Archive for the ‘Oakville’ Category

Emilio’s Terrace – 181

Saturday, October 15th, 2005

01_bottlesEmilio’s Terrace is a very small vineyard located in Oakville between Harlan and Staglin. Pretty nice neighborhood, huh? I had the opportunity to taste the wine at the latest Copia had another one of its lovely in-house tastings which frequently gives me access to wineries with no public facilities or tasting rooms. That is the case with Emilio’s Terrace, which is owned by Phil Schlein. The wine is made by Joe Cafaro and only 400 to 700 cases are ever made each year. The certified organic vineyard are 650 feet up above Robert Mondavi’s To-Kolan vineyard. While they grow both Cabernet and Merlot, A large portion of their Merlot is reserved and blended with some purchased grapes for a second label, by-the-glass restaurant wine. The good stuff is kept for the Emilio’s Terrace.

2002 Emilio’s Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – 96% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Merlot. Dark purple in color, this intensely complex wine shows black fruit aromas of currant and black cherry. Hints of vanilla waft near the back of the nose. The mouth entry is rich and defined, showing layers of supple spice, brambleberry, and hefty tannins. Absolutely spendid. $50.00

Emilio’s Terrace ~ P.O. Box 88 ~ Oakville ~ CA ~ 94562 ~ 707-257-6761
No tastings available.

Hagafen Cellars – 179

Thursday, October 13th, 2005

Hag_signIn Hebrew, hagafen means "the vine." And I was fascinated to learn that a premiere kosher winery exists in Napa! When people think of kosher in regards to wine, one immediately thinks of Manischevitz, but Hagafen Cellars is Napa-based, certified kosher, and astonishingly great! I am not going to give a whole analysis of how kosher wines are made. There are enough websites that will do that other than to tell you that the wine is briefly flash pasteurized at 185 degrees and blessed by an in-house Rabbi.

Hag_bldgLocated just off the Silverado Trail, Hagafen is owned by Ernie and Irit Weir and by all accounts, they are very hands-on owners with Ernie managing the vineyards AND making the wine. The day of my visit, a large group was expected for lunch and I was told how Irit had prepared an entire Turkish-inspired meal.

Hag_lolaAlthough I did not get an opportunity to meet the Weirs, I was introduced to She Who Really Runs Everything: Lola. We all know that winery cats are true power behind the thrones and Lola certainly held court as stately queen of the tasting room. Another interesting aspect of the tasting room (one you MUST ask about), are the frogs…

Hag_tasting_roomThe tasting room is small and elegant, surrounded with cases of wine and accolades on the walls. You can hear the high-pitched chirps echoing around you. They are there, you see… Small little frogs who like to hang out in the tasting room, mostly behind the framed pictures of the family, articles, and well-deserved ratings. It is charming and disconcerting at the same time and I’m surprised Lola hasn’t had her way with them…

2001 Brut Cuvée Sparkling Wine – Yep, a sparkling kosher! Made from Carneros grapes which are purchased, a mere 500 cases are made. 78% Pinot Noir and 22% Chardonnay, this wine is creamy and nutty with hints of toast and ripe white fruit. $30.00

2004 Chardonnay – 100% malo displays a light, creamy floral nose. Initial flavors are of yellow peach and apricot with a light, toasty oak finish. $18.00

2004 Pinot Noir – 8 month in French oak. Bright cherry and raspberry aromas mirrored in the crisp mouth entry. Engaging terroir is warm and rich in this medium-bodied wine with a soft, mineral finish. $32.00

2002 Merlot – Warm, dark cherry bouquet. Easy spiced tobacco entry with hints of chocolate. Developed and easy to drink. $27.00

2000 Merlot – With 10% Cabernet. Some funky earth terroir blows off to display older brambleberry tones. Medium-bodied with integrated tannins. $39.00

1998 Merlot – Bricky-edged color showing age and earth and leather and a tease of the fruit from days gone by. Probably has six month to a year left in it and great fun to find an affordable library wine! $49.00

2001 Syrah - Terroir-driven earthy wine with a touch of brambleberry. Merlot-like nose and an easy, berry fruit mouth entry that brightens upon opening. Medium bodied makes this another easy-to-drink wine. $27.00

2000 Syrah – Similar to the ’01 with a bit more earth and age. $39.00

2002 Cabernet Sauvignon – With 12% Cabernet Franc. Earthy tobacco and leather nose. Beefy, dark fruit textured flavors with perfectly balanced tannins. $40.00

