Napa Valley is one of the most prestigious wine areas of the world. Does it deserve that status? The answer is an emphatic “yes”, and we were pleased to attend the trade tasting session this past Wednesday for STARS of Napa Valley 2016, planned and flawlessly executed by Ian Blackburn’s wineLA organization at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. There were about thirty fantastic wineries on hand, pouring some of their best wines from recent vintages (mostly 2012 and 2013, but with some surprises thrown in for good measure). With over 100 wines from which to choose and limited time to sample them, we couldn’t taste all of them, but what we sampled that day reconfirmed for us that Napa Valley is hard to beat, especially when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, to name just a few varietals.
Of course, we started with the whites. The Acumen Wine 2014 Sauvignon Blanc is produced using a third each of stainless steel, new French oak and older French oak, without malolactic fermentation, and stirring the lees twice weekly for eight months to impart more flavor. The result is a substantial Sauvignon Blanc whose fruit flavor really delivers. Oberon Wines has a great range of wines that begins with their 2013 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc and 2014 Los Carneros Chardonnay, which are full–flavored wines that strike the right balance of fruit freshness and acidity. Another Sauvignon Blanc with outstanding freshness is the Patland Estate Vineyards 2013 Tench Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, fermented in stainless steel and just the right amount of concrete and then oak. Another standout winery is Round Pond Estate, starting with their 2015 Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc, a crisp and bright wine revealing a palate of interesting fruit. We also enjoyed the Kenefick Ranch 2014 Pickett Road White (a Grenache Blanc with some Marsanne and a little Viognier) and the Bougetz Cellars 2014 Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc (with 8% Semillon).
The reds were also outstanding. Among our favorites were Round Pond Estate’s 2013 Kith & Kin Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon. These are phenomenal wines, full–bodied, smooth and balanced, from the second–generation grape growing MacDonnell family who, for many years, sold their premium Rutherford grapes to some of the top Napa wineries and only opened their own winery in 2007 (right before the start of the Great Recession) This is definitely a wine producer to follow closely. Other favorites included the Oberon Wines 2013 Napa Valley Merlot and 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (delicious) and the Michael Mondavi Family Estate 2011 Animo Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (grapes from high elevation Atlas Peak) and 2010 M by Michael Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon. Their 2011 Emblem Oso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (grapes from Calistoga) was also excellent. An interesting side–by–side tasting was our sampling of the La Jota Vineyards 2012 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (with its very bold flavor profile) and the Mt. Brave Wines 2012 Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon (more elegant and restrained, but still very full–bodied) who have noted winemaker Chris Carpenter in common. Both wines are excellent in their own distinctive ways. COHO Wines offerings also were notably good, including their 2012 Headwaters (a Cab/Merlot/Petit Verdot blend), 2012 Michael Black Vineyard Merlot and 2012 SummitVine Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. We also enjoyed the Raymond Vineyards 2013 Rutherford Appellation Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 LVE Cabernet (produced in collaboration with artist and performer John Legend). Last, but not least, the Mirror Wine 2012 Howell Mtn Cabernet Sauvignon and 2012 Oak Knoll Cabernet Sauvignon were very good.
They had to chase us out of the event so they could set up for the consumer tasting session that was about to begin. We definitely wanted more and we couldn’t walk away without remarking on the incredible range and depth and consistent high quality of Napa Valley wines. The accolades are well deserved.
Disclosure: We were granted complimentary media credentials for this event.
March 9, 2016 at 10:29 pm
Mike R. said:
Enjoyed this article. Thank you for the ride through Napa.