First, what is Premier Napa Valley? Premiere Napa Valley is a Barrel Auction for the wine trade. The auction is held on a Saturday, and the days that lead up to the auction are filled with winery open houses and appellation tastings. It is an excellent opportunity to taste current and past vintages, along with meeting winemakers and owners.
Thursday, February 18th
The K&L Gang meets at Beringer for a Foster’s Portfolio tasting. The Gang includes two staff members from each store: Bryan Brick and Doug Davidson from Redwood City, Mike Jordan and Mike Barber (sorry about the Barbar spelling of your name all week on the name tags) from San Francisco and Christie Cartwright and myself from Los Angeles. We were met by my father, Clyde, for dinners only, as he had his own schedule.
11 a.m. - Beringer Winery, Saint Helena
A relaxed tasting in a private tasting room.
Highlights: 2007 Beringer “Stanly Ranch” Chardonnay, 1999 Beringer “Marston” Cab, 2006 Chateau St Jean “Cinq Cepages”
2:30 p.m. - Yountville Appellation tasting in Yountville
Highlights: 2007 Casa Piena Cab, 2007 Chanticleer Cab, 2007 Dominus, 2007 Facets Estate Red Blend (made by Gemstone), 2006 Ghost Block Single Vineyard, 2007 Kapcsandy “Endre.” 2007 Keever Estate Cabernet, 2007 Pina “Wolff Vineyard” Cab and 2007 Tor “Mast Vineyard” Cab
4 p.m. - NG (Next Generation) in Wine Tasting
This tasting took place outside one of Napa’s new hotspot restaurants “Farmstead Restaurant” at Long Meadow Ranch. We did not eat here, but I will make a point of it next trip. The “NG” tasting focuses on young and upcoming winemakers/owners.
Highlights: 2007 Frias Napa Cabernet, 2004 “Elizabeth John” Spring Mountain Cab (by Marsten), 2006 Signorello Napa Cab, 2007 Steward Pinot Noir, 2007 Steward Cab, 2007 Vineyard 7&8 Estate Cab
6:30 p.m. - Cliff Lede’s Open House
Always one of the best Open House/Parties at Premier, this one is titled “Open that Bottle Night.” Since we had six people in our group, I thought it would be best to bring a 3-liter that I had lying around the cellar. It was the 1998 Kathryn Kennedy “Lateral.” I think it was a bit tired, but it was interesting to taste. The winery opened a 6-liter of 1995 Ducru, which was showing very well. There were a ton of bottles that people brought for the event, but I found it hard to pass up the 2008 Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc and the 2006 Cliff Lede SLD Cabernet Sauvignon! Food was provided by a taco truck and a pizza truck. Very fun!
8 p.m. - Dinner at Bouchon
Foie Gras, Butter Lettuce Salad, Grilled Chicken—what more could you want? Although I heard the pork belly was quite good. Clyde brought along two magnums: 1991 Chateau Palmer, Margaux: The wine is delicious and is drinking well right now. 1971 Sutter Home Napa Cabernet Sauvignon: Very much alive. Apparently the fruit for this wine was sourced from Martha’s Vineyard—it definitely showed that Eucalypts character, bright soft fruit —you would think it would be dead but it was not at all. Very interesting wine.
Unfortunately we did not make the ZD open house that went until midnight. I guess we are getting old.
Friday, February 19th
10 a.m. – Hall Winery Appointment
I only made one appointment outside the events that were happening. It was Hall. We met at the winery above Auberge de Soleil in Rutherford, not to be confused with the winery off Highway 29 in Saint Helena.
Highlights: Wines all showed very well. Current release’05s are showing well and watch out for the ’07s. The 2007 Sacrashe was incredible!
11:30 a.m. - Shiverick Jones Portfolio Tasting at Chateau Boswell
The most crowded tasting of the trip, jam-packed with great wines and trade. It would have been easy to stay here for several hours, but we had a schedule to keep.
