Archive for the ‘Rutherford’ Category

Zahtila – 187

Saturday, October 29th, 2005

Zahtila_signIn the past, I have mentioned a great admiration for women winemakers. I have now started an investigation into women-owned wineries. I am very intrigued with the trials and tribulations facing women in what is generally considered a male-dominated industry. For this visit, fate has brought me to visit Zahtila Vineyards, located just a hundred yards north of the Silverado Trail and Calistoga’s Lincoln Road juncture, to chat with Laura Zahtila personally.

Zoe_comes_to_greetDon’t drive too quickly on the main road – the entrance to Zahtila is just on the right and almost hidden by large trees and brush. It would be very easy to drive right past it and head onwards toward Hidden Valley. After parking, I was immediately and warmly greeted by Zoe, the winery dog, who does her duty well as goodwill ambassador. She will guide you up the walkway, past the rose-covered house that acts as the office and administration building, towards the back of the property where the tasting room lies.

Tasting_room_3Laura is relatively new to the wine world. Having done well during the dot-com boom, a passion for wine brought her to Napa when she purchased her first vineyard from the Traulsen family in 1999. This had been a family endeavor with her husband, but they soon realized the passion was all hers and parted ways.

Laura_best_1Laura now has complete control and the business is hers and hers alone and she is learning the business from the ground up. While not having any formal winemaking  training, she relies on a consulting winemaker for much of the technical aspects but ultimately makes all of the blending decisions. The wine has her name so while the buck stops here, she has every reason to be exceptionally proud of what she has created in such a short time! Now moving beyond her own Calistoga vineayrd, she has started contracting for additional grapes and this year released her first Chardonnay.

2004 Napa Valley Chardonnay – From Bocannon fruit, this was a decidedly good first attempt. Clean, crisp grapefruit core with bright citrus pineapple. Very bright, clean entry showing green apple and carved, distinct fruit. $18.00

2003 Zinfandel, Dry Creek – Red berry black fruit with dusty floral tones. Brambleberry dominates the rich mouth entry and shows a hefty chocolate mid-palate. Clean and round, the full flavors produce a distinctive, spicy finish $20.00

2002 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – From Conn Valley fruit, 30% new American oak. Rich ruby red to the edge produces earthy, erotic, smoky bouquet with hints of sage and dried herbs. Medium-bodied, the expansive crisp fruit shows heightened acidity and perfectly integrated tannins. The palate is layered with earth and dark fruit and shows touch of smoke on the finish. $33.00

2002 Beckstoffer Cabernet Sauvignon – From Rutherford fruit, this dark magenta wine produces intense, rich plum aromas with layers of spice, black currant, and a touch of vanilla. Hedonistic in the mouth, the flavors are smooth and complex, a bit sweet on the entry, but rounding out to show opulence and immense quality. Needs to cost more… $48.00

Zahtila Vineyards ~ 2250 Lake County Highway ~ Calistoga ~ CA ~94515 ~ 707-942-9251
$5.00 tasting

Galleron – 168

Monday, September 26th, 2005

98avesthOld timer, die-hard wine lovers know the Galleron name as an historical icon dating back to pre-prohibition days. The Galleron family has a long and deep-rooted (no pun intended) history in the Napa Valley as quality grape growers. Virgile and Angele have bootlegging stories around the Prohibition era but it is was their sons, Paul and Virgil Galleron, whose grape growing business blossomed after World War II with the brothers’ entire first harvest being purchased by Gallo.

Paula_2Today, it is Gary Galleron, son of Paul, who has taken the reigns of the family’s agricultural business and turned it into a world class winery. While no formal tasting room or facilities are available for visitors, I had the pleasure of meeting Paula Galleron, Gary’s sister, at a Copia tasting. It is Paula who runs the office and keeps the business cogs well-oiled while Gary makes the wine. As a winery that produces only a thousand-or-so cases of premium juice each year, it is wine that to acquire, will have to be sought after and researched. But is well worth the effort.