2004 White Riesling – At 3.9% residual sugar. Engaging nose of white flowers and a hint of bright spice and freshly cut grass. Clean tastes of white fruit; white pear, white grapes, and white melon. Not syrupy or sticky, but crisp and fun. $19.00

Hagafen Cellars ~ 4160 Silverado Trail ~ Napa ~ Ca ~ 94558 ~ 707-252-0791
$5.00 for four current release whites
$5.00 for four current release reds
$10.00 for four library wines

Venge Vineyards – 172

Tuesday, October 4th, 2005

01_v_sign_1Nils Venge has quite a reputation in both the Napa valley and in the wine world in general. Besides being a consulting winemaker for Robert Keenan and Plumpjack Winery. Nils was also instrumental in the establishment Saddleback Cellars, but it was with his son, Kirk, that the family name finally ended up on a label of its own, Venge Vineyards. His renown came while working at Groth where he became the first American winemaker to receive an illusive 100 points from noted wine critic Robert Parker for his 1985 Groth Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

03_v_old_bldg_refurbVenge’s namesake wine is made at what is historically known as the Rossini Ranch. Built by Swiss Italian immigrant Carlo Rossini in 1891, like many other wineries of its age, it suffered the Prohibition shut-down syndrome. It is located on the base of Howell Mountain, several miles back a long and twisty road that one may believe goes no where. Keep going…

05_v_tasting_roomNils and family have completely renovated the building. The top floor is the home of the tasting room. Bright with natural light from vaulted ceilings, it has yet to see an abundance of decorations or knick-knacks. The tasting is not confined to this room, but includes a tour of the entire facilities. The first wine or two is tasted at the bar. From there, guests are led down into the belly of the building.

06_v_caveA table has been set up in the cellar area where most of the red wines are tasted. It is gratifying to see a working winery from the inside and be able to enjoy its bounty. While the tasting is appointment-only, I stumbled in one weekday afternoon and was still granted courteous hospitality and a tasting.

2004 Bianco Spettro – 55% Chardonnay, 38% Sauvignon Blanc, 7% Marsanne. White floral nose that is rich with a hint of sweetness. Smooth mouth entry that has a nice oily sensation. Clean feeling with yellow peach tones. $25.00

2002 Sangiovese – The
first impression faked me out a bit with a Cabernet-like blackberry
nose. A swirl opened it to warm, sweet cinnamon and cherry aromas. Sweet entry expands to display ripe red fruit. There was an underlying minerality which fills out, produces
intense balanced flavors, and culminates in a spicy finish. $30.00.

2003 Scout’s Honor – 70% Zinfandel, 15% Petite Sirah, 15% Charbono. The story behind the name of this wine is a remembrance to Kirk’s beloved yellow lab, Scout. I must admit this is a hard wine to describe because there is so much going on; a core of smoke, layers of sweetness and spice, and effusive brambleberry. $35.00

2001 Merlot – Redolent with valley terroir. Rich with earthy tones, tobacco, leather, and dark berry. The flavors are rich and complex that finishes with some dusty herbal notes. $40.00

2000 Cabernet Sauvignon – Overwhelming nose of green bell pepper, jalapeño, and eucalyptus. Smooth entry that blossoms to show red cherry and a dark black anise. $95.00

Venge Vineyards ~ 424 Crystal Springs Road ~ St. Helena ~ CA ~ 94573 ~ 707-967-1008

Napa Cellars – 157

Saturday, September 10th, 2005

Cd_signI have long admired the Napa Cellars‘ logo. The clean pen-and-ink drawing of an up-turned hand, scrolled elegantly upward. It is the type of script that makes me believe it actually says something, but I’m not brilliant enough to see it. What is the orb floating above the hand? A grape? The world? Is the hand waiting to grasp what is plunging downwards towards the grasp or has the hand just flung the sphere into the air? Questions like this plague me, I’m afraid and I doubt I will ever have a definitive answer. But I like it, regardless.

Cd_bldgNapa Cellars is one of the first wineries that greets visitors entering the Napa Valley via Highway 29. The building is a Bucky-Fuller geodesic dome (albeit a slightly squashed, low-slung dome). It is one of the rare down-valley wineries boasting a public picnic facility — something of a rarity I have come to learn.

