Archive for the ‘Stag’s Leap’ Category

Husic Vineyards – 163

Monday, September 19th, 2005

Husic_vineyards_logoFrank Husic has had some astonishingly good luck and some astonishingly bad luck. The good luck is that he has nine acres of prime Stags Leap appellation vineyards which produces 500 cases of one of the more highly sought-after California Cabernets currently on the market.

Husic_1The bad news is that Frank owns 120 acres in the same area and he isn’t allowed to plant them to grape. It seems that those nine acres were planted before an anti-mountain growing ordinance went into affect, preventing the rest of the acreage from being developed.  Frank is pretty philosophical about it all. “It isn’t going to hold us back from planting elsewhere — in fact, we’ll be releasing our first Chardonnay next year.” It is easy to be taken in by his enthusiasm. Having winemaker Celia Welch Masyczek crafting his wine doesn’t hurt either. Masyczek came into view when she created the now much sought-after 1998 Staglin.

Husic_bottleThe bottle is immediately recognizable as different. It is easily the tallest and heaviest bottle on the market. Substantial in size, Frank revels in pointing out the archway design with the names of his family crowning the artistic representation of his hillside vineyard. The two palm trees under the logo name actually exist on the property – a rather odd occurrence in the Napa Valley and one I am glad he represented.

Husic made insider news at the 2004 Premiere Napa Valley auction (an
event where barrel samples are tasted and purchased as futures by
high-roller retailers) when five cases of an un-released, unknown wine
was sold for $13,000. Bottom line? This is a winery to keep an eye on — could it be the next Screaming Eagle?

2002 Husic Cabernet Sauvignon – A mere hint of the earthy terroir of Stags Leap that I often find overwhelming. Some dusty earthy with a core of dark cassis and currant in the nose. Black raspberry and cinnamon hit the tongue first, but a cinnamon that is intensely soft and elegant, blossoming to show layers upon layers of dark brambleberry, blackberry, and dark plum. The finish shows velvety vanilla. Sold out – usually only available and finer restaurants.

Husic ~ Vineyard; 189 Ridge Drive ~ Napa Valley ~ CA ~ 94558; Office; 80 McLaren Avenue ~ San Francisco ~ CA ~ 94121 ~ 707-812-4909

Steltzner – 126

Friday, July 29th, 2005

Steltzner_signDick Steltzner was born and raised in in Northern California and was inspired early on to enter the wine industry with Ernst Wente as his mentor. After college and some savvy real estate dealings which got him a small piece of property in the Stag’s Leap District, Dick found himself in the business of vineyard management. This was the 1970s.

Steltzner_bldgBy 1980 he started making his own wine in a building that had been constructed in 1915 as a prune dehydrating shed. Converting that building into a winery, his production grew from 3,000 cases to 5,000 by 1990. Now there is a Mediterranean-style complex in place of the prune building, and the business is up to 15,000 cases a year.

Steltzner_tasting_room_1Now Dick has daughter Allison at his side, learning the ropes and ready to continue her father’s legacy. The wines are classic Bordeaux varietals, expected for the Stag’s Leap appellation, but a few additional surprises await. The tasting room is intimate, with a living room ensemble and a baby grand piano in the corner.

Steltzner_tasting_room_2The staff is helpful, offering tasting comments as the wine is being poured. I actually prefer to make my own determinations before having flavors indicated, but I can certainly see the benefit to newbie wine tasters who are still learning about flavors that are in wine. I still took my own notes, not relying on what I was being told…

2004 Chardonnay, Oak Knoll Estate – No malo in the wine which was 100% fermented in stainless stell. Overt tropical fruits of pineapple and kiwi presented on the nose. Rich floral tones and easy entry. Complex white peach finish. $18.00

2004 Rosé of Shiraz – Fascinating offering. Meaty raspberry and a hint of strawberry on the nose that is not sweet, but deep. Medium to thin entry that shows some peach a minerals on the mid-palate. A bit more mineral finish that desired. Curious that they are growing Shiraz, but making a rosé with it. $18.00

2002 Merlot, Stags Leap District – Dusty twig and floral tones that subside to show some cherry and dark berry.  Juicy entry with muted tannins. $26.00

2001 Sangiovese – Possibly opened the day before as oxidized notes predominate. I did detect raspberry under the dusty twig with a faint whiff of licorice. $38.00

