ seconds. We finished the reds with the 2007 Right Bank. Again, a very nice wine and a right bank style done to perfection. Big dark fruits with plum, black currant and tobacco. Had some velvety tannins too that made me believe you could drink this now or wait 10 years. The price and the quality of these wines is really extraordinary! The last wine of the tasting was the 2008 Chardonnay. This had a lot of oak but it was well-integrated with a ton of vanilla, spice and lemon flavors. Reminded me of The Colonial Estate Chardonnay by Jonathan Maltus.

We found out it is real after all! We didn’t get to try it but they had a few bottles behind the tasting bar. The artwork was etched and individually numbered, which I thought was really interesting because not many people do it.  Dave, our host, said that Todd Anderson started Ghost Horse because Conn Valley had grown and he had to hire a full-time winemaker (Mac Sawyer) so he could handle the business. Todd still wanted to make wine though so he started Ghost Horse and continues to make all the wine there.

Available

2006 Chardonnay

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Prologue

2006 Eloge

2007 Right Bank

No we didn’t have an appointment here but on our way to the Oakville Crossroad we decided to pull over and take a few pictures. The sign is actually hidden from the road so you really need to keep a sharp eye or you will pass it.

As you can see, the vineyard upkeep was extraordinary. Being a big fan of wines from Oakville, hopefully one day I can try the wine.

We then stopped by Plumpjack for a quick tasting before our next appointment. They have a nice tasting room with a very relaxed environment. I can honestly say we had not seen a 42″ Flatscreen playing The Dark Knight in any other winery. The first wine we tried was the 2008 Chardonnay. While a nice wine, I did not think the quality justified the $46 price tag and wasn’t in the same class as the Alpha Omega, Shafer or Chateau Montelena. We then tried the 2007 Syrah. Had a really full body and some nice dark fruit but very tannic. It will need some time to resolve but should be a nice wine in 4-5 years. Was hoping to try the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate but they were still pouring the 2006. While certainly a nice wine, it had a load of tannins like the Syrah. I also did not find this nearly as impressive as the Conn Valley wines, especially considering that it cost more than all of them.

Available on a limited basis in Connecticut

We had a little time to kill so we drove back out to the Silverado trail and found Dalla Valle. I had mistakenly thought this sign said “Now Open to Public.” Too bad!

Their winery looked very interesting as you can see by the picture above with the art. We then turned around and headed back to Rudd.

We came to Rudd in our first trip three years ago and got a tour of the winery. This time we only did a tasting but had to snap another shot of the chalice water fountain out front. Just something about it that we love. On the way in we bumped into winemaker Patrick Sullivan, who was nice enough to join us for the tasting of the first few wines. Patrick worked at Rudd as a Enologist when  David Ramey was the winemaker. He then went on for stints at Lewis Cellars and Paul Hobbs before returning to Rudd as winemaker.

The first wine we tried was the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. Now entirely sourced from their vineyards on Mount Veeder, this is a fantastic wine! With a medium body, it reminds me of some of the great white Bordeaux’s that I love.  Interestingly enough, they have begun to grow a small amount of Sauvignon Gris, a grape Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte uses to blend in their white Bordeaux. I am not sure if there is any in the 2008 but I assume you will see it in future productions. While certainly fantastic, the only bummer is the price ($50) but you are getting on of the top Sauvignon Blancs from California so it is worth it.

Next we tried the 2007 Bacigalupi Chardonnay. This was sourced from the same vines as the legendary 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay.  This wine was simply incredible!  Had a nose of nice tropical fruits, toast and a slight mineral character. Just the right amount of oak was used that made it super creamy and rich. A great expression of Chardonnay.

We then tried the two Cabernet Sauvignons. First was the 2006 Crossroads. Had some nice blackberry and chocolate flavors on the palate but still was very tannic. Needs some time to come together or a long decant. I have been a big fan of their Crossroads bottlings because you are getting a high quality Rudd wine but not at the full markup and the 2004 was one of my favorite wines from the first trip. Next we tried the 2006 Oakville Estate that had an intoxicating nose of black fruits, earth, tobacco and cedar. An extremely complex wine, the tannins on this were more rounded than the Crossroads with a silky mouth feel. One of the best cabs of the entire trip! Cant’ wait for the 2007!

Before we moved onto the final wine our host Jeff dropped a few tidbits on us. In the recent Rudd release letter they announced that they hired David Abreu’s winemaker Brad Grimes as a consulting winemaker. Jeff then told us that they are no longer working with Michel Rolland. Didn’t go into the reason why but it seemed like he had just started working there. Jeff went on to say that Robert Parker has been reviewing their individual Cabernet Sauvignon barrel samples from Mount Veeder but they haven’t even decided what they are going to do with these wines yet. He said they were considering releasing them under the Edge Hill label.

We then ended things with the 2006 Edge Hill Mixed Blacks. I purchased a few of these last year so you know I’m a fan. A field blend of Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Alicante Bouschet, this wine is Rudd’s version of a Chateaneuf-du-Pape. Very silky and smooth, with an almost black color, the wine just has an explosion of flavor that lasts forever on the palate. Truly a great wine but very difficult to find.

