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Saturday, 18 April 2015 15:33

April 17, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Mondavi 99 Cab S. Reservr Picmonkey

1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Res.

 

Robert Mondavi

Napa Valley

Alcohol: 14%

Suggested Retail: $145 (for the current release)

 

After disappointment when opening a Bordeaux of similar age a couple of weeks ago (see our wine “Pick” for April 3), our publisher got nervous about a few other older wines he’d been saving for special occasions. Today’s featured wine had special meaning for him, since it was a bottle given to attendees at Robert Mondavi’s 90th birthday party. Better to pop a cork a little too early than too late, he figured. Fortunately, this wine from the 1998 vintage fared much better than the ’99 Chateau Magnol.

“I hadn’t sampled this particular vintage of the Mondavi Reserve Cabernet in years. When opened this week for a family birthday dinner it was different from the way I remembered it. Not worse. Not better. Just different. This Napa Cabernet Sauvignon had traded power for finesse. If it didn’t have the commanding presence that could overshadow most first-growth Bordeaux in its youth, at age 17 it did show an almost delicate side. Sourced primarily from the Oakville AVA and with most of the fruit coming from the famed To Kalon vineyard, this Cabernet Sauvignon includes a bit of Cabernet Franc (12%) and a smidgen of Petit Verdot (2%). The aroma still evokes blackberries and black currants, with a little spice in the background. Those fruits make up a major part of the taste, along with dark plum characteristics. On the palate, the wine seems lighter than younger versions of quality Napa Cabernet, but there is a long, lingering finish. Wine is a living beverage that changes over time. The presumption that older wine is automatically better than young, isn’t necessarily accurate. This week’s experience with the ’98 Mondavi Reserve was delightful, but I’m happy I chose to open the bottle this year, rather than next.”

Food Affinity: “Almost any good red meat would be enhanced by the presence of this wine in your glass (for that matter, so might special vegetarian dishes). We referenced power and finesse above—we think this wine would be a great pairing with a prime grade filet mignon, cooked medium rare.”

Saturday, 11 April 2015 22:54

April 10, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Mira Rose Picmonkey

2013 Rosé of Pinot Noir

 

Mira

Napa Valley

Alcohol: 14.2%

Suggested Retail: $27

 

“At one time wine drinkers in this country dismissed rosé as soda pop for adults. Given the style American wineries were producing, this was probably fair comment. Most of them were sweet, soft and inexpensive—pretty much White Zinfandels of a slightly darker hue.

"This was not the case in France, where rosé made in a dry style was quite popular in the south of the country, especially in Provence. Today rosés are bigger than ever there. Gerard Bertrand, a Pays d’Oc producer is quoted today in The Drinks Business as saying that rosé’s share of the domestic French wine market has risen from 15% to 30% in the last five years. Much of the growth is taking place in the premium-priced segment. In fact, Garrus, a rosé from Chateau d’Esclans in Provence, is reputed to cost more than ₤50 (about $70), according to the article at the British website.

“Many wineries in the United States are now producing dry rosés of better and better quality. Last month Vino La Monarcha, a rosé of Pinot Noir from Washington state’s Columbia Valley, was named Best of Show in the 2015 Great Northwest Wine Competition. Taste California Travel’s Wine Pick for this week is also a rosé made from Pinot Noir grapes. The aroma of the 2013 Mira is clearly that of Pinot Noir, though subtler than a fully red version of a quality Napa Valley Pinot. Scents of strawberries and rose petals lead to a feeling of richness in the mouth. There is almost a texture to the wine, which may be due—at least in part—to the alcohol level of 14.2%. This is a serious wine that showcases its provenance. At $27 it’s fairly pricey for a rosé, but quality grapes (100% Napa Pinot Noir) and winemaking (it’s fermented and aged in French oak), don’t come cheaply.”

Food Affinity: “Rich egg dishes at brunch. Mushrooms Vol au Vent. Grilled chicken with a sweet and spicy sauce.”

