Friday February 24th, Napa Valley The weather is absolutely gorgeous up here. Chip Hammack, Martin Reyes and I are roughing it up in Napa. Today is the start of the Premier Napa Valley Wine Auction. Premier Napa Valley is a mid-winter barrel auction for the trade. This is one of the two auctions put together by the Napa Valley Vintners Association (The other, the Napa Valley Wine Auction, is held in the summer). It’s amazing how many people are in town. Retailers, wholesalers and restaurateurs are here from all over the county. The auction itself is actually on Saturday, but many of the wineries have open houses, tasting events and parties on the days leading up to the auction. The three of us got a head start yesterday. Our first appointment was a lunch at Redd restaurant, with Bob Roux of Caymus. Redd is the new hot spot in the Valley. Located in the restaurant heavy town of Yountville, Redd is sleek and modern and is run by Chef Richard Reddington. We were joined by some nice folks from New York, which brought the total for lunch to 10. We were lucky enough to enjoy a nice glass of Sancerre to start and then worked our way to the 1991 Caymus Special Select, which was served out of a 3 Liter. The 1991 Special Select blew us away. Its aromas were reminiscent of a Right Bank Bordeaux. The wine was developed but still fresh and loaded with fruit. After lunch our next appointment was at Opus One. We had a nice little private tasting, which included 1993, 1997 and the current 2002 vintage. The 2002 was showing great! If you purchased some from us recently, hold on to it. Our next appointment was a quick tasting at Flora Springs, which was highlighted by the 2002 25th Anniversary Cabernet. Since we hadn’t eaten for several hours, we decided to have an early 7 p.m. dinner at Bouchon in Napa, one of my favorite restaurants in Napa. Bouchon is a classic French Bistro. We went light, with a first course of Fois Gras followed by a delicious steak and frites. I brought a magnum of ‘75 Poujeaux , which showed great and paired with the steak nicely. It was an easy first day. Lots more to do tomorrow…More to come! —Trey Beffa Addendum: If the weather stays this nice Trey and I are going to scrap plans for opening a store in L.A., and we’re going to open a Martini Bar/Health Spa called BeffHams here in Yountville. We’ve been in talks with Thomas Keller to do the food. The concept revolves around a kind of gorging and purging scenario (very big these days in Hollywood). From what we’ve seen so far, we think it could really work. We also have plans to expand to a miniature golf/wine tasting contest. We think it would be an ideal way for Anne to study for her MW exam. —Chip Hammack
On a cold day in San Francisco, I was lucky enough to attend an intimate lunch at One Market. The occasion was a vertical tasting of Château Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The table was occupied by some of the top sommeliers in the city. Mark Bright of Michael Minna, Andrew Mosblech of A16 and Jonathon Tennenbaum of Harris Restaurant. You ask what I was doing there? Who knows. Maybe they needed to bring down the wine IQ at the table. Our host was owner/winemaker Bo Barrett. He is a straight-forward, speak from the heart style of person, a refreshing personality in this politically correct world we live in, and his knowledge of the Napa valley and winemaking is second to none Bo’s family has owned the winery (an estate going back to the late 19th century), since the mid 1960s. The wines were first made by the Barretts in 1972, and of course were put on the map when in 1976, the 1973 Chardonnay was voted top wine in a tasting in Paris. The Cabernet Sauvignon has been one of the top Cabernets from Napa Valley since the eighties and they continue to be among the very best, as I can safely attest, based on the following wines enjoyed during lunch: 2004 Napa Chardonnay – This is always one of the best Chardonnays made in California, along with Stony Hill and Mayacamas. The wine has great balance and a strong lemon character. The tropical fruit comes forward on the finish. No oak to speak of and zero malolactic fermentation. Drink/Hold. 1998 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine was the most open of the five. From a much vilified vintage, this wine showed great balance with cassis, smoke and chocolate. The tannins are soft, and this wine will be great another five years. This is not your typical warm-vintage California Cabernet. Drink. 1999 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – This was my favorite wine of the tasting. Bright fruit, great structure and a tight, long finish. This wine took a little time to open up but when it did, it was close to perfect. This is a wine that will show greatness for another decade. Drink/ Hold. 2000 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – This was one I could never really warm up to. The wine showed good ripeness and balance with mineral and red fruit. The tannins were not quite soft enough for me but it did show itself much better with food. Drink/Hold 2001 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – 2001 is a great vintage in my book overall, and this wine helped me to continue to believe. This wine showed beautiful balance and acidity with ripe fruit, earthiness and soft tannins. It never completely opened up but still was very enjoyable. This one should drink for another 15-20 years. Make this the last one of the five to open up. Hold. 2002 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine was the biggest and most powerful. Black fruits definitely come forward in this wine. Very rich and supple with good structure. This wine opened up eventually and showed a bright nose and a very lush, long finish. One could decant this now and be very happy but I think in 2-3 years this wine will show itself to be outstanding. Hold. Thanks to everyone at the lunch. It was a very good time. —Mike Jordan
2002 Blason “Venc” Friuli Isonzo Bianco ($14.99) Venc is the Friulian name for a branch of a willow used to hand-tie the grape vines. The Venc bianco is a blend of pinot bianco, tocai friulano and 5% sauvignon blanc, tank fermented and aged “sur lie” with some of the pinot bianco being barrel-fermented. This is one of those wonderful wines that work well as a cocktail white or with food. Love the floral aromatics on this baby and the palate of pear, hazelnut and a dash of vanilla. 2002 Blason “Vencjar” ($19.99) Bordeaux from Italy? Even better, Vencjar is a blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and merlot in equal parts. This is a big full-bodied red with soft tannins. Very user friendly with dark red fruit blended with walnut, leather, spice and a long richly textured finish. 2003 Baricci Rosso di Montalcino ($18.99) Great value is the first thing I think with regard to this wine 100% sangiovese. This is one of those Rossos that is a little more rustic. Lots of terroir from the “Montosoli.” Sweet earth mingles with rich and ripe fruit. It will take about an hour to let this vino to open up, and then watch how quickly this bottle empties. I’m thinking baked rigatoni with this. 2000 Baricci “Colombaio di Montosoli” Brunello di Montalcino ($36.99) Like its little sister up above this also has the classic “Montosoli” nose with lots of spice, cinnamon, cardamom and anise with a touch of leather, and brings that to the palate as well. This will need at least a couple hours of decanting and will drink over the next couple of years. Your next Sunday night dinner featuring a pork roast or even corn beef. Happy St. Paddy’s day. —Mike Parres
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