Available

2006 Sauvignon Blanc

2004, 2005 Oakville Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

The last winery we stopped at in Napa is a favorite of Oxford Liquors. Buehler Vineyards sits on the other side of St. Helena just below Howell Mountain. A family run winery, we stopped there the last time we were in town and decided that John Buehler is one of the best guys in Napa. Plus the wines are very reasonably priced! Where else can you find a quality Napa Cab for only $25! Anyway, my wife and I were running extremely late for our appointment but Page Buehler, John’s son, was gracious enough to wait for us even though he had appointment he was going to be late for. Unfortunately we were short on time, so we weren’t able to take any pictures. Since John gave us the tour last time we only did a tasting this time around.

We started off with their Chardonnay’s first.  The 2009 Chardonnay was every bit is good as the 2007 that got 90 points from Wine Spectator. Had delicious tropical fruit flavors with a touch of oak that built to a nice clean finish. A wine that you would think would be $30 but only cost $16. The 2008 Chardonnay Reserve admittedly doesn’t taste all that different from the regular bottling. The good news is that it’s still only $20 so how can you go wrong?

Next we tried the 2008 Zinfandel. The 2008 had me fooled for a Sonoma Zinfandel with its big fruit flavors. The 2007 was just so different and straight up Napa Valley. Although a difference in style from the two years, it was a delicious Zin nonetheless and like the Chardonnay a great value for only $19. I remember before the recession this was the hardest of the Buehler wines to find and rarely available in Connecticut. Next we moved onto the three Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings. The 2007 was just as nice as the 2005 had been, with dark fruits, silky tannins and a nice finish. Not sure where else you can find an authentic Napa Cab this good at this price. Next we tried the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate which was even better than the regular bottling. It had very nice structure with big black fruits which carried onto a nice finish. Again, the price is right for only $36. The last wine we tried was the 2006 Papa’s Knoll Cabernet named after their oldest Cabernet block located in front of their grandfather’s house. The three acre block is the only part of their vineyards that is dry farmed. This was my favorite of the three Cabernets but also the most expensive, so you get what you pay for. Had some very nice blackberry and dark cherry fruits up front with a touch of earth on the finish. The firm tannins suggest it could age in the bottle for quite a while.

Overall, Buehler has wonderful wines for the money. We have carried their wines for many years and it is always a store favorite. Like any winery, some vintages are better than others but they have a great record of consistency. Plus it is always nice to support a family business, although I believe it’s John and his two sons who have any involvement in it. If you’re looking for a great Napa value wine, Buehler is the place.

Available

2008 Zinfandel

2008 Chardonnay

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate

This concludes the notes from our trip to Napa Valley. I hope you have enjoyed the notes and since a few people asked I am going to post the top wines from the trip within the next day or two.

Napa Valley: Day 4 Spottswoode, Alpha Omega, Continuum & Hall

Day 4 started off bright and early at one of the hottest wineries in Napa, Spottswoode. The winery has a very rich history, as you can see from the photo above. The property dates back to the 1880’s, where it functioned as the Kraft winery.

This building was renovated in the 1990’s to become Spottswoode’s wine cellar. This shot was taken from the inside of the wine cellar.

The inside matched the outside’s rustic feel. We then toured the other buildings on their property.

Notice the solar panels on the roofs of these buildings. Talk about not wasting the space. Inside the building in the back, the had more of their wine making facility.

They age part of their Sauvignon Blanc in these concrete “cuves.” We then took a walk past the vineyards to the estate.  This shot was taken on the way.

As you can see, Spottswoode also encourages natural predators instead of using harmful chemicals.  They also use cover crops like peas, clover and oats to protect their soils. The estate below is just beautiful.

Notice Murphy, or “Chief Greeter” as they called him.  They swore if you rubbed his belly he would be your best friend.

Not a bad place to live. They had so many different types of trees on the estate. After a tour of the grounds, they brought us back to the office for our tasting. The first wine was the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc.  Our guide said that they preferred to taste this wine in July because it still has some bottle shock but I found it pleasant. It had a nose of cut grass, lemon and lime with a very light body. I hardly tasted any oak and found this to be a very easy drinking Sauvignon Blanc. Next we tried the 2007 Lydenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine had very supple tannins and a ton of upfront fruit. A very nice Cab that reminded me of the Shafer One Point Five. Lastly, we tried the 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. I was really hoping for the 2007 but beggers can’t be choosers.  This was a very young wine that probably needs another 3 or 4 years before the tannins settle down.  A very floral nose led to flavors of blueberry and blackberry flavors with an underlying minerality.  Certainly a very nice wine.

Available

2008 Sauvignon Blanc

Next up, we traveled down Hwy 29 to Alpha Omega. Up until I started planning the trip a few months ago, I had never heard of Alpha Omega. My friend Carrie from Napa Valley Wine & Cigar recommended we winemaker go there and I must admit I am forever grateful. I started researching the winery and they have a decent buzz of some of the wine message boards. Jean Hoefliger is their winemaker with Michel Rolland as consultant winemaker, a very impressive team.  Unfortunately Jean could not make it the day we were there but Assistant Winemaker Henrik Poulsen more than made up for it. A native of Denmark, Henrik was just an unbelievable guy. Very knowledgeable about wine but also honest and humble. He immediately poured the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and showed us the winery. The photo above is of their irrigation pond that can be seen from Hwy 29. Below is a shot of their barrel room (Had a few other shots but they came out blurry).