2002 Claret – 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 30% Merlot. Jammy blackberry with integrated sweet black licorice in its core. A faint hint of green bell pepper just hides behind, classic Stags Leap District. The rich, oppulent nose follows into the initial mouthfeel, showing spice and dark fruit but finishes a bit chalky and dry. $16.00

1998 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
– Bricky red in color with obvious age. Smoky twigs and soft berries show in the nose. Medium bodied in the mouth feel displaying muted flavors despite the spicy nose. A bit of sen-sen burn in the back of the throat. $36.00

2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District – Purplish in color, very bright and very fresh in tone. Cinnamon spice and hints of green olive are coupled with the fresh fruit. Juicy and long finish. $36.00

NV Terraces Merlot Port – Berry jam and black licorice couple with integrated dusty twig bouquet. The initial taste is decidedly sweet with the lovely spices being slightly toned down. $34.00/375ml

Steltzner Vineyards ~ 5998 Silverado Trail ~ Napa ~ CA ~ 94558 ~ 707-252-7272

Mondavi – 77

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005

Mondavi_signIt is true — I have had folks ask me when I would visit the Vatican of the Napa Valley. For what other analogy can be made for Robert Mondavi? Despite the recent upheaval in his corporation, the man himself can only be considered the reigning pope of the California wine industry.

Mondavi_archBesides the heritage and history that Robert himself lends to the estate, many come to Mondavi to be introduced to Napa and the production of winemaking. No less than seven different types of tours are available, from the basics of winemaking, to food and wine pairing, to the (I’m told) romantic twilight tour which only takes place at 6:00 on Friday evenings. I decided to forgo any tours for my first visit, which also precluded me from tasting any of the reserve wines on this occasion. It was a quick stop only, intended to look around and taste quickly the standard offerings of the facility.

Mondavi_tasting_roomThere are three different tasting rooms and the most public, Le Marche, is a pretty standard one as far as the valley is concerned including gift items and apparel. Surprisingly, the tasting bar is relatively small and each taste is charged for individually at $5.00 for each two-ounce pour. Guests are not allowed to "run up tabs" so if you want to taste through their entire offering (six on the day I was there), each guest would have to pony up $30. Still, if visiting for the first time or wanting to experience all aspects of a winery, Mondavi is a great place to start.

2002 Sauvignon Blanc, Stags Leap District
– 100% stainless steel. Surprisingly creamy aroma with integrated tropical fruits. A hint of the classic cat pea appeared in the back of the sinuses and anticipated the sharp mouth entry. The initial acidity quickly subsided and blossomed to a brighter, engaging offering with a long, spiky finish. $23.00

2002 Fumé Blanc – Here’s a story not many people know: Robert Mondavi "invented" the Fumé Blanc in 1962.  What he really did was take the Sauvignon Blanc (which wasn’t very fashionable at the time), and gave it a French twist by hijacking part of the name from the Pouilley-Fumé, putting it in oak, and adding a little Semillon. This current offering was a harsh follow-up to the Sauvignon Blanc I had just tasted, but quickly warmed in showing lemon meringue on the nose (a distinct combination of lively citrus with layered cream notes). The finish was tighter than I would have liked. $17.00

2002 Chardonnay – Seven months is 20% new French oak (Mondavi ONLY ever used French oak!). This wine was very clear with upfront aromas of classic butter and hints of tropical fruit. The initial taste is robust but thins out too quickly with a mineral finish. $18.00

2002 Pinot Noir – A tad murky in its garnet color, the raspberry bouquet revealed itself beside other fresh berries. Mineral tones dominated in the mid-palate and gave way to a thin, metallic finish. $21.00

2002 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Warm dark berry aromas couple with cassis and cocoa. A soft, Merlot-like entry has a bright flavor with even acidity. Quite drinkable. $25.00

2002 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon – Classic Oakville dustiness shows in aromas and flavor. Dried herbs and some twigs predominate in the nose. A bit tannic on the entry, the very dry mid-palate leaves a mineral ending. $40.00

2004 Muscato d’Oro – With 10% residual sugar this simple dessert wine at 8% alcohol could prove way too easy to drink. Sweet orange blossom and honey suckle aromas do not anticipate the slightly effervescent entry. Sweet and orange and floral in tones, an easy summer dessert. $20.00

Robert Mondavi Winery ~ Highway 29 ~ Oakville ~ CA ~ 94562 ~ 1-888-RMONDAVI (1-888-766-6328)

Chateau Boswell – 68

Wednesday, April 27th, 2005

Cb_signChateau Boswell is one that has intrigued me for some time because of its old-world charm and style in architecture. It lies on the Silverado Trail, beyond Deer Park towards Calistoga. I hazard to guess it is a part of the Trail that is far less traveled as many folks tends towards the town of St. Helena before venturing up that far. Pity that, for a number of exceptional wineries lie up in that vicinity.