 

Napa V Education Ctr Charleston SC PicmonkeyCharleston tasters experience a bit of Napa Valley

TASTE News Service, March 30, 2015 - Mira Winery celebrated the Grand Opening of the Napa Valley Education Center & Tasting Room (NVEC) in mid-March. The facility gives visitors a unique Napa experience - a premiere wine destination but in Charleston, S.C., a historic culinary destination. It will offer a number of programs using interactive displays, videos and visiting speakers.

“The Napa Valley Education Center & Tasting Room is the first of its kind and we’re thrilled it is finally open,” said Mira President Jim Dyke, Jr. “Napa Valley is one of the leading winemaking regions in the world. We want to give people a sense of its place, educate them about wine and the variety of elements necessary to create wine. We believe the NVEC will become a community resource for locals and visitors alike.”

Grand opening events included a blending session led by Mira winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez in which participants created their own wine. This was followed by a discussion of vineyard practices and the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley hosted by Steve Schweizer of Schweizer Vineyards. His conversation with wine club members is the first in the NVEC’s Distinguished Speaker Series that brings leading members of the wine industry to Charleston to share their experiences and knowledge. “Napa Valley – where we source all of our grapes – has a certain magic to it. We try to capture some of that magic in every bottle of Mira, and we hope to express the same through the NVEC,” Gonzalez said. “The excitement we’ve seen from visitors, residents, and guests suggests the NVEC is a must-stop.”

The NVEC is distinguished by an 18 x 29 foot mural by famed artist David Boatwright on the side of the 68 ½ Queen Street building – an adaptation of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party” named “Renoir Redux: Exceptional Pairings.”

Mira began as a partnership between Gustavo Gonzalez, whose 20-year winemaking career started in a winery lab and led him to be head red Winemaker for Robert Mondavi Winery, and Dyke whose 20-year political career started with parking cars in the Senate Parking lot and led him to the White House. Wine writer Steve Heimoff noted, “Winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez left Robert Mondavi to do his own thing, and what an auspicious start … The wine is wonderful.”

Editor’s Note: If you’re planning to visit Napa County wineries, we suggest you first check out Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. In it you will find links to the websites of nearly all the wineries, as well as links to hundreds of Lodging and Dining options in the area.

Saturday, 28 March 2015 14:35

March 27, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Grgich Napa V Chard Picmonkey

2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay

 

Grgich Hills Estate

Napa Valley

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $42

 

“Croatian immigrant Miljenko “Mike” Grgich secured his reputation for all time when a Chardonnay he made as winemaker at Napa’s Chateau Montelena bested several top-quality French white Burgundies. That event is now known as the Judgement of Paris, which is also the name of a book by George Taber, a Time magazine reporter who attended the 1976 tasting. Soon after this triumph Mike opened his own winery in a partnership with Austin Hills of the Hills Bros. coffee family. Though Grgich Hills Estate makes several other varieties including a wonderful Zinfandel, it’s probably best known for its Chardonnay. Nothing wrong with that.

“To oversimplify, French Chardonnay grown in Burgundy tends to have a leaner, less-buttery character than California examples of this variety. It’s subtler and may be an acquired taste for many Americans. Grgich Chardonnays from the Napa Valley tend to show the sophistication of these white Burgundies, but with a California richness that seems to us to be the best of both worlds.

“Though Mike Grgich hasn’t officially retired, his nephew Ivo Jeramaz carries the title Vice President of Vineyards and Winemaking and is pretty much responsible for the wine these days. Ivo is a proponent of natural grapegrowing and all of the winery’s vineyards are now certified as organic. Most California Chardonnay wines undergo a process called malolactic fermentation, which softens the taste and may make them more attractive in the near-term. Because Grgich Chardonnay doesn’t follow this winemaking process, it retains a natural acidity which tends to make the wine a better match for food and may improve its ability to age. Complexity is enhanced by a technique known as sur lie aging in which the juice is periodically stirred or otherwise agitated with the lees (spent yeast cells). While the process may not sound appealing, it yields wines with greater richness and complexity.

“The 2012 Grgich Hills Chardonnay shows some aromas of apple and hazelnuts, followed by layered flavors of apple and melon. Lovely long finish for this elegant Chardonnay.”

Food Affinity: “It wouldn’t be bad with just simple barbecued chicken, but it is special enough to justify spending on more upscale pairing. How about scallops or almost any preparation of lobster?”

