Tag Archives: Napa

Visit to Clos Du Val – Where France meet Napa

Introduction to Clos Du Val

Clos du Val was founded in 1972 by John Goelet and winemaker Bernard Portet and is still under the same ownership. The ambition has from the beginning been to make wines with a French influence. The winery also became world renowned when they took part in the 1976 Paris tasting with their Cabernet Sauvignon and achieved eighth place.

Tasting notes for the wines from Clos Du Val

2014 Clos du Val Estate Chardonnay Block 5A Carneros

Extremely aromatic and floral nose combined with some green apples, oak and ginger. On the palate the fruit is more tropical and there is a lemon acidity. More floral and aromatic than any other Chardonnay I have tried.

2014 Clos du Val Pinot Noir Estate Pinot Noir Block 73

An abundance of cherries but also some smoke and graphite. On the palate we also get raspberries together with a good and juicy acidity. In the finish, the oak notes take a more dominant position. A generous and dense Pinot Noir.

2013 Clos du Val Merlot Estate Merlot Block 6

An abundance of blackberries both on the nose and palate but also with a rather energetic and mouthwatering acidity and a surprisingly strong tannic bite on the palate. Very full bodied on the nose but slimmer on the palate.

2012 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

The wine shows rather fresh dark berry notes where blackberries dominate but there is also some sweet marzipan notes and green pepper. The acidity is vibrant and adds some tension to the wine.

2013 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District

Dense dark berry notes with a soft expression. I find blueberries, currant and blackberries, and on the palate we also get some sandy tannins and a nice acidity that balances the fruit notes well. After a while some more herbal notes appear and there is also some well integrated oak notes.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Clos Du Val

The wines from Clos du Val are rather fruit forward but they also have a fresh and precise acidity to balance the wines. The fruit is mainly dark in the red wines and there are some oak notes but it never gets overwhelming. The Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap District with its complexity was a clear step up from the other wines.

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Visit to Inglenook – Part of Napa Valley history

Introduction to Inglenook

Inglenook was founded by the Finnish sea captain Gustave Niebaum and has had an impressive history since the first harvest in 1882. The estate plays a central role in Napa’s history and has had different owners during its lifetime. Today, the estate is owned by the Coppola family and in 2011 they also bought back the historic name of Inglenook.

In 2011 Philippe Bascaules, with a background from Chateaux Margaux in France, was appointed General Manager. Unfortunately, for Inglenook, Philippe will now return to Chateaux Margaux, but he will stay on as a consultant for Inglenook.

For a longer historic overview I recommend the Inglenook website.

A few short notes about how Inglenook produce their wines

  • Since 2003 the whole estate is certified organic.
    Everything is done by hand and they are approximately 30 fixed employees in the vineyard and winery.
  • They do green harvest to control yield.
  • Irrigation is kept to a minimum.
  • Most of the fruit for the red wines are de-stemmed.

Since Philippe Bascaules joined he has implemented some changes. Below are a few examples:

  • More focus on freshness and lower alcohol, rather than big powerful wines.
  • Harvest personell is today getting paid per hour and today a first selection of grapes is made in the field.
  • Smaller bins are used at harvest, to reduce the amount of grapes that risk getting crushed.
  • Yields have been raised to control ripeness

Tasting notes for the wines from Inglenook

2014 Inglenook Blancaneaux

Rhone-style blend of estate-grown Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier. Has not gone through malolactic fermentation.

Fresh nose with yellow pears, green apples, stone fruit and some minerals. Citric acidity with lemon and grapefruit, but still the wine keeps a soft expression.

2014 Inglenook Zinfandel Edizione Pennino

Dense dark fruit with boysenberries and blueberries. On the palate we also get some strawberries and vanilla oak notes. Good acidity and fine grained tannins. This is a rather concentrated and dense Zinfandel.

2013 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford

18 months in 90% French oak, 10% American oak. 50% new oak.

Dark fruit with mainly black currant and blackberries but also graphite and some oak notes. The acidity is rather soft but fresh and enough to balance the wine ok. There is a sandy tannic structure and herbal notes on the palate. This is a rather dense and heavy Cabernet Sauvignon but it is still not overpowered.

2013 Inglenook Rubicon

This iconic wine has been produced since 1978. All lots are vinified separately and then a blend is made. Aged in French oak where 75% is new.