Cb_bldgChateau Boswell is not a very well known name due to their limited production; 300 cases of an already-sold-out Chardonnay, 330 cases of a Cuvée, and barely 165 cases of a Reserve Cabernet. Started 1979 by Dr. R. Thornton and Susan Boswell, it is still family-owned and operated. The grapes are grown organically, but not yet certified as such.

Cb_susanWhen I visited, I was surprised to meet Susan Boswell herself pouring wine and greeting customers. I was fortunate that they are usually only open by appointment and that I stumbled upon an open tasting room on a Saturday. Susan even admitted that her son usually does the tastings. She did explain that all the wines are dedicated to members of the family and that each year she designs a special back label with custom artwork in those dedications.

Cb_tasting_roomThe tasting room is barely that — a small enclave with antiques which lies adjacent to the barrel room of the winery. There is a hint of mustiness in the air which seems to compliment the surroundings. I tasted two of the offerings during my visit, both of which were exceptional.

2002 Jacquelynn Cuvée — Named after their daughter, this is a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Cabernet Franc, both from the Stags Leap District. Intensely opulent without the classic dirty Stags Leap flavors I tend to expect. Aromas of dark berry and hints of mocha with balanced tannins that produce concentrated, well-structured fruit and a silky, lingering finish. $64.00

2002 Renaissance Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – Allowing me to taste a sold-out wine is usually a sure sign I am going to want it… Dark aromas of well-integrated blackberry, cassis, oak, and spice successfully anticipate the elegant entry and mouth feel of this wine. 100% new French oak is evident with hints of smoke on the back palate, just barely subsiding to the velvety finish. $94.00

Chateau Boswell ~ 3468 Silverado Trail ~ St. Helena ~ CA ~ 707-963-5472

Clos du Val – 63

Tuesday, April 12th, 2005

Cdv_signClos du Val is among those in Napa which has an amazing reputation and long-established reputation. In 1972, John Goelet and Bernard Portet, an American business and French winemaker respectively, joined forces in establishing one of the more famous wineries in the Napa Valley. Their reputation grew and by 1976, was one of the very few California wineries represented in the now-famous Paris competition.

Cdv_bldgThe truly stunning building complex can be seen from the roadway, vine-covered, warm, and inviting.

Cdv_tasting_roomThe tasting room is always crowded and the staff extremely amiable. I have brought a lot of friends to Clos du Val because of their reputation for quality wines and excellent service. I’m just having difficulty getting beyond the overtly green Stags Leap qualities in the premium offerings.

2002 Ariadne – 73% Semillon and 27% Sauvignon Blanc demonstrated crisp grassy notes layered with kiwi fruit. A surprisingly creamy entry finished with a punctuated tanginess. $21.00

2003 Carneros Chardonnay – A light, non-malo prepared Chardonnay shows tropical fruits with a touch of apricot in aromas. Nine months in French oak have given the mouth feel some darker vanilla notes. $21.00

2001 Carneros Pinot Noir – Immediate earthy, bretty tones with a mineral mid-palate failed to impress. $38.00

2003 Carneros Pinot Noir – Fresh strawberry and raspberry scents present themselves immediately which follows in taste, accented with layered tones of black cherry, an earthy mid-palate, and a lively, spicy finish. $24.00

2002 Napa Valley Merlot – Intense aromas of green bell pepper predominate, with secondary dense brambleberry in nose and mouth. 6% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc give this wine a bit more earth but it still seems muddled. $25.00

2000 Stags Leap District Cabernet – Intense, burning green bell pepper which was tight and acidic. Maybe it will even out with age. $62.00

2001 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – Barnyard and hospital aromas belie the fruity entry with a dry, mid-palate and pale, earthy finish. $28.00

2002 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Overwhelming green bell pepper beyond which I perceived very little. $28.00

2001 Reserve Zinfandel, Stags Leap District – Classic SLD green bell pepper with a spicy entry that fails to go anywhere. $40.00

Clos du Val ~ 5330 Silverado Trail ~ Napa ~ CA ~ 94558 ~ 707-261-5225