Highlights: Booker wines: buy what you can get your hands on; 2007 Melka “CJ,” 2007 Little Lion “Volunteer Cab,” 2006 O’Shaughnessy wines, 2006 Seven Stones Cab, 2007 Keever Cab
1 p.m. - Spring Mountain Appellation Tasting at Spring Mountain Vineyard
Always a good tasting with one heck of a cheese room to boot!
Highlights: 2006 Terra Valentine Cabs, 2006 Spring Mountain Estate Cab, 2005 Spring Mountain “Elivette,” 2007 Erna Schein “Kick Ranch” Petite Sirah, 2005 Keenan Spring Mountain Cab, 2005 Cain Five, 2007 Barnett Vineyards Cab
It was time for a for a gourmet lunch, Napa style. A stop at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher was in order. Even with the setting and all the great vineyard shots, I think this shot of Mike Barber’s burger was the best.
Personally I went with the Ahi Burger, which is always excellent!
3 p.m. - Rutherford Appellation Tasting at Peju Winery
This was a quick stop. Several good wines, which included Round Pond and Honig.
Excellent lineup at this tasting, and it was packed.
Highlights: 2007 Ghost Block Estate Cab, 2007 Oakville Winery Cab, 2006 Paradigm Cab, 2009 Groth Sauvignon Blanc
5 p.m. - Duckhorn Open House
Duckhorn always is generous about opening some older vintages at their open house. This year they opened up 1993 Duckhorn Cab from a 6-liter and a1995 Duckhorn Merlot from a 6-liter. The Cabernet showed very well: soft, still fresh and bright fruit that was well aged but not tired. The Merlot was interesting, but showed a bit less fruit and more age despite being a younger wine. They were also showing their new line of Decoy wines, Paraduxx and the current line up of Duckhorn. The 2007 Merlot is very good!
6 p.m. - Stag’s Leap District Appellation Tasting at Pine Ridge
The set-up at Pine Ridge was a club atmosphere—which was really interesting in wine caves. Luckily the bouncer let us in, and we got to taste a few wines. Chimney Rock wines showed well along with the Pine Ridge.
7 p.m. - Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Open House
Our last stop was a good one, with more older vintages that were all out of large format bottles (6-liters). They included 1979 Cask 23, 1985 SLV and 1995 Cask 23. The best wine of the day was the 1985 SLV. It was delicious and perfect to drink now. If I had some 750s I would open them soon. Why wait?
8:15 p.m. - Ad Hoc
Thomas Keller’s third restaurant in Yountville is a pretty unique place. How many restaurants do you go to where there is no menu? The deal is every night the restaurant serves a four course pre fixe menu for $50. It’s a pretty cool concept, and all served family style! Our night was veal cutlet. The food was excellent and the wines were even better.
Keeping it “real” we thought we would focus again Bordeaux again”
1987 Pichon Lalande (1.5L): Soft, drinking well, great nose, delicious out of magnum.
1988 Pichon Lalande: More closed and has a harder edge. This is not my favorite vintage for Pichon-Lalande; I think Pichon Baron ’88 is much better, but this bottle was much better than a bottle I had a couple of weeks ago.
1980 Beaulieu Vineyards PR Cab: Still alive, would drink anyday.
1982 Chasse Spleen: Killer wine, lots of sweet dark fruit still: a rustic style wine from a ripe, lush vintage.
10:30 p.m. - Down to Bouchon for a last bottle of Champagne. I luckily had enough will power to turn down a shot of tequila from Fernando Frias. That would have been bad.
Saturday February 20th
Most of the crew headed back to work. Christie and I attended the barrel tasting and auction. All wines tasted were 2008s. The wines showed pretty well. It will be a smaller crop with less wine made, but the quality surprised me. All the hype is with the ’07s so unfortuantly the ’08s are in a tricky spot. They will be wines to buy if prices are reasonable.