Mondavi1-new PicmonkeyTASTE News Service, February 19, 2015 – Charles Krug Winery and La Chaine des Rotisseurs announced today that centenarian Peter Mondavi, Sr. will be welcomed into La Chaine des Rotisseurs in a solo induction ceremony held at the historic Carriage House on the grounds of the Charles Krug Winery on Saturday, February 28th. Mr. Mondavi will become the oldest person ever inducted into the society and one of only a handful of members ever to receive a solo induction ceremony – the last person being His Holiness Pope Francis I.

The evening will be a black tie celebration, with authentic Italian cuisine prepared by Venice-born chef Andrea Giuliani and entertainment provided by famed Italian tenor Pasquale Esposito, who will perform a variety of traditional Italian songs including Mr. Mondavi’s personal favorite “O Sole Mio.”  Mr. Mondavi, who turned 100 years old last November 8th, will be surrounded by members of the Chaine des Rotisseurs, family and friends, as he becomes the newest member of the oldest and largest food and wine society in the world.

La Chaine des Rotisseurs traces its heritage to The Royal Guild of Goose Roasters founded in 1248 A.D. at the request of the King of France. Its mission was to greatly improve the quality and safety of food. Since that time, the society has grown into an international organization dedicated to the advancement of food and wine excellence. In 1950, this mission was revived in Paris with the creation of La Chaine des Rotisseurs, an organization which has grown internationally and now boasts over 60,000 members worldwide.

The induction of Peter Mondavi Sr. honors his life-long commitment to advancing wine quality, a goal consistent with the mission of La Chaine des Rotisseurs. Eugene Daly of the Napa-Sonoma chapter of the organization proclaimed “Peter Mondavi Sr. has spent a lifetime dedicated to improving wine quality and encouraging Americans to embrace the enjoyment of food and wine. His accomplishments are profound and greatly appreciated by La Chaine des Rotisseurs.”

The evening will include a silent auction, with all proceeds benefitting a scholarship program to Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute.

About Charles Krug WineryThe Charles Krug Winery, Napa Valley’s oldest winery, was established by Prussian immigrant Charles Krug in 1861. In 1943, Italian immigrants Cesare and Rosa Mondavi purchased the historic property, which remains a family-owned winery producing estate-driven Napa Valley wines.  Built on a foundation of family values, hard work and European winemaking tradition, the winery offers a portfolio of Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-styled wines. The winery is under the direction of Peter Mondavi Jr., who along with his brother Marc Mondavi, stewards the family business passed to them by their father, legendary Napa Valley wine icon Peter Mondavi Sr., who continues to serve as President and CEO. The family is now proudly welcoming members of the fourth generation to the business, continuing a legacy started almost 70 years ago and setting a foundation for generations to come.

Mike Grgich mustard in vnydA master with Chardonnay

TASTE News Service January 17, 2015 - In 1980 “The Great Chicago Showdown” brought together 221 of the best Chardonnays from around the world. Chardonnays from France, California, New York and even Bulgaria were collected for a historic first, the largest blind tasting of that time of one single varietal. The first vintage that Miljenko “Mike” Grgich crafted at Grgich Hills, his 1977 Chardonnay, emerged triumphant with a first place ribbon and the Chicago Tribune called it “The best Chardonnay in the world.” With this win so close on the heels of the famous 1976 Paris Tasting, where the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that Mike made took first place over some of the best French white Burgundies and American Chardonnays, he soon became affectionately known as the “King of Chardonnay.”

In 2015, Grgich Hills Estate will celebrate the 35th anniversary of this historic tasting and its legacy in Chardonnay with vintner dinners across the country, a photo contest, a new mobile application launch and much more, all culminating into two festive gala dinners. The first will be in Chicago on May 7, 2015 and the second in the Napa Valley at the winery on May 16, 2015. Mike Grgich believes this is a significant event not just for Chicago and Grgich Hills but for all of America since it proves that “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

Grgich Hills launched “The Great Chicago Chardonnay Showdown” celebration on January 15, 2015. “This is a great opportunity for our winery not only to celebrate my father’s many accomplishments but also Chardonnay, a varietal that is enjoyed and loved by so many people,” said Violet Grgich. As Mike explains, “There is no scientific formula for making great wines. You make wines with your heart.You pour your love into them and nurture them like children, and transmit to them the richness of your spirit.”

