Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Napa day trip

Over the long weekend we took a trip to Napa. We went to several vineyards that we wanted to try out. I had done a bit of research beforehand about some artisan vineyrads and some really well established and well known ones. Overall it was a great trip, although some of the artisan vineyards were disappointing. The Vineyards we tried were:

- Silver Oak Cellars: This was the first one on our map and undoubtedly the best. For $10 we got to try both their stellar releases: the 2002 Alexander Valley Cabernet ($60) and the 2001 Napa Cabernet ($100). For those that don't know Silver Oak only produces Cabernets and do a darn good job of it. The $10 gets you a decent wine glass and one pouring of each of the wines. This is possibly the best deal. Both the wines were very mature and amazingly well balanced. I thought the Alexander Valley was superb, until I had the Napa Valley, which was simply stunning - enough for us to shell out $100 for a bottle.
- Peju: Next was Peju, which has been touted as the best artisan vineyard of 2004/2005. There was a long line and we waited patiently for 20 minutes for our turn. Peju was interesting, but did not meet my expectations. All their wines were sweeter than I expect any of the varietals to be. Their Cab tasted more like a Merlot. I am sure they were impressing many people (the long lines were a testament to that) but did not get any votes from us.
- Provenance: Got in 5 minutes too late and were turned away. I am impressed by their wines and would love to try out their lineup. A little disappointed that they would turn us away even though they had not closed the doors yet and there were plenty of people inside.
- St. Clement: The view from their porch is quite remarkable. This is a quaint little vineyard that produces two amazing wines: The Orappas and the Cabernet. The Orappas is a blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc. It has been consistently rated in the 90s since 1991, and is definitely one of my all time favorites when it comes to blends. Visiting this vineyard was a treat. the service was awesome and the people were very hospitable. We had a great time trying all their wines, sipping wine and relaxing on their porch with a great view of St. Helena.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Hot hot Latino Vino!

Last weekend a few friends converged at our place for an evening of wine tasting, food pairings, random conversations, laughter and dirty dancing (actually that was just my imagination after the 5th glass of wine). The theme that we picked was South American Wines, and logically most people picked Argentinian and Chilean wines. Everybody thought that we were in for an evening of ho-hum wines. At the end of the part every single person agreed that they were astonished at the quality of the "Latino Vinos."

The wines on our list in the order they were served in:

Filler wine: Altos, Los Hormigas 2005 Malbec

First pour: Kaiken Ultra 2003 Malbec
Second pour: Don Melchor (Concha Y Toro), 2002 Cabernet
Third pour: Grial 2002 Carmenere
Fourth pour: Norton 2003 Privada

Filler wine: Root:1 2004 Cabernet

Altos, Los Hormigas 2005 Malbec

This a Latino bombshell from Argentina. Hard to believe that a $12 bottle of wine would be this sophisticated and complex. There is lots of dark fruit in this wine. The color is deep red, lots of fruit on the nose, and texture is smooth. This vineyard has produced some exceptional wines in the past - most notably their 2002 Reserve which currently sells for $75 in the open market. Altos gets 50% of its grape from its own vineyards, and the it sources from nearby vineyards. It uses a combination of steel and small French oak barrels, bottled in 9 months, and then stored in the bottle for 3 months. The local "Whole Paycheck" (oops, did I say that loud - I meant Whole Foods) carries it in limited supply. Run over, this is definitely a keeper. If this wine is so good this young, I wonder how good it might be in 3-4 years.

Kaiken Ultra 2003 Malbec

Kaiken (meaning wild geese) migrate between Chile and Argentina on a regular basis. The Montes folks in Chile picked up this habit and crossed over to Argentina focusing on Malbecs. This effort is a combination of 92% Malbec and 8% Cabernet. This vintage is very earthy and I could swear that I smelled tobacco and a few spices. Or was it in the food pairing?? This is a big, bold wine which probably needs a year or two in the cellar to become superb. At this price ($22), I would drink it now and put away a few bottles for years to come.