Over the course of four days, I was able to taste at several wineries in Napa and Sonoma. I was only able to take very general notes during the tastings but they give you a good idea of my thoughts towards the wines.
Thursday August 17th
Ramey Wine Cellars
I started off in Sonoma on Day 1 and bounced in and out of the Russian River Valley. The day started off with a 10AM tasting at Ramey Wine Cellars. We here at Oxford Liquor Shoppe have been carrying the Ramey wines for years, big fans of the Chardonnays, the Caret and Cabernet Sauvignon. David Ramey tries to achieve a very balanced style and is not trying for a heavy handed wines. It proved to be a very enjoyable tasting.
2014 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast **2010 is in stock $33.99
This wine was light and crisp with a nice acidity. A good introduction to the house style for the white wines. 91 points
2014 Chardonnay Russian River Valley *available
This was a touch fatter but still done in a very restrained style that Ramey is famous for. Got some tropical fruit on this. 92 points
2014 Chardonnay Woolsey Road *available
From a vineyard specifically allocated for Ramey by Martinelli, this was bigger than the regional blends and ended with a longer finish. 93 points
2014 Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard *available
My favorite of the four Chardonnay’s. Was the biggest but provided great depth of flavor and still not overpowering. Excellent. 94 points
2014 Syrah Sonoma Coast *available
This wine was dark with notes of coffee and dark berry. 91 points.
2015 Claret Napa Valley *2014 available
Always well done, this had notes of blackberry, currant and a long finish with a touch of iron. 93 points
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley **2012 in stock for $77.99
This Cab was quite silky compared to the other cabs I tasted on the trip with soft tannins. Ended with a nice dark berry finish. 92 points
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Annum *available
Big but nuanced. Provided the longest finish of the four reds. Can probably use a little more time in bottle. 94 points
Hartford Family Winery
I then headed over to Hartford Family and it was the first time I have ever had their wines. I came away very impressed. They make Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel and were strong across the board!
2015 Chardonnay Four Hearts Vineyard *available
This was bigger than the Ramey but was beautiful and not overpowering. More traditional in style but had some finesse to it. 93 points
2014 Chardonnay Stone Cote
This was even bigger than the Four Hearts and very buttery. But for all it’s size, it’s style was quite refined for a bigger wine. 94 Points
2015 Chardonnay Russian River Valley *available
A step down from the first two wines but also a lower price point. Solid and delicious. A nice introduction to their style. 92 points
2014 Pinot Noir Land’s Edge *available
This is beautiful with a lot of Pinot character. Again, a bigger style but balanced and not overpowering. 94 points
2014 Pinot Noir Velvet Sisters *available
More similar than different compared to the first two Chardonnays but very awesome wine with a long finish. 94 points
2014 Pinot Noir Warrior Princess Block *available
From Oregon, there was a clear difference here compared to the first two Pinot Noir’s. It definitely showed that Oregon terrior. 94 points
2015 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
Some bing cherry on this and actually got some tannins. A clear step down but again a lower price point wine. 91 points
2015 Zinfandel Russian River Valley *available
This was extremely impressive. Made like a Pinot, has that silkiness to it. Not your typical Zin fruit bomb. 94 points
2014 Zinfandel Dina’s
This was just awesome. Lots of fruit but refined like their Pinot’s. Shocked to see over 15% alcohol on here because it felt much lower. 96 points.
2014 Zinfandel Hartford
Another excellent bottle but bigger and heavier than the others. More fruit explosion on this. 95 points.
2012 Syrah Outer Limits
A nice effort. Not heavy and dark like a typical Syrah that can be a little too much sometimes. 93 points
2014 Zinfandel Port
I usually don’t go for “ports” outside of Portugal but this was quite nice. Not very heavy for a port style wine. Silky. 93
Have come onto my radar the last few years for their entry level Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, which are really good values for the money. They also do several higher end bottlings that are right up there with the tops wines in California.
This is a photo in the front of the winery looking at their mountain vineyards way off in the distance.
2015 Sauvignon Blanc Estate Cuvee
This Sauvignon Blanc had lots of grapefruit on the nose along with kiwi and grapefruit on palate. Ended with a nice finish. No oak on this. 90 points
2014 Sauvignon Blanc Aurora Point
The oak influence shows on the nose of this but the palate has flavors of kiwi and lime. 90 points
2014 Chardonnay Estate Cuvee *available
This is a very nice Chardonnay for the money with notes of lemon meringue and done more in a classic California style. 91 points
2014 Chardonnay Upper Barn *available
This proved to be more elegant than the estate. Where the estate could be a little raw around the edges, this provided a more refined option with greater depth of flavor. Nice long finish. 95 points
2014 Chardonnay Gravel Bench
The biggest of the three Chardonnays. Lots of toast and butter on this one. Probably could use some short term cellaring. 95 points
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Cuvee *available
Like the 2012, just a wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon for the money. This has big berry aromas with some dark fruit on the palate. A fine introduction to the Stonestreet style. 93 points
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Rockfall *available
The Rockfall was a real crowd pleaser with some bigger tannins but a longer finish than the estate. 95 points
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Christopher
The oak on the nose of this wine was very noticeable but provided wonderful notes of blackberry, currant and chocolate. A bit of a style change from the Rockfall but a nice contrast. 95 points
Visited here the last time I was in Napa and they really have top notch wine. The winery is beautiful and was shocked to see they now offer valet parking. Pretty fancy! That aside, the wines were just as good as I remember them.
