Friday, August 14, 2009

My Visit to Yountville in the Napa Valley

This is my fourth and final post regarding my good fortune in being in the Bay Area for business early this week with some time to visit wineries and tasting rooms in the afternoons. I love when things work out like that!

This posting is focused on three tasting rooms of some smaller wineries that I visited right in the center of Yountville. Jessup Cellars, Girard Winery, and Hope & Grace wines all have tasting rooms located right on Washington St. in Yountville.

The first stop I made was at Jessup Cellars, which has a very nice tasting room with a nice art collection adjacent to it. Jessup’s founder and winemaker is Mark Jessup, who has a background working at Robert Mondavi and Opus One among others. Here I tasted 4 different red wines and a Cabernet Port. The Cabernet Port was served with chocolates, and I must say that the Port and the chocolate made a great pairing to finish my visit there. As far as the other wines, their 2006 Merlot was quite good. It had aromas of blackberry, black raspberry, and cherry with much of the same on the palate. Strong but pleasant tannins and some acid provided a bit of balance. The Jessup 2006 Table for Four was a blend of 65% Cabernet, 15% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petite Sirah (yes it is indeed Petite Sirah and not Petit Verdot). This wine had a very nice bouquet and flavors of blackberry and cassis. This and all of Jessup’s red wines were interesting in that the color was on the lighter side, but the flavor profile was very much dark blackfruit.

Girard Winery was my next stop in Yountville. Located in walking distance from Jessup, Girard was a very nice tasting room with some unique wines and some excellent wines. Meg and Erin here were excellent hosts. In the interesting category was a blend called 2006 Mixed Blacks which consisted of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Carignane. All the grapes are mixed throughout the same vineyard in Calistoga and picked at once.

In the excellent category was their 2006 Artistry which is a much more traditional Bordeaux blend consisting of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 13% Petite Verdot, 8% Malbec, and 7% Merlot with fruit sourced from Oakville, Yountville, and St. Helena. On the nose you get aromas of black cherry and cassis with an herbal undertone. The wine has classic purple-red color with a nice full bodied, rich mouthfeel and solid tannins. It is very good now, and I believe it will become even better in a few years. This excellent Cab was a very good value at $40.

My final stop of the day was Hope & Grace wines. Here I was greeted by Tiffani, who was friendly, very knowledgeable and shares my love for Stag’s Leap District Cabernets. The winemaker at Hope & Grace, Charles Hendricks, has a long history of making wine in the valley for wineries like Regusci, Barnett, Bacio Divino, and several others. In 2001, he started making his own wines under the Hope & Grace label, which is named after his two daughters. They are a small production winery with overall production at about 2000 cases. All seven of the wines I tasted here were quite good with a couple standouts. Their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and their 2006 Russian River Pinot Noir were both very good, but their 2006 Stag’s Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon was the star here. This Cab, with fruit sourced from the Regusci Ranch, had beautiful deep, blackfruit aromas dominated by ripe black cherry and blackberry. This is one of those Cabs that I could just smell all day long. In your mouth, you get a full bodied Cab with intense fruit flavors and classic Stag’s Leap District tannins. This Cab is just absolutely delicious! Although you could, it would be a shame to enjoy this while it’s young. It should just get even better over the next 5 to 10 years. This was a perfect finish to my afternoon in Rutherford and Yountville.

Well, here I am writing from my home in the Buffalo, NY area already missing some of the wonderful wineries and tasting rooms that I visited. At least I have some wine from each of them that I brought home to enjoy over the next several years. Each time I uncork one, it will be a wonderful reminder of the great little diversion I had this week in beautiful Napa Valley. On those occasions, I will not only have some great wines, but I will also uncork some fond memories.

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