Classical Cabernet Sauvignon nose with graphite, cedar and currant but also some blueberries and blackberries. Fresh palate with a cool acidity and a fine grained tannic structure. There is an oak influence but not dominant. This is a well balanced wine with a fresh juicy character in the mouth.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Inglenook

The wines from Inglenook all radiate quality and refinement. It should be said that these wines are still rather concentrated, but I was positively surprised about the new Rubicon that had a slightly slimmer profile than for example the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Zinfandel. It will be very interesting to follow the development of the Inglenook wines in the future. It is probably not surprising that Rubicon was my favorite but I also think the Blancaneaux was a positive surprise.

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Visit to Matthiasson Winery – Firmly based in the vineyards

Introduction to Matthiasson Winery

Matthiasson is a small family winery managed by Steve and Jill Matthiasson who both have an agricultural background. Their focus is primarily on the vineyards with an hands off approach to wine making. Steve also works as a consultant for other land owners, managing their vineyards. The relationships he has developed through these assignments and the knowledge about the vineyards in the area has been important for their ability to source high quality grapes for their own production.

A few short notes about how Matthiasson’s wine making

  • They produce wines from a wide variety of grapes. Some rather unusual in the Napa region, like Ribolla and Refosco.
  • They never do cold soak before fermentation. Steve thinks it can be a good method for some wines, but because they rent space in a winery time is limited instead he prefers leaving the skins after the fermentation if extra extractions is desired.
  • External yeast is used. Also this decision is partly related to the sharing of facilities with other producers. Some yeast strains can be dominant and taker over from others, so you are not sure the yeast from the grapes will have any effect on the specific wine. Therefore Steve prefers adding yeast that will not get dominated by other type of yeasts and thereby he gets better control over the process and the end result.
  • They are moving towards organic practices and will certify their own vineyards. In addition, they also consider and evaluate biodynamic practices.

Since they have such diversity in their types of wines and grapes, the process is adapted to each wine. Therefore I have added this information in each wine section, respectively.

Tasting notes for the wines from Matthiasson

2015 Matthiasson Chardonnay Linda Vista Vineyard

The fruit is harvested at five different occasions to get different expressions, where the first adds acidity. Approximately 50% of the wine has gone through Malolactic fermentation. Fermented and aged in neutral barrels.

Fresh and forward wine with apples, pineapple and stone fruit but also a very citric profile especially on the palate. The acidity is racy and slightly harsh, but this should improve with time. The wine needs some time to integrate but it is a great Chardonnay with some attitude.

2014 Matthiasson White Wine

Blend of: 50 % Sauvignon blanc, 25 % Ribolla gialla, 20 % Semillon, and 5 % Tocai friulano. Co-fermented in 20 % new Boutes barrels, and aged on its lees, with no stirring. The wine has not gone through malolactic fermentation.

Rather fruity expression both on nose and palate, with apricot, apples and some pineapple, but also white floral notes. There is also a slight oak influence and notes of flint on the nose. Medium acidity with a fresh citric expression. Well balanced wine with a fresh and fruity expression.

2013 Matthiasson Ribolla Gialla Matthiasson Vineyard

Fermented with whole cluster in a open-top tank for two weeks. Aged sur lees for 20 months in neutral barrel.

Initially honey and white flowers dominate this generous nose that has a sweet touch. Then we also get oranges, orange peels and some lemon notes. On the palate the wine gets a dryer expression and has a rather soft style with a careful but good acidity. This wine has a strong personality and would be great to pair with food.

2014 Matthiasson Zinfandel Limerick Lane

95% Zinfandel and 5% Petite sirah. Aged in neutral barrels for 18 months.

Very pure and fresh fruit notes open up the nose, containing blueberries, blackberries and some raspberries. This is transfered to the palate where we also get a cool and fresh acidity and a soft tannic structure. This is a very energetic Zinfandel.

2013 Matthiasson Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Includes 9% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot. Fruit is from seven vineyards. Aged for 20 months in French oak (20% new). From the warm 2013 vintage.

Initially rather fruity with blackberries and dark cherries, but then some cedar, graphite and leather appear on both nose and palate. The wine has a rather fresh acidic expression on the palate and a good tannic structure. Well balanced Cabernet Sauvignon that should have a long life.

2012 Matthiasson Merlot Red Hen Vineyard

They have made this wine since 2003 and Jill says, it is the reason we started our winery.
The fruit was fermented in a small, open-top tank and punched down by hand two to three times a day. Aged for 20 months in oak barrels, where 1/3 where new.
Pure and intense fruit notes with blueberries, blackberries and cherries, and on the palate we also get a slight marsipan note. There is a sandy tannic structure and a fresh acidity. The wine already drinks very well but should develop good with time. Very good and well balanced Merlot

Summary of impressions from the visit to Matthiasson

Matthiasson has an exciting range of wines, some of them very unique, which makes the tasting very interesting. Steve is also very insightful when it comes to both the work in the vineyards and in the cellar. He is very open about his opinions. The meeting with both Jill and Steve was very educational.