The owners really spared no expense in setting up a top notch facility.  Their tasting room was gorgeous and everything was top of the line. They really want to position themselves as having world-class wines.  The Sauvignon Blanc we were sipping on was excellent. It had nice hints of oak with a nose of tropical fruits like pineapple and mango.  The tropical fruit continued on the palate but also had flavors of caramel and vanilla.  I must say I was very impressed to start off. Henrik then brought us into the back room for a focused tasting of their wines.

Next we tasted the 2007 Chardonnay that just got 94 Points in Wine Spectator.  I was blown away by this! Just as good as the 2004 Chateau Montelena but a completely different style.  Tons of upfront tropical fruits but very creamy as well. This reminded me of the 2005 Ridge and 2005 Shibumi Knoll Chardonnay’s.  Really….it was that good! We then headed into the reds with the 2006 and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and Proprietary Reds.  I think Robert Parker was on the money when he said  that these “wines seem more similar than dissimilar” but I must disagree with him that I thought all of these wines were very good. The 2007’s seemed a tad better than the 2006’s but I am probably splitting hairs and I don’t think I would be able to tell these apart in a blind tasting. The 2006 Era Proprietary Red was another story. This had  excellent up front fruit but with a long lingering finish, much longer than the regular bottlings. The real star of the tasting was a barrel sample of the 2008 Era.  This nose just jumped from the glass with black currant, blackberry, blueberry and tobacco. On the palate it just had an explosion of upfront fruit with vivid blackberry, blueberry pie, licorice and chocolate. The finish was nearly a minute! A different style of wine compared to the Hillside Select, with more raw power compared to elegance and finesse. I have to say that this was in my top 3 wines from the entire trip! The last wine we tried was their 2008 Late Harvest Napa Valley. While certainly a very good wine and in the same class as the others, the only problem I had is with the price. That was also the story for most of these wines.  While I can understand why the Era and To Kalon Vineyard Cab (we did not try it) would be expensive, their other two reds were over $80. The two white wines, although very excellent, were expensive at their price points. I can understand they put a lot of money into the winery and want to recoup their investment. I can also understand how they are trying to position themselves and at what price points. But with the economy still not great and it being a newer winery, it’s important that they get the wines into as many consumers hands as possible to build a loyal following, especially the entry-level reds. Just my two cents. With that aside, I think they set out what they tried to achieve and this is going to be a big time winery within the next few years.

Available

2007 Sauvignon Blanc

2005 Chardonnay

2004, 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon

2006 Era Proprietary Red

2005 Proprietary Red

The next stop was high atop Pritchard Hill, home of one of the best areas for super premium Cabernet Sauvignon. As you can see we passed Bryant Family on the way up along with a new property owned by Del Dotto. At the top of the mountain, we finally found our destination, Continuum Estates.

The shot above is of their office that use to be a home when it was known as the Cloud View Winery.  Tim Mondavi, his sister Margret and their late father Robert (before he passed) started this new venture after the sale of the family’s Robert Mondavi Winery. They moved the operation up here last year I believe and began massive renovations to the vineyards. Continuum actually use to be the name of a wine released by the Culinary Institute of America. They only released two vintages but take a wild guess who made one of them? Yes Tim Mondavi! We were greeted by Stu Harrison, who worked for the family at Robert Mondavi and now at Continuum. He started off by bringing us around the property in what looked like a modified ATV/Golf Cart.

Seeing this up and coming vineyard being renovated was a great experience.

This was a section of the vineyard being replanted.

Stu then showed us a nice shot of the mountain soil.  If you look at the rocks in the soil, you can see the roots really have to struggle, which in turn produces great wine.

This is another nice shot. The view in the background is unbelievable. Stu said that on some days you can see all the way down to San Francisco, pretty amazing. We then came back to the office and were greeted by a very familiar painting.

Stu then took us out on the back porch and we got to see how a famous neighbor handled their rock problem.

Across the valley lies Colgin Winery. Notice the large stones in front of the vineyard. When they cleared the land they had to do something with the rocks right? On the other side of the hill is new upstart Ovid Winery, so as you can see this is a real hot spot for these super premium wineries. After that, Stu brought us in to try the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, which is the first vintage that included some of the Prichard Hill fruit. I was very impressed by this wine. Incredibly complex with aromas of berry and blue fruits along with a touch or leather. The fruit poured in like waves with black cherry, plum, cassis and a touch of spice. This is already drinking very great! The finish was also extremely elegant, lasting at least a minute. This wine is more of a departure from the classic Mondavi Reserves, that I would compare more to Bordaux, to the new world California wines.

Is not yet available in Connecticut.

Our final stop of the day was to the Hall tasting room right in the heart of St. Helena on Hwy 29. The quality at Hall has really taken a big jump since consultant David Ramey (Rudd, Dominus, his own wines Ramey) came aboard. We tried the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc first and it had a very ripe, juicy style. Nice nose of citrus and tropical fruits, the palate brought plenty of big citrus flavors as well since it was fermented in stainless steel. We moved onto the 2006 Napa River Ranch Merlot. This was a very nice Merlot with dark briary fruits, mint and mocha. Next up was the 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine I have been dying to try because we got it in at the store. This is a very rewarding Cab for the money with concentrated flavors of blackberry, mocha and currant. We tried the 2005 Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon next, which I did not think was quite as good as the 2006 I had around Christmas time, and the 2005 Bergfeld Cabernet Sauvignon.  This I found to be better than the Kathryn Hall, with a lot more complexity and pleasant flavors of plum, black cherry and tobacco. This, like all the red wines, needed more time to round into shape.  They have a French style to them and I believe they will get more complex with age. Expect more good things with there 2007 red wines.