Editor's note: For more information on the winery's celebration of this event visit www.grgich.com. If you're planning a visit to this or any other of Napa's wineries, first visit the North Coast sections of the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel. There you will find links to the websites of all the wineries, as well as links to thousands of Lodging and Dining options.

by Dan Clarke

Steve Moulds seated PicmonkeySteve Moulds

Steve Moulds didn't arrive in the Napa Valley until 1998, but the move was long-planned. He and his wife-to-be Betsy met at San Jose State after returning form duty in the Peace Corps—he in Honduras, she in Brazil. After college Betsy became a school teacher, Steve a Spanish-speaking social worker helping people in the farm labor camps around Gilroy. After several years in the south Bay Area, the couple “moved back up the Peninsula” where Steve went into commercial real estate. He stayed 25 years, eventually becoming a partner in the firm.

“It was always our dream to get up to the Napa Valley,” Steve explains. Actually, Steve and Betsy spent a good deal of time in the Napa Valley before moving there, as they often visited Bob and Sue Brakesman, friends from college, who had started Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery on Howell Mountain in 1971. Steve refers to the eventual move from the Bay Area to Napa and what was to become Moulds Family Vineyard as “re-potting.”

When Steve and Betsy purchased their 57 acres northwest of the city of Napa in the Oak Knoll District there was no vineyard. Though the property was being used as horse pasture, the surrounding area had a good reputation for grapes. Cooler than sub-appellations further north in the Napa Valley, the neighborhood was mostly planted to Chardonnay, but some Pinot Noir, that other Burgundian varietal, was there also. “Early on we decided to plant Cabernet,” Moulds says. He believed the slightly cooler climate would allow a bit more “hang time” (somewhat slower ripening and longer time on the vine before picking) for greater flavor development. “We've been very pleased,” he adds.

Moulds Cab S closeup PicmonkeyPerfectly positioned Cabernet cane at Moulds Fmy Vineyard

Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for most of the 10 planted acres at Moulds Family Vineyard, but Steve has also put in some Cabernet Franc “to give another tool to one of our winemakers.” Lisa Drinkward of Behrens Family Winery on Spring Mountain confirms that Behrens is the Cab Franc client. “We love his grapes,” she says. The Cabernet Franc is really a tiny portion. We get just over a ton.” Todd Newman, whose small production Dakota Shy wines are all on allocation, is another big fan. He comments that Moulds has “a meticulous attention to detail. His very fine and very, very detailed approach allows us to come back year after year and better understand the growing scene. Steve has that passion in the vineyard like we have in the winery. It's our favorite vineyard to work with. We actually do a single-vineyard bottling from the Moulds vineyard.” Other wineries using Moulds Family Vineyard grapes include Mirror, Piper and Johnson.

Pursuit of quality doesn't come cheaply for growers in the Napa Valley. Steve Moulds walks a visitor through his hillside Cabernet Sauvignon vines, pausing to show the seemingly perfectly-placed canes. All rise between horizontally from cordons on each side of the vine. There is a plastic “Kiwi clip” around every one, which loosely tethers it to the wire so that windy days will not cause the canes to tangle. Steve does some quick calculations in his head and estimates the seemingly astronomical number of clips that go on each year. Rafael Montanez of A & J Vineyard Supply in St. Helena quotes a unit cost of three cents for each of these—not expensive, he says, until you're ordering thousands of them. Still, it's not the cost of the clips, but the cost of labor to attach them that makes this aspect of high-end farming so dear, Moulds explains

In May Steve Moulds began his two-year term as President of the 690-member Napa Valley Grapegrowers (NVG). Sustainable farming issues are a big part of the work of the NVG, but Moulds acknowledges other concerns loom. “People are concerned about the growth of tourism and the impact on the Napa Valley that our success has brought about,” he says. “Napa is a world class destination now and that brings challenges and responsibilities.