I was also impressed by their wines that all had their own personality. My personal favorite was the Red Hen Merlot but I was also positively surprised by the pure and fresh Zinfandel, the Ribolla’s amazing personality and the price worthy Linda Vista.

Matthiasson has been getting a lot of attention lately, which is well deserved.

 

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Visit to Dunn Vineyards – The legendary producer from Howell Mountain

Introduction to Dunn Vineyards

The estate was founded in 1979 by Randy and his wife Lori and they released their first commercial vintage in 1981 (this was the 1979 vintage). Since then they have gained a loyal following and Dunn is one of the names everyone brings up when I ask for recommendations of Napa-based producers matching my preferences for more transparent wines. This is a family business involving their children Mike and Kristina and they own their vineyards around Howell Mountain. They produce one Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mountain, but also one “Napa Valley” bottling that also includes some fruit from the Napa Valley floor sourced from other vineyards. The exceptions to this rule are the vintages from 2009-2011 that was produced only by Howell Mountain fruit.

When it comes to their vineyards it is worth mentioning that in spring 2014 they replanted their older parcel (Trailer Vineyard) and in the 2013 vintage this fruit was bottled as a single vineyard wine that is not yet released. So the 2012 Howell Mountain is the last vintage including the old vine fruit from Trailer Vineyard.

If you want to read more about their vineyards they have a good presentation on their website: http://www.dunnvineyards.com/vineyards/

During my meeting I met with Ben Hiza (working with all types of tasks, depending on season:), Mike Dunn and briefly with Randy. Their welcoming was amazingly friendly and you can definitely feel that this is a family business with an atmosphere of openness and jokes. We talked about everything from children (I had brought my one year old daughter to the meeting) to politics, differences between Scandinavia and the US, etc., but we also had some time to talk about vineyards, wines and the work in the cellar:)

A few short notes about how Dunn Vineyards produce their wines

  • The fruit is crushed and destemmed
  • Fermentation takes between 10-13 days
  • They press very lightly
  • Malolactic fermentation is done in barrel
  • They use 100% new oak
  • Wines are racked every 6 months
  • The wines are not allowed to go above 14% in alcohol. They take measure in the vineyard to ensure a lower alcohol level, but if needed they will do a de-alcoholization
  • The grapes from Howell Mountain has higher level of tannins than grapes from the Valley floor, but they never try to adjust this. Therefore their wines often are considered rough in the youth
  • Picking decisions are still made by Randy and it is based on tasting the grapes

Tasting notes for the wines from Dunn Vineyards

2011 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

Restrained but intense wine with fresh currant notes, especially on palate but also on the nose. There are also some notes of cedar, blackberries and menthol. The acidity is incredibly cool and vibrant and tannins are fine grained but still very grippy. The wine is already approachable but will definitely improve with age and has a long life ahead. Would be very interesting to taste in 15 years from now.

2012 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

On the palate this is a rather lush wine with layers of both dark and red fruit and we find currant, blackberries and some blueberries. The nose is more careful than the palate but we find the same notes. There is a juicy and slightly broad acidity and tannins are sandy and very present. At the moment there are some oak notes but they are well integrated in the wine. I would expect this wine to integrate more with time and it is a great representation of Cabernet Sauvignon.

2010 Retro Cellars Petite Sirah

Very dense and pure fruit notes of mainly dark fruit, containing blackberries, cherries, blueberries. The tannins are grippy but of good quality and there is a juicy acidity. This is a rather fruity and dense wine but still with good balance.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Dunn Vineyards

We only tasted two wines from Dunn and one made by Mike Dunn under the name “Retro Cellars” (http://www.retrocellars.com). Still, these two wines was a great demonstration in how great Napa Cabernet Sauvignon can be. The wines are fantastically well balanced and shows both energy and complexity. I have heard several times that the Dunn wines are rough and not approachable in the youth, but my opinion is that the two Howell Mountain wines I tasted are surprisingly approachable already, but they will require some decanting and a food pairing. My personal favorite of the two wines was the 2011 that showed more precision and attitude.
In the future I hope to be able to taste some of the older vintages from Dunn Vineyards. If you are in the Copenhagen region on the 18th of March you have a unique opportunity to taste the vintages between 1979 and 2013 at one of Scandinavias best restaurants, Geranium. Unfortunately I am still in the US then, so I will not be there.

