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.
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Prologue
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.
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.
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.