In stock

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Available

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

2004, 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Kathryn Hall

2005 Merlot Napa Valley

2008 Sauvignon Blanc

That concludes Day 4. Stay tuned for the 5th and final day coming after the holiday.

Napa Valley/Russian River Valley: Day 3, Shafer, Williams Seylem, Dumol, etc.

Welcome to Oxford Liquor’s Napa Valley Day 3 report.  Today we actually only had one stop in Napa Valley then it was off to the Russian River Valley. The one stop in Napa is one of the best wineries in California today, Shafer Vineyards.  The shot from above is the building where their offices are. The room to the right is their tasting room, which if the weather is nice, the windows can be opened. Unfortunately it rained all day.

We were greeted when we got there by Tucker, the yellow labrador that is one of two vineyard dogs they have at Shafer. Before we got into the tasting, we were shown the basic layout of the vineyard and explained the measures Shafer partakes in to protect the vineyard.  They have owl boxes and perch poles that attract several different kinds of hawks, which in turn feed on various vineyard pests like moles. They do this instead of spraying chemicals which can be harmful to the vineyard.

They also have a irrigation pond that they use in the vineyard. It also acts as a reclamation pond, where water from around the vineyard and winery is collected.

We even got to see one of there “partners” (above) at work. We then went inside to taste the wines. We tasted all five of their wines plus a desert wine they only sell at the winery. What was nice about Shafer was it was a really focused tasting where they concentrate on each wine. They even give you a little book with information about the wines and a place to write tasting notes. We started off with the 2008 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay, a beautiful wine. The nose had aromas of lemon, stone and toast, with flavors of butter, lemon and some toasty oak.  They did not over oak though as the fruit flavors really came through with a 30+ second finish. The 2007 Napa Valley Merlot next came next. It is labeled Napa Valley because not all of the fruit comes from the Stag’s Leap District, even though it all comes within a three-mile radius of the winery. This was also impressive, with bright cherry and earth aromas. On the palate, it had nice blackberry and black cherry fruit, earth with a touch of something vegetal. Next we moved onto the 2007 One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District.  This wine gets that name because all of the fruit comes from Shafer owned vineyards inside that appellation. The 2004 was a personal favorite of mine and this wine was just as good. The wine had aromas of black cherry, cassis, cinnamon and spring flowers. A very nice expressive nose! It then had flavors of raspberry, cassis, and other dark fruits that led to an impressive finish. During the tasting, John Shafer dropped in to share a few words.  He kind of explained what he had to go through to get the Stag’s Leap AVA.  I think John must stop in, when available, to all the tastings. Something to keep in mind if you ever visit the winery. After that we tried the 2006 Relentless Syrah, named after their winemaker Elias Fernandez with his “relentless” pursuit of quality. This wine had dark fruits, black pepper and smoke on the nose. In between a medium and full body, it had flavors of blackberry, earth and smoke leading to a 30+ second finish.  A very nice Syrah that they blend with 20% Petite Sirah using a field blend.  The last wine we got to try is one of the legendary wines of Napa Valley, the 2005 Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was simply incredible! It had an extremely complex nose with bright red fruits, cherry and earth. On the palate, it displayed flavors of cherry, earth, bubblegum, and chocolate.  This wine just coated your mouth and got better with every sip.  It ended with a long, long finish that was probably around a minute long. The final wine of the day was their Firebreak dessert wine.  I believe this use to be a regular red wine but am some point they changed it to a dessert wine. It was port like and unfortunately I don’t remember the vintage.  It was only sold at the winery and although tasty, it was over $80, which I thought was really expensive. Shafer really went from strength to strength though and I can’t say enough good things about the Hillside Select.

In stock

2006 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay

Available

2006, 2007 One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon

2008 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay

2006, 2007 Merlot Napa Valley

2005, 2006 Relentless Syrah

Next we headed over to the Russian River Valley in the pouring rain.  First stop was Rochioli Winery. Here we just stopped by the tasting room to try three of their new wines. The first was the 2009 Estate Sauvignon Blanc. This wine had a very light body, perfect for fish, and a racy acidity. We then tried the 2008 Estate Chardonnay, which had a lot of oak to me. It wasn’t bad at all but for people who like fresh fruit flavors this isn’t a wine for you.  The last wine we tried was the 2008 Estate Pinot Noir. Made in a very similar style as the Williams Selyem version, this had a lot of nice upfront fruit and a wonderful bouquet. It was impressive although I wish we could have tried some of their vineyard designate wines but who can complain when the tasting is free (something to keep in mind if going to the area).

A shot of their outdoor patio overlooking the Rochioli Vineyard. Too bad it was raining.

Available

2007, 2008 Estate Chardonnay

2008 Estate Sauvignon Blanc

Next we took a short trip down Westside Road to Williams Selyem.  The winery is actually located on the Allen Vineyard but they are building a new winery on some of their estate property.  This is a very mom and pop operation. We were greeted and poured the 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.  All of the 2007’s I have had from them are drinking great and this was as well. Wonderful nose and tons of upfront fruit in the wine. They gave us umbrellas and off we went.

