Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Third Coast Visits the other Two Coasts

I had a fantastic week of wine drinking last week. After a memorial service took me out to California for a weekend I found a day to steal off to Napa for Father's day and treated my dad to a full day of tasting. The week ended with a business trip to Washington DC, a city which I'm spending more time in and will start to share about here. Here is the week in wines.

Deerfield Ranch - This is a small producer in Sonoma County. Deerfield Ranch is out in Valley of The Moon across the road from Kenwood. They were in the middle of construction of a new driveway when we were there, but it was a minimal annoyance. The wine cave they just finished is beautiful and tasting amidst the barrels and artwork in the cave added to the ambiance. Oh, and then there were the wines. We tasted two sauvignon blancs side by side and they were both fantastic examples of a milder oak aged sauvignon blanc. We moved on to a Pinot Noir that was typical Russian River Pinot Noir. It didn't blow me away but at $33 its a much better deal than some other Russian River bottles. The final memorable bottle was a "super tuscan", the Super T Rex. This had a lot of complexity to it and was a nice end to our tasting.

Beaulieau Vineyards - Beaulieau is a Napa legend, and this was the first time I have visited the winery. It was less impressive than I expected, but at the same time it was obvious that the intent of the tasting room was to convey a sense of oppulence and luxury. Looking beyond that to the wines was the goal of our tasting and a trip to the reserve room helped us do just that. They were pouring a 1999, 1989, and 1979 Georges de Latour Private Reserve along with a 1994 that they happened to have open. The '79 was absolutely showing its age, but it was a beautiful bottle. The '89 I honestly don't remember very much about, and the '99 despite being 10 years old still seemed very youthful. I'm sure that will make for a great wine 10 to 20 years down the road.

Charles Krug - Up the road a little bit we found Charles Krug. This winery has been around for a very long time and has a strong history with the Mondavi family. The grounds of the estate were pretty uninspiring, we pulled into the parking lot and went into the tasting room without a lot of fanfare. The tasting room was much the same. I key in on these things and take it as a sign that a place like that is all about the wine. We had a very nice Zinfandel followed by what was certain to be a good batch of Cabernets down the road. There were other wines thrown in, including a chardonnay I think, but nothing else stood out as fantastic.

Cuvaison - This was an interesting find. I had never heard of the winery before but I'm always happy to take a chance on something out of the way. Cuvaison is over on the Silverado Trail tucked up on the mountain side of the road. Its a small place with what seems to be limited production. We tried a couple of their Chardonnays which were quite good. I'm always a fan of Chardonnay from the Carneros and personally think its the only place worth growing Chardonnay in the Napa Valley. Well Montelena, but its so far north its like its own little microclime in Napa. We also tried a smattering of other wines but nothing stood out until the final wine, a Cab, with more tannin than anything I had tasted all day, which is a lot considering the trip had already taken us to Krug and BV. I can't say if it will be that good in years to come, but it will certainly last for quite a while. Unfortunately what kept me from enjoying the visit as much as possible was the hard sell on the wine club. I know its a huge revenue stream for the smaller producers but it just drives me nuts.

Del Dotto - Del Dotto is a bit of a connundrum for me. I don't get really excited about their wines. Maybe its because you are tasting them in a 57 degree cave or maybe its because they just aren't that good, but I can't get behind them. With that disclaimer out of the way, this is absolutely the best tour in Napa. Its educational, its entertaining, and its luxurious. The tour guide trucks you all over the caves from barrel to barrel and theives out barrel samples from what seems like endless different combinations of oak barrels and varietals. The tour ended with pizza, meats, cake, port, and bread. It was fantastic. Of course it is also $50/person, but it made for a wonderful father's day gift.

Finally I had to get back on a plane and schlep myself across the country to DC. If you've never done that at 4:30PM pacific time to land at 12:30 ET and still have to get to your hotel I will tell you it is exhaustng. I woke up refreshed however and the following day was treated to dinner at Morton's. One of our party is related to the former manager and he pulled some strings to get us some extra special treatment. The night started with 2 free botles of Paradux, a fine wine made by Duckhorn. We continued thru the night ordering so many bottles I couldn't keep up, but they were all fantastic.

I'm looking back on my Napa trip fondly and looking forward to my upcomming trips to DC. Look for more as it happens. You may notice a several links to Snooth on the site. I've signed up as an affiliate to defray some hosting costs. Please visit the links if you have any interest in the wines I mention.