2014 Chardonnay Reserve **2012 Regular Chardonnay in stock $65.99
A fine Chardonnay with notes of pineapple, mango and citrus. Honestly don’t recall a big difference between this and the regular bottling. 93 points
2015 Chardonnay Toyon
Very similar in style and quality to the Reserve but just a hair behind in my opinion. 92 points
2012 Proprietary Red
This was a big tannic wine still with notes of cassis, chocolate and plum. 94 points
2013 Proprietary Red *available
The most backward of all the red wines with very drying tannins. Notes of currant, blackberry and cherry. 93
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon *available
Again, very tannic but fruit was open for business for a 2014. Notes of herb, cherry blackberry and plum. 94 points
2015 Cabernet Sauvignon To Kalon Barrel Sample
Drinking pretty awesome right now for such a young wine. Note even as tannic as the other red wines but could have seen more air. A clear step up from the other 3. 96-98 points
2011 Late Harvest
Notes a honey, peach and apricot. Close to the Honig Late Harvest. 93 points
First time visiting even though I’ve been to Napa twice before. Went mainly to try the I Block, which is only available at the winery. Beautiful winery and by far the biggest tourist attraction as far as wineries are concerned.
2014 Fume Blanc To Kalon I Block
From the oldest Sauvignon Blanc grapes planted in North America. This is beautiful with no sight of grapefruit. So balanced and refreshing. Think this will improve with age. History says it will. 94 points
2015 Sauvignon Blanc Stag’s Leap District
Tons of grapefruit on this. Not nearly on the level as the I Block. 89 points
2014 Fume Blanc Oakville
Enjoyed this more than the Stag’s Leap. No grapefruit. Like the oak influence here. 91
Solid wine but expected a bit more from this. Not near the level of the reserve. 91 points
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
Really nice. Balanced. More old world but still definitely California. An often overlooked wine in this day and age but most of it still comes from To Kalon vineyard. 95
Robert Mondavi 2003 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $99.99
Robert Mondavi 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $102.99
Have always admired Honig for their quality wines and affordable prices. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the best values in all of Napa Valley.
We took a tour of the entire vineyard which was a great experience. Above shows a birdbox that they have throughout their vineyards and wind machine to prevent frost.
2015 Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford *available
Always enjoy Honig’s Rutherford bottling. Touch more refined than the regular Sauvignon Blanc and you can really see the quality. 91 points
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon *available
Another fine vintage for this Cabernet. Notes of blackberry, mocha and cherry throughout. 92 points
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Campbell
First time having this wine. Slight step up in quality from the regular Cab bottling. 93 points
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Bartolucci *available
The Bartolucci is just like the Sauvignon Blanc in the respect that I can always see the bump up in quality, although the difference between this and the 2014 regular Cab is a lot smaller this time. 93 points
2015 Late Harvest
Always been a fan of the Late Harvest although it seems to have crept up in price. Very refined and more balanced than the 2016 with flavors of honey and apricot. 93 points
2016 Late Harvest
Still a well made dessert wine but this just needs time to settle down in the bottle. 91 points
Could say we saved the best for last? We did a pretty comprehensive tasting at Phelps. We tasted through their latest releases but then did something I had never done before. Every year Phelps does experiments with different barrels of their wines. So we had the chance to taste their 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in 4 different types of oak barrels. The first was neutral oak, the second was French oak (medium toast), the third was American oak (medium toast) and the fourth was French oak (heavy toast). It provided quite an interesting education on the effects of oak on the wine.
Below are the notes from their current releases. Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon has always been good but they have done a lot of work to improve their other wines.
2016 Sauvignon Blanc *available
Always been a fan of their Sauvignon Blanc’s but this needs some time. Little too spry at the moment. 91 points
2014 Chardonnay Pastorale
A well made Chard done in a very classic style. Not overdone. 92 points
2014 Pinot Noir Pastorale
Although a nice wine, this was definitely overshadowed by the Pinot’s we had in Sonoma. 90 points
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon *available
Their regular Cab can be really nice in good vintages and this was one of those vintages. Still has some tannins to resolve but can be drunk now with a long decant. 93 points.
2013 Insignia *available
Just a classic vintage of this great wine. I have always been a fan of this and when it hits it really hits. Right up their with the top wines of the trip. 98 points.