A shot of some tanks they use at harvest time.

I believe these barrels are all empty and were used for the 2008 wines.

Some new oak barrels they got in. Notice the plastic wrap around the barrels. Kind of cool.

A shot of the Allen Vineyard.

Unfortunately, Williams Selyem wines are not distributed in Connecticut.

Next, we headed over to the Dumol winery. For those unfamiliar with Dumol, they are making some of the best Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah in California right now so we had high expectations coming in. Associate winemaker Julie Cooper gave us a tour of the facility.  A really state of the art place. As we walked around she was gracious enough to pull some barrel and tank samples for us to try. The first one was the 2009 Viognier Lia. Tons of tropical fruit flavors and a very light body. A very complex viognier and a perfect hot weather wine.

The barrels above is what consists of the entire production of the 2009 Finn Pinot Noir. It just happened to be blended earlier that day. All of the barrels went into one of the tanks you see behind it. Once the blending was finished, they put the wine back in the barrels for additional aging until it is bottled. Julie explained the wine would taste a little disjointed since it was blended that day but it had tons of big fruit.  Once this settles down with some barrel and bottle age, it will be a fabulous wine.

We then headed over for some barrel tastings.  Basically, this place was a huge warehouse, as you can kind of see above. Julie then let us taste two pinot noirs from the Hansel and Wildrose vineyard that would be blended together to make the 2009 Aidan. The two wines were very good. You can taste/smell the small differences and why they would blend these two wines together.

Next, we tasted the 2009 Jack Robert’s Run Syrah, which already was blended a few days ago and back in barrel.  You could tell at this early stage that it is going to be an outstanding wine. Big aromas of coffee and cocoa on the nose. It had a touch of smoke on the palate with big brooding dark fruits.  The best Syrah tasted on the trip. We then headed back to the lab to try two wines from the Fall 2008 offering. First was the 2008 Chardonnay Clare that displayed elegance and power. A very balanced wine with tons of citrus fruits but melded perfectly with the creamy oak. Will only get better with time. The last wine we tried was the 2008 Pinot Noir Ryan. All of the wines are named after children in the owners families in case you were wondering. This wine had the big rich fruit that the 09 Finn had but the structure was all there. Most impressive was the finish, which exceeded 40 seconds.  A very impressive wine.

Available on a limited basis in Connecticut.

Last spot of the day was Martinelli winery. I have always wanted to try their wines, made by the famous Helen Turley, who now only consults for them and will soon only work on her Marcassin wines. We started off with the 2006 Charles Ranch Chardonnay. I found this to have a ton of oak, maybe even more than the Rochioli we tried earlier. This Chardonnay was dense and chewy but there was still some fruit that was present. Next we tried the 2006 Zio Tony Ranch Chardonnay.  Now this was what I was expecting! Big creamy wine with tons of tropical fruit and hazelnut weaving in and out. Had good acidity and the oak was present but held in check. Very nice wine!  We then moved onto the Pinot Noirs with the 2005 Bella Vigne. This was a big extracted Pinot that also had some decent fruit. Didn’t really compare to the 2007 Bondi Home Ranch Pinot Noir we tried next. This was rich and fleshy with savory berry fruit, tea and earth flavors. More muscle than finesse like the Dumol and an impressive wine. We then tried the 2005 Terra Felice Syrah which was a little underwhelming but followed it up with the 2006 Zio Tony Ranch Syrah, which was a lot more powerful than the first Syrah. Very dark wine with earth, licorice and blackberry flavors.  A very good Syrah but kind of expensive at $75. Next we moved onto the Zins. The first one was the 2007 Giuseppe and Luisa Zinfandel, a huge wine.  This was almost port like, checking in at over 17% alcohol. For all the alcohol it had though, it was pretty well-balanced. Had tons of big sweet fruit with fig, plum and dark berry mixed in. The same can’t be said for the 2008 Vigneto di Evo Zinfandel. Another big alcohol wine but tons of heat. We finished off the day by heading to Bounty Hunter Wine Bar, which if you heading to Napa I recommend as a cheaper alternative and more casual setting from the big name restaurants in Napa.

Napa Valley: Day 2, Chateau Montelena, Stag’s Leap, Pride

Welcome to Oxford Liquor’s Napa Valley day 2 report.  You can also check out our day 1 report that was already posted to our blog.  Day 2 we decided to try to hit up the two wineries that made history at the Judgement of Paris in 1973 and really gave American wine credibility. First stop, as you can see above, was Chateau Montelena.  They had an event at the winery the day before so they had a lot of the stuff still set up. Unfortunately we could not get a clear shot of the front of the Chateau. The winery was the focus of the movie Bottle Shock in recent years that focused on the events of the 1973 Paris tasting. Of course they won for their Chardonnay, which they only really talk about in the movie, but they also make some excellent red wines. But the first wine we tried was another one of their white wines, the 2008 Riesling from Potter Valley.  The wine was semi dry with a very minerality to it and I must say it was a pleasant surprise. Next we moved onto the 2007 Chardonnay Napa Valley.  I thought this was a good Chardonnay but needed a little more time to come together. It had some nice fruit and minerality, but the balance wasn’t there. Montelena has the reputation of being one of the few California Chardonnay’s that can age 10 years. I think with a few years this will greatly improve.