2001 Rockpile Zinfandel – The Rockpile vineyard lies above Lake Sonoma. Having some mountain fruit quality, there is a dark, black raspberry aroma that seems to just grasp at its spicy, clove partner. The mouth entry is deep and rich, with supple tannins and a tease of sweetness. The spicy finish is refined and complex. $32.00

2001 Jaeger Merlot - I have had a deep and abiding admiration for what the Jaeger brothers have been growing for over twenty years. In this wine, Gary has taken the Jaeger’s grapes and created a wine that is velvety soft with a subtle coffee scent along with a core of dark berry. The flavors are deep and balanced, showing spicy dark berries and silky, balanced tannins. $32.00

2001 Morisoli Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon – Over-the-top bouquet of sexy black fruit, vanilla and spice, and a tease of cocoa. The initial taste is ballsy and enthralling, displaying erotic flavors of blackberry, black plum, and black currant. So much is going on in the smooth tannins and well-integrated flavors. Would love to sit on one of these for a decade or so… $100.00

Galleron Signature Wines ~ P.O. Box 2 ~ Rutherford ~ CA ~ 94573 ~ 707-265-6552

Tres Sabores – 162

Monday, September 19th, 2005

HeaderJulie Johnson is an incredibly busy woman these days. She has recently been named President of Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (known as ZAP by wine geeks). That in itself is a tremendous understaking, except to consider that she is also CFO, CEO, and now winemaker for her own label, Tres Sabores, which translates to mean ‘three tastes."

Julie_johnson_1Diminutive in stature, and quick and agile like a lean fox, Julie gets excited and speaks quickly when talking about her winery. She started the winery as a bit of experiment. The Three Tastes concept was such that she had this lovely organic vineyard in one of the most sought-after appellations, Rutherford. In a bold and innovative move, she hired three different winemakers to produce wines from her single vineyard.

Julie_close_upThe initial plan was a six-year project; she wanted the three winemakers to produce the wine for six vintages. Instead, she had four winemakers; Rudy Zudeima who did produce a total of six labels, Karen Culler who made five different vintages, and Ken Bernards and Ashley Heisey both producing three vintages each. Now, having made an astonishing reputation with the help of these mythic winemakers, Julie is taking the reigns herself is making the wine.

2003 Rutherford Zinfandel – A blend of three different cuvees, the warm, red fruit aromas provided a soft, supple entry that displays elegantly integrated tannins. Dark fruit dominates the mouth with a core of spice that shows some of the classic Rutherford dust. Only 500 cases made. $30.00

2002 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon – This is the second year that Julie herself has made this wine. Dark purple in color, the bouquet is mostly dark cassis with layers of dusty herbs. The mouth entry is complex showing dark chocolate and blackberry with a chiseled finish. Not yet released, price unknown.


For contacting: P.O. Box 238 ~ Rutherford ~ CA ~ 94574
Actual location, by appointment only: 1620 S. Whitehall Lane ~ St. Helena ~ Ca ~ 94574 ~ 707-967-8027

Rutherford Hill – 159

Thursday, September 15th, 2005

Rh_sign_1The Napa valley is a valley which means that it is surrounded by hills, mountains, and peaks. It also means there are wineries in them thar hills and I think that despite the occasional car sickness that is experienced when traversing the dizzying roads, there is nothing I love more than going to mountain wineries. I had been looking forward to Rutherford Hill Winery because it lies on the same mountain as Auberge du Soleil. In a sense, it actually sits on top of the resort.

Rh_picnic_area_1Rutherford Hill has many draws to to it, not the least of which is its picnic grounds. I’m a huge advocate of wineries that have picnic grounds accessible to customers and the view from this one doesn’t get much better. I’ve been up a number of times and if the weather is cool and mild enough, be prepared to see wildlife of the Disney persuasion (think Bambi and Thumper).

Rh_bldgThe building itself is stately and greets you when you come through the gates as you have just ascended the sometimes single-lane, windy road. The tasting room is broken into two areas; the Current Release Tasting or the Reserve Tasting. For $10, a tour can be arranged and are apparently quite popular as I watched a number of customers waiting for one (although it surprised me that while they were waiting, they didn’t bother to taste… perhaps afterwards).