 

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Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 tasting

In November I attended a Napa Valley tasting at K&L Wine merchants in San Francisco. The theme was Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 and we tasted some high profile producers and wines.

I have to be honest and say that I am not the greatest fan of powerful Cabernet Sauvignon with high levels of alcohol and oak influence, and this tasting did include several wines in this category. The wines we tasted had been double decanted 3 hours before the tasting. Below are my tasting notes.

My favorite wine in the line up was Dunn, mainly because of a strong personality and profile, but I think Lewelling, Joseph Phelps and Mondavi also are worth mentioning.

2013 Joseph Phelps Insignia

Dense but rather well integrated palate with cedar, blackcurrant, graphite, blueberries and blackberries but also vanilla from oak and a hint of barnyard notes. There are also notes of menthol, mint and an ok acidity that adds freshness. At the moment the nose is very muted but it show similar notes as on the palate. Rather inky finish with a salty touch. This is a very dense and heavy wine but not completely without balance.

2013 Caymus “Special Select” Cabernet Sauvignon

Thick heavy fruit on the palate with an abundance of Ramey Cabernet Sauvignon 2013blackcurrant, cedar, plum and vanilla from oak. More careful on the nose but it has a heavy denseness. There is an acidity that adds some freshness, but it is not enough to create a balanced wine. The wine is completely dominated by the heavy fruit notes that almost gets jammy. Extremely generous but over the top according to me.

2013 Robert Mondavi “To-Kalon” Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Rather soft fruit on the nose, dominated by darker fruit like blueberries, but also with clear nots of toasted oak that encapsulates the nose. Denser fruit on the palate but also an inkiness and salt, and in the finish there is some bitterness from oak. The wine start rather soft on the nose but it get more sharp with acidity and inkiness along the way. The wine has some elegance but unfortunately the oak does not give it a chance to shine.

2013 Cardinale Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Nice fruit core on the nose, dominated by black fruit like Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon 2013blueberries and blackcurrant, but also some oak notes. An explosion on the palate with an abundance of fruit but also a rather energetic acidity which creates a mouthwatering expression of the wine. After a while some more peppery notes appear and In the finish there is more ink and saltiness. This is a very powerful and heavy wine but still manages to keep an ok balance.

2013 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red

Very ripe and heavy fruit on the nose but also some menthol, spices and oak notes. Very jammy and almost thick on the palate with an abundance of blackcurrant fruit and leafs but also green paprika. The finish leaves a rather inky impression. This is extremely heavy and concentrated wine that does get rather overwhelming and I lack something to balance all the fruit.

2013 Ramey Pedregal

A very fruit forward wine with an abundance of Pahlmeyer Cabernet Sauvignon 2013blackcurrant and plums but also some tobacco and vanilla from oak. The palate has a rather fresh acidity and nice fruit behind all the oak and we get some rather chewy tannins. The alcohol also comes through on the palate together with ink, cedar and some menthol that adds a little freshness. The finish gets rather dominated by oak.

2013 Dunn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon 2013There is a slightly funky barnyard note on the nose but it does not get dominant and we also find earthy notes, nice blueberries, spices and blackberries. Good balance on the palate with restraint but dense fruit, an earthiness, mushrooms, cedar and a precise and energetic acidity that carries the wine well. After a while som blackcurrant appear and stays with us in the finish. This wine will be interesting to follow over the years.

2013 BV Geogres de Latour

Rather closed on the nose but still with a restraint denseness with notes of cherries, cedar and blackberries. Inky and slightly salty on the palate but with a fresh acidity. Rather sharp at the moment, and will need some time to get balanced. Some young but mouthwatering blackcurrant notes appear after a while on the palate and stays in the finish.

2013 Lewelling “Wright Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon

Pure brimming fruit notes dominate the palate, mainly from blueberries, cherries, blackberries, cassis but also some herbal notes appear after a while. A juicy fresh acidity drives the palate and combines well with the fresh fruit. Some inkiness appear in the finish together with warm alcohol notes. Nice fruit driven wine with a fresh acidity.

2013 Araujo “Altagracia” Cabernet Sauvignon

80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec.
Soft ripe dark fruit, marsipan, vanilla from oak, cedar and some black currant on this rather forward nose. Again dense on the palate and with a soft acidity. The finish is surprisingly short for such a dense wine and there is an inkiness. Big and generous wine.

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