We moved onto the reds next. The 2007 Zinfandel Montelena Estate was another surprise. Classic Napa Valley Zin, it reminded me of the Buehler Zin we carry at the store. It had that classic dusty berry character found in many Napa Valley Zins but also had some cedar and tobacco notes. Probably one of the best Zins on the trip although the price point is $30. We skipped over the regular Cab bottling and tried the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Montelena Estate, their flagship wine. I think this was opened just prior to us getting to the winery so to me it tasted like it either needed a very long decant or a few more years of age in the bottle. It had some nice berry fruit and a earthiness to it, made in an old world style. This wine could probably go 15 years easily. After finishing that, we were contemplating getting a bottle of the Chardonnay for dinner that night but I asked them if they had any older bottles on the Chardonnay for sale. They told me they actually have an 2004 Chardonnay Napa Valley open if we wanted to try it. So he poured us a taste and you could instantly tell the difference between the 2004 and 2007. The 2004 was a seemless wine with tropical fruit and butter notes although not tasting overly oaked.  It ended with a beautiful finish and a touch of minerality.  Superb! Needless to say, we bought a bottle of the 2004 for dinner.

After we were finished we took a walk around the winery.  They have beautiful grounds there, with a man-made pond (above) and a very Asian influence.

You can see in this shot the vineyards in back.  Very beautiful place. It was worth going for the visuals alone.

Available

2007 Chardonnay Napa Valley

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

1999, 2005, 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Montelena Estate

2007 Riesling Potter Valley

2006 Zinfandel Napa Valley

Next stop was the other winner of the Judgement of Paris, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Here we were scheduled for a tour so we were able to see a lot more of the winery. Below is a shot of their steel fermenting tanks:

On the outside of the barrel room, they had what they called “Hand’s of Time,” an imprint of all the hands that made wine/worked there. Quite an impressive list as you see hands for Paul Hobbs, Lynn Penner Ash and Andy Erickson.

A shot inside the barrel room.

We then headed into the caves below.

The first room that you walked into was used for parties. In the corner they have on display some of the rock they had to clear to make the caves. As you can see this was not an easy process.

The caves were mostly long narrow corridors but quite impressive.

The caves had multiple entrances. One of these led out to a view of both the Fay vineyard and the SLV vineyard.

Once outside, our guide pointed out how Stag’s Leap got its name. The story goes that the natives who lived in the area would chase stags on the mountain until they would fall off the edge of a cliff.  One day they came across a huge stag and chased him to the top of this ledge all they way on top of the mountain.

Legend has it that once they closed in on the stag, it leapt safely to the other side, hence the name. After this we headed back to the tasting room to try the wines. We started off with the 2007 Arcadia Chardonnay and 2007 Karia Chardonnay.  The first tasting as if they used no oak and the Karia tasting as if they used a hint of oak. Definitely preferred the Karia to the Arcadia. We then tasted the 2006 Merlot, which I have to admit I wasn’t a big fan of. Very austere style but some people like that kind of wine. Next we moved onto the cabs starting with the 2006 Artemis which wasn’t bad. The Fay Cabernet Sauvignon, which was named after the farmer there that supplied them grapes for years, came next. Interestingly enough, it is right next to the SLV vineyard but has a different soil type. I found this wine to be very tannic and needs several years of aging to come together. After that, we tried the 2006  Stag’s Leap Vineyard (SLV) Cabernet. All of these wines, including this, were made in a classic old world style. They have taken a hit currently because they haven’t moved towards the new fruit forward style that has taken hold the last 15-20 years. I found this very nice, displaying smoother tannins and dark fruit flavors. We finished things up with the flagship wine, the 2006 Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon. This was my favorite wine of the tasting but unfortunately the most expensive. It had some complex aromas of berries and cassis, with flavors of dark fruits and chocolate that lingered of the palate, ending with a nice long finish.

Available

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Artemis

2007 Chardonnay Karia

2006 Merlot Napa Valley

2007 Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley

2004, 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Cask 23

2004, 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Fay

2003, 2005, 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon SLV

Last stop of the day was Pride Mountain Vineyards, a family owned winery sitting at the top of Spring Mountain.  They have a tremendous reputation for turning out fabulous Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery actually sits on the Napa-Sonoma County Line.

This line actually separates the winery into the Napa and Sonoma sides. Each side has its own winery sitting on their respective side.  They are required by law to use all of the grapes picked in Sonoma in the Sonoma winery and all of the Napa grapes in the Napa winery.

This shot shows one of the wineries and on the opposite side there is a building that looks almost exactly the same. The tour started with the guide pouring us the 2008 Chardonnay.  The way Pride does their tours was very nice because they have wine situated at certain points throughout the tour. So as you are being guided through the caves you can taste the wine.  The Chardonnay was actually quite nice. It had a subtle hint of oak to it but had a very nice crisp clean edge as well.  At the next checkpoint, the guide poured us the 2008 Viognier.  Tons of tropical fruits jump out of the glass at you and in your mouth. Very interesting wine that had a nice spiciness that lingered on the finish. The next wine we tried was directly from barrel, the 2009 Syrah. Pride ages this is neutral oak barrels so the fruit really comes out.  I thought this had a little lighter body than your typical Syrah but a very nice young wine. Perhaps it will put more weight on after it is bottled although the lighter body is not a negative.

