The weather was even nicer yesterday than Thursday. When your in the Napa Valley and the temperature is in the mid 70's it is hard to have a bad day. Our first appointment is at Twomey with Tim Duncan. The winery used to be Stonegate Winery and was purchase by Silver Oak in 2000. Here we taste the current releases. 01 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Soft and fleshy – A wine made to enjoy early 01 Silver Oak Napa Cabernet Sauvignon – Shows well today. In stock 02 Twomey - lush, thick and sweet wine – loaded with mocha, vanilla bean and blackberries Our second stop for the day was Corison winery. Corison put on an exciting open house vertical tasting (if that makes any sense). Probably one of the best tastings I have attended in Napa, the older vintages from Corison showed great. It is nice to have an opportunity to taste wines from Napa that develop and age this well. Flight 1 = all Corison Napa Cabernets 1989 - well developed, still fresh, bright, fruit was a bit hard to find but still alive 1990 - Great nose, complex, alive balanced and sweet. This wine combines bottle age aromas and well developed fruit. Perfect time to drink! 1991 - mushroom and earth forest floor, wet stone , my least favorite 1992 - rich, ripe and fresh. Great balance and depth of fruit Excellent! Best wine of the tasting. 1993 - big rich fruit, blackberries and mocha Less aromas than others but great fruit! 1994 - Minty, spicy and toasty. Rich and chewy in mouth. Still young- Excellent! Flight 2= all Corison “Kronos” Cabernet 1996- Minty spicy nose. Red fruits, bing cherry long finish. Still firm and shows some tannin. 1997 - Fresh, bright vanilla bean and mocha. Lush rich mid-palate- Excellent! 1998 - Definitely lighter and more earthy. OK at best. Well made for a tough vintage. 1999 - Big and burly for corison. Firm with big ripe tannins Good 2000 - Very nice wine, drinking great now. A big step ahead of 98. Drink tonight 2001 - Big like 99 but with more fruit. Still young. Needs time. Excellent After the Corison tasting it was time for lunch. A bit tired of sit down fancy meals, we headed for Taylor’s Refresher for a Burger, a favorite stop for many. It was my first trip to Taylor’s and I have to say it was a good burger. Although not quite at the “In and Out” level, it was still delicious. There is nothing like a wine tasting after a cheeseburger. Shafer Vineyards was our next stop. Here we tasted all the new releases, set to be in stock the first week of March. They are the 2004 Chardonnay, the 2003 Firebreak and the 03 Cabernet. Along with the new releases Shafer was also pouring older vintages of Hillside Select. These vintages included 1986, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1999 and the 2002. The 2002 was probably the favorite. It is big, dense, thick and intense in its fruit .Everything you would expect from Hillside Select. The 1995 showed well while the 86 was past its peak . The rest were a bit on the tannic side, as well and being a bit simple. Our next stops were two appellation tastings. The first was the St. Helena appellation tasting and the second was the Spring Mountain tasting. There were lots of wineries at each tasting. Overall the quality from Spring Mountain was extremely high. Our favorites included Terra Valentine, Spring Mountain Vineyards, Keenan, Schweiger and Stony Hill. Our final stop of the day was at the new Paraduxx Winery, which is owned by Duckhorn. This stop was nice because we were greeted with a glass of Schramsberg Sparkling Wine at the door. After the Sparkling Wine we tasted a flight of older vintages, all served from large format bottles. Our favorites were the 1997 Estate Grown Merlot and the 1993 Three Palms Merlot. The 1983 Three Palms Merlot was the oldest wine of the day, and it showed quite well; still alive but getting a bit tired, kind of like us at this point. Along with a ton of current releases from Duckhorn, we also had a chance to taste wines from Goldeneye and Paraduxx. The winery was quite sleek and even had a DJ for the event. – Trey Beffa Day 2 was all about tastings and experiencing the different terroirs of Napa. From the mountains to the prairies to the oceans to the seas we drove all around tasting the various vinous offerings Napa was willing to put in front of our palates. There was no greater contrast than the vertical at Corison versus the vertical at Shafer. Shafer was all rustic dense hillside black fruits and Corison was lifted elegant valley floor fresh cherry fruit. Both wonderful in there own ways. The Spring Mountain tasting was very nice. It was held in the old house that was featured in the night time soap Falcon Crest. Being an LA boy, I kept asking, “Is this real?” Speaking of LA, I was doing most of the driving this day and I got accused of being an LA driver, whatever that means. All I did was slow down when I saw a tanning salon. Sheesh, some people – Chip Hammack
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
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