Rh_tasting_room2003 Napa Valley Chardonnay – Creamy aromas of white peach with a tease of lemon. Viscous, thick mouthfeel with tons of butter and oak on the finish. $17.50

2003 Rosé of Merlot – Fresh, young raspberry and cherry with a solid undercore of meringue. Easy tongue play showing bright carnation and jasmine underpinings. $15.00

2002 Syrah – Clove and dark plum dance in a somewhat steamy, hot playground. Tight entry blossoms a tad, but I wanted more. $28.00

2002 Napa Valley Merlot – Dense, dark brambleberry lies atop dusty twigs. Medium bodied and mostly mineral in the beginning doesn’t seem to go anywhere. $25.00

2001 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Black plum and black currant almost overwhelms. There is some definite chocolate in the mouth but the finish is thin and harsh. $32.00

2001 Episode – A Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend at $150 a bottle, I was extremely disappointed to taste a bottle that had obviously been open for several days. Port-like mouth entry and nothing but oxidized aromas. Charging $10.00 for a 1.5 ounce toast, make sure the bottle is fresh before plunking down the moolah.

2001 Port Zin – Red floral and red fruit with twigs in this zinfandel brandy-fortified offering. Unknown price.

Rutherford Hill Winery ~ 200 Rutherford Hill Road ~ Rutherford ~ CA ~ 94573 ~ 707-963-1871

Rutherford Ranch/Round Hill Vineyards – 158

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

Rr_signAs one travels up the Silverado Trail, northbound from Napa to Calistoga, there is a single large turn off towards Lake Berryessa.  After rows and rows of vineyards, the intersection suddenly stands out as a span of open field is punctuated by a large collection of old, stately trees. The trees are the shading and elegant setting of Rutherford Ranch.

Rr_guest_housesThe estate has a a small creek running through it as well as a pond. A series of small buildings, which I believe are guest houses, are nestled amongst the trees. I did not get an opportunity to walk around and hope that the proprietors have made this idyllic space available to visitors and not simply relegated the enclave to office space. The day of my visit was just after a family wedding and any crew who could have answered questions was too inundated with other visitors.

Rr_bldgThe tasting room itself is contained within a stately, sprawling building. I was able to talk with one chap in the tasting room about the two separate labels. Many business decisions are made when second labels are created and I was curious about the differences between the Rutherford Ranch and Round Hill labels. Apparently the gist of the Round Hill entirely for a bulk retail market and not really poured in the tasting room. Although the day of my visit, the Round Hill Chardonnay was being poured as it had won a series of awards.

Rr_tasting_roomWhat is most impressive about the winery’s operation is that in producing over 100,000 cases, the presentation of two labels and a public facility is not that which impacts consumers most. It is a private label business which includes the likes of Auberge du Soleil and a number of other prestigious restaurants. You may never know the next time you are dining in our favorite restaurant and are offered their own wine — it very well could be a Rutherford Ranch wine!  A note on prices; their website does not currently list selling prices and I have misplaced the price sheet I took from the winery, but suffice to say that the average price is in the $10 to $20 range.

2004 Sauvignon Blanc, Rutherford Ranch – Tart grapefruit dominates. Crisp, acidic mouth entry shows pungent lemon grass with a chewy lemon peel finish.

2004 Round Hill Chardonnay – A hint of malo displays a bit defined cream and butter upon entry but finishes a bit crisp with textured lemon flavors.

2003 Rutherford Ranch Chardonnay – Rich lemon bouquet with thick buttery mouth entry.

2002 Rutherford Ranch Merlot – Mostly warm berry tones in the nose with a hint of metal funk. Smooth entry is a bit hot with a twiggy, earthy mid-palate and a sharp chocolate finish.

2002 Rutherford Ranch Zinfandel – 97% Zinfandel, 1.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1.5% ‘Proprietary Blend’ – Medium bodied offering with tons of black cherry and licorice aromas. Simple, easy mouth entry with a crisp, mocha finish.

2002 Rutherford Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon – Tight, blackberry bouquet coupled with earth and oak. Blueberry flavors are somewhat flaccid.

2004 Rutherford Ranch Moscato – Clear straw color. Sweet orange blossom and yellow flowers in the nose. Clean flavors of ripe pear and apricot. Not syrupy or overly sweet but bright and engaging.

Rutherford Ranch/Round Hill Vineyards ~ 1680 Silverado Trail ~ St. Helena ~ CA ~ 94574 ~ 800-778-0424