Next we moved onto barrel samples of the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. Even at this young stage, the Cab was really impressive. It had layers of dark fruit flavors with chocolate woven in. Once this wine is released in 2012 it will be gorgeous! We moved back to bottle next with a current release, the 2007 Merlot. I must say this was one of the best Merlots I have ever tasted. Very complex, coating your mouth with current, mocha and black cherry flavors. The nose on this was beautiful!

The last wine was tasted was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. Another incredible wine, this had licorice, dark fruits and tobacco on the nose. On the palate it had silky tannins with flavors of black cherry, cassis and mocha. These flavor themes echoed on the finish that was nearly a minute. An exceptional wine! And they also have reserve bottlings that we didn’t even try.

Unfortunately, Pride wines are not distributed in Connecticut.

Although we were done tasting for the day, we had to pull over to get a shot of the famous Beckstoffer Ta Kalon Vineyards. That’s all from Day 2.

In Store Tasting 5/22: 2006 Windmill Petite Sirah

Today we are tasting the 2006 Windmill Petite Sirah. They actually add a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon to give this a little more depth. Hailing from Lodi, this wine has a nose grapey nose with a touch of earth. It displays flavors of black cherry, raspberry, and ends with a touch of earth.  A nice alternative to your usual Cab or Merlot, this is a nice wine for only $12.99.

Napa Valley: Day 1, Honig, Heitz, Martini, etc.

Welcome to Oxford Liquor Shoppe’s review of Napa Valley.  This report came about when I told Dave that my wife and I were heading back out to Napa Valley. We were talking and thought it would be a great idea to tie the visit out there in with the blog. We realize everyone can’t make it out there for one reason or another so we did our best to bring the experience to you. We will be releasing the report by each day we spent there, hence the title of this page, Day 1. We tasted over 110 wines in our 5 days out there so we believe there is something for everyone in our report. With each winery we report on, we will let you know what we have in stock, what is available to us through our distributors (contact us for pricing), or if the wines are not available to us.  As we have stated in the past, we are big wine fans ourselves (we have to be to be doing what we are doing), so some of the places we went to we were just fans of. With that being said….on to the report.

Saturday May 15th

We weren’t sure what time we would be getting into Napa Valley so we figured the first day we would wing it if we had enough time to go anywhere.  We got to the Valley about 2PM so we figured we would head over to Honig, a favorite of ours the last time we were there. Over the last few years, Honig has really stepped to the forefront of the green movement in Napa Valley. They really are doing some amazing things there. This is a good shot of the cover crop they are talking about in the link.

Best of all, their wines are some of the best within their price points. We started off with the 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford, a reserve bottling and not their regular Sauvignon Blanc.  Although a little more expensive at $25, you can taste a step up in quality. It had some very nice citrus flavors with a hint of minerality. We then moved on to the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. This has been a store favorite because of the quality and the price.  It did not disappoint. Had some nice toasty oak on the nose that lead to some current and mineral flavors. Definitely not overoaked and might benefit from some additional aging. Next was the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Bartolucci Vineyard, their vineyard designate Cab.  I personally did not taste a world of difference between the two Cabs. The Bartolucci may have been a hair more complex but at the $40 price point for the regular Cab bottling, I think I would stick to that.  We moved onto the 2008 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, one of my wifes favorites! Last time we were here, this wine really stood out. You don’t really see this wine very often outside the winery but it is available in Connecticut! Tastes very much like a great Sauterne, this had loads of honey and apricot flavors with a nice long finish. Would go great with apple pie and ice cream but at the price point ($50), probably only a special occasion wine. The last wine at Honig was a preview of the new 2009 vintage, the Sauvignon Blanc.  This wine is actually the only grape they grow on the property. For $16 I don’t know if there is any better Sauvignon Blanc out there from California. It is amazingly consistent year after year. We currently have the 2008 vintage in stock but I have to say that it is just as good.

In Stock:

2008 Sauvignon Blanc $14.99

Available:

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Bartolucci Vineyard

2006 and 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Late Harvest

2008 Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford

Next stop for us was Heitz Wine Cellars, home of the famous Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Unfortunately, we did not get to taste it but they did not have a tasting fee. Something to keep in mind for anyone heading to Napa. They started us off with the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2006 Zinfandel. Both wines unfortunately were not that impressive. Of course that is not what they are known for anyway but there Cabernet Sauvignon.  Check out this photo from in front of the tasting room:

They have plantings in front of the building of the different clonal selections so you can see the differences between the Cabernet vines. I thought that was pretty cool. We then were poured the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and it was immediately more impressive than the first two wines. Made in a more traditional style, it was very  for mewell-balanced with current, toasty oak and cherry flavors. I suspect this wine has a long life ahead of it. We were then poured the 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon Bella Oaks. I didn’t have high hopes for this because 2000 wasn’t the best year for Napa Cabs but it really wasn’t bad. The most interesting thing about this wine is that it both smelled and tasted like green pepper. Never had this profile come through so clearly in a wine to me.  Although not my cup of tea, I can see this appealing to many other people. The last wine at Heitz was their NV Ink Grade Port.  Again, I didn’t have high hopes for this but was pleasantly surprised. If you put this side by side with something from Portugal, I think I would have a really tough time telling them apart. For $15 (375), well worth the money.