Cd_tasting_roomDespite the impression that the building is mildly squat, the interior tasting room is surprisingly open with its vaulted ceilings and sky lights. During my visit, some first time wine tasters were visiting from out-of-state and the pouring staff were extremely helpful in the instruction of Wine-Tasting 101. This is actually rather refreshing as I have witnessed far too many occasions where those just starting out were treated with more condescension instead of congeniality. Easy to drink and affordable, Napa Cellars is a great place to begin when first visiting the Napa Valley.

2004 Vin Gris – An odd rosé blend of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Pale, pink color with fresh berry aromas that is only a tad sweet on entry. Surprisingly integrated and not too tangy. Fresh finish. $14.95

2002 Napa Valley Zinfandel – From south St. Helena, this produces a rich, soft nose of dark spice including nutmeg and clove that just barely hides a hint of black pepper. Chocolate entry sweetens in the mid-palate to a long, dry finish of cocoa. $19.75

2002 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Toasty nose with a touch of green bell pepper. Dry entry produces cedar and dark berry. The finish was a tad thin. $25.75

2001 Napa Valley Syrah – From a north Napa vineyard, only 500 cases were produced. Sweet licorice and blackberry liqueur show richness and complexity. Chewy mouth entry expands with dark fruit and vanilla. $32.50

2001 Late Harvest Zinfandel – Full bodied and rich, a medium amount of herbs keeps it from being overly sweet. Integrated fruit and cocoa. $29.75

Napa Cellars ~ 7481 St. Helena Highway ~ Oakville ~ CA ~ 94562 ~ 707-944-2565

Diamond Oaks – 155

Wednesday, September 7th, 2005

Do_signDiamond Oaks is a relative new-comer to the Napa Valley wine scene. Located on the edge of a mountain up the Oakville Grade, the building facilities was once better known as Vichon (a Mondavi project) – and, for a short while, La Famiglia (another Mondavi project).

Do_entranceIndian-born Dinesh Maniar is the current proprietor. Having already acquired numerous Napa and Sonoma vineyards, the acquisition of this property from the Mondavis was a jewel in his wine-bedecked crown. By all accounts from those who work with him, Maniar is an introspective, unassuming gentleman who has made some very impressive improvements to the property.

Do_tasting_room_1Do_tasting_room_2The tasting room, when it was La Famiglia, was known for the hand-painted wall-sized mural. That was the only aspect of the original hospitality area that Maniar retained. The building was slightly retrofitted to accommodate much-needed windows for light, new marble floors, and elegant lighting fixtures (selected by Dinesh himself).

Do_picnic_areaOf special note is the picturesque picture area. Undoubtedly one of the most stunning views of the valley, for a mere $30.00, the winery will reserve a table, provide a bottle of wine and glasses, and place a checkered tablecloth to await your culinary delight. Corkpulls are strategically dangled from the trees, just in case you forget…

2001 Chalk Hill Chardonnay – Maniar owns 95 acres of Chalk Hill vineyards. This 100% malo chard is fruit forward, with intense lemon and tropical fruit aromas. Initial flavors are fruit forward with lemon and a hint of cream. The finish shows nuts, oak, and a touch of butter. $29.00

2001 Reserve Carneros Chardonnay - Another 100% malo, but this one has seen 100% French oak. Rich, full, layered offering with a tropical bouquet surrounding a core of butterscotch. Flavors dance between lemon meringue and clean pear. $39.00

2003 Carneros Pinot Noir – Simple aromas of cherry, licorice, and earth in the nose. Bigger fruit flavors explodes in the mouth, counter to the thinner bouquet. Tight and young, earth and licorice dominate. $19.00

2002 Silver Carneros Merlot – Deep tones of green olive, rich earth, and some cherry. Richer fruit flavors of solid dark fruit, a mid-palate of toast, finishes with a tease of eucalyptus. $17.00

2002 Hira Ranch Merlot, Carneros – 70% French oak, 20% of that is new – the other 30% is American oak. Dark chocolate and tobacco qualities in the nose. Initially soft and supple upon entry, dark berry and earthy qualities become rich and complex on the finish. $29.00

2003 Cabernet, Alexander Valley – (Wine Club only). A pre-release tasting is still a bit green with tons of rustic herbs and cherry. Gobs of chocolate mint on the nice, lingering finish. No price.

Diamond Oaks ~ 1595 Oakville Grade ~ Oakville ~ CA ~ 94562 ~ 707-948-3000