Available:

2002 and 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Bella Oaks

2002 and 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Martha’s Vineyard

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon

2001, 2003 and 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Trailside

2007 Chardonnay

2005 Zinfandel

NV Ink Grade Port (750)

After Heitz, we went right down the road to Louis Martini.  The picture above is of one of their vines (approximately 110 years old) in their tasting room. The winery has a nice history, being there since 1933.  Although they have some good high-end wines, their value wines are what have been great the past few years. We started off with the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County.  A very nice value for $15-16, although I definitely prefer the Napa Valley Cab even though it is a few more dollars. This leads us to the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley.

Poured from the magnum above, this is just a great bottle for the money with classic Napa cab flavors. I got plum, tobacco and chocolate flavors that went along with aromas of cedar and dark fruits. For under $25, this is a great deal! Next we tried the 2006 Gnarly Vine Zinfandel.  I wasn’t expecting too much but was pleasantly surprised. It had that dusty berry character I find in Napa Zin and sometimes Cabs with some very nice fruit as well. Strangely enough this wine was from the original Monte Rosso plantings back in the 1880’s so it wasn’t even from Napa. Although a nice Zin, it’s a little pricey for $50.

The next two wines, shown above, were the 2005 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (left) and the 2006 No. 254 Meritage (right). I had high hopes for the Monte Rosso given its name and history but the No. 254 really stood out. Both made in a classic style, similar to the Heitz, they both displayed flavors of cherry and other dark fruits. The No. 254 could actually be considered a Cabernet because it was above 75% Cab, a requirement to be called a specific varietal. The 254 had a very nice finish with more structure where the Monte Rosso’s finish seemed a little short. Although I would say the 254 was the best wine, the Napa Valley cab is by far the most attractive because of the price point.

In Stock

2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $19.99

Available

2002 Monte Rosso Cabernet Sauvignon

2005 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

2006 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon

2006 Lot 1 Cabernet Sauvignon

2006 Chardonnay

We decided the last winery stop of the day would be Domaine Chandon, Moet Hennessey’s US outfit.  We carry one of their wines in the store but I admittedly don’t have that much experience tasting their wines.  The winery is quite impressive. Lots of art outside like this shot below of stone mushrooms under a tree.

They also have a restaurant on premise, étoile, that is supposed to be very nice. The tasting room was almost like walking into a bar though. Luckily the only thing on the menu was their sparkling wine. We started off with their high-end wines and the first one was my favorite. The étoile brut, aged 5 years, had nice flavors/aromas of almond and honey that went along with the creamy structure. The second wine also happened to be my next favorite wine, the étoile rose. Aged 5 years like the brut, this had notes of plum and raspberry on the nose. The next wine was the 2000 étoile Tête de Cuvée, there top sparkling wine. It was aged 10 years but I tended to prefer the first two wines although all three were very good. The prices on the first two were $50 and $60 respectfully, making them better deals, while the 2000 was $100. We then tasted their mid range line that consisted of a reserve Chardonnay brut, a reserve Pinot Noir brut and a reserve Pinot Noir Rose. All three were quite good and at the $30 price point, pretty reasonable considering the price of Champagne these days.  The entry-level line or classic line as they call it, is very good for the money. I had the Rose from that line a few weeks back and I liked it very much.

A wall of wine at Domaine Chandon

In Stock

Brut Classic $17.99

Available

Blanc de Noirs

Etoile Brut

Etoile Rose

Rose

Sparkling Reserve Chardonnay

Sparkling Reserve Pinot Noir

To end the day we went over to visit our friends at Napa Valley Wine and Cigar. Carrie, who owns it with her husband Randy, was gracious enough to share with us a 2007 Ketcham Russian River Valley Pint Noir. This was the last vintage made by Michael Browne, winemaker for Kosta Browne.  I found this to be very similar in style to the Kosta Browne wines but a tad softer and more elegant where the KB wines are very powerful. The most unusual thing about this wine was that it had the taste and aroma of green tea.  It really was amazing. I think if you put the two side by side and judged by aroma, I would not be able to tell the difference! That concluded our day.  We will be posting more pictures to our Facebook page if you would like to check them out. Once again, if you are interested in any of the above wines listed as In stock or Available, please contact us.  Check back tomorrow for Napa Valley Day 2!

Napa Valley: Quick Update

We are out here in Napa Valley tasting some great wines! We are sending small updates to our Twitter and Facebook accounts so please check them out for real-time updates. We are compiling a comprehensive report to post when we return.  Already tasted some great stuff, some of it being very affordable and can be made available at the store. Check back towards the end of the week for the full length reports.

Napa Valley is Coming!

Napa Valley is coming! Just putting the finishing touches on what wineries we will be visiting. We have a nice mix of some high end wineries and value wineries. Updates will be sent through Twitter and Facebook. Just a few of the spots we will be stopping at: Honig, Continuum, Anderson’s Conn Valley, Shafer, Buehler, Louis Martini…etc. If anyone is interested in getting wines from any of the wineries we report on, we can tell you what is available in our follow up report.

Oxford Liquor Shoppe’s Wines Now Found on Wine-Searcher!

You can now find Oxford Liquor Shoppe’s wines on the web’s premier wine search engine Wine-Searcher. Anyone not familiar with Wine-Searcher, it is a search engine for wine that looks up wines at registered stores across the world.  You have many search options to choose from. This means someone in Texas could find a wine in our store and purchase it.  We are very excited about the great opportunity this brings us and we hope to serve customers not only from our community but all over the country. Check out our profile here.