“One of the things that makes this valley so amazing is that it's been protected from overdevelopment by some forward-thinking leaders,” Moulds stresses. “In 1968 these leaders formed the agricultural preserve, one of the first in the nation, and this ag preserve has farming as the 'highest and best use' of the land. We try to guard against any incursions that are not agriculturally oriented.”

Asked about the future, Steve Moulds replies, “I'm obviously enthusiastic or I wouldn't be planting a vineyard again. It helps keep me young.” (Moulds will celebrate his 70th birthday in December, but the avid cyclist looks fitter than most men a decade or two younger.) In 1996 he took a solo bike ride from Canada to Mexico. Ten years later he cycled from Virginia to Napa and just two years ago he reversed the cross-country direction in traveling from San Diego to St. Augustine. These days Steve gets his exercise with his fellow Clydesdales. Members of this club must be over 60-years old and over 200 pounds. “We take a 30-mile ride every Friday,” he says, “and then repair to a very nice restaurant for a very long lunch to replace all the calories we've just burned off.”

Steve and Betsy planted their vineyard in 2000. “In 2003 my wife and I went back to school at Napa Valley College and in 2005 we both graduated with degrees in viticulture,” Steve says. “That was the foundation we gave ourselves by attending the (Napa Valley College) classes, but the continuing education via classes from Napa Valley Grapegrowers is so intense, so up-to-date, for me it's like going to graduate school. The NVG looks for ways to help people farm more efficiently and more sustainably. Personally, on this ranch I try to apply something new every year in an attempt to improve our quality.”

Saturday, 18 October 2014 13:04

October 17, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Mason SB 2 Picmonkey

2013 Sauvignon Blanc

 

Mason Cellars

Napa Valley

Alcohol:14%

Suggested Retail: $16

 

“Mason is something of a rarity in the Cabernet-centric Napa Valley—a Sauvignon Blanc specialist. Though the label on the 2013 vintage indicates a Napa Valley provenance, it could just as well have said 'Yountville,' as the grapes came from a single, certified organic vineyard in that growing region a few miles north of the city of Napa. Though Sauvignon Blanc is sometimes blended with Semillon—notably in Bordeaux, but occasionally in California—the Mason 2013 vintage is 100% Sauvignon Blanc.

“We found floral and melon aromas, with a bit of grapefruit in the background. In the mouth there's more of that melon and citrus aspect and some of the grassiness characteristic of the modern New Zealand style with this variety. However, there is a richness that few of the Kiwi versions can attain. This is likely due to the batonnage, a process in which Mason puts a portion of the wine into stainless steel barrels on top of the lees (spent yeast cells from the fermentation). The lees are then stirred three times a week and eventually this Sauvignon Blanc is reunited with the rest of the blend. The result is a richer, more complex finished product. In this wine we found a subtle creaminess that complemented the citrus quality. There's a lovely balance and a long finish.”

Food Affinity: “The Mason Sauvignon Blanc is definitely food-friendly. Our first thought was simply grilled white fish—perhaps halibut or sea bass. Of course, many chicken dishes would also be appropriate. A whole roast chicken with some lemon zest and sliced ginger slipped between skin and the bird's flesh would be excellent.”

Thursday, 09 October 2014 19:29

2014 Harvest Pleases Napa Valley Growers

TASTE News Service October 9, 2014 - Allison Cellini called the 2014 growing season “a bit of a roller coaster.” The Renteria Vineyard Management viticulturist was one of three panelists who presented comments this morning at the Napa Valley Grapegrowers annual news conference held at Moulds Family Vineyard.

2014 Napa Valley Grapegrower Hvst Panel PicmonkeyNapa Valley Grapegrowers begin harvest press conference in bright October sunshine

California's continuing drought, a 6.0 earthquake in August and a freak hailstorm in September were part of that roller coaster ride, but none of these was enough to spoil what is shaping up as a excellent vintage. Cellini said that the problems posed by the earthquake for Napa growers were more personal than viticultural in nature and that the tremor didn't shake any grapes off the vines.

Paul Goldberg, vineyard manager for Bettinelli Vineyards, said the growing season was “pretty slow and steady with no crazy heat spikes, nor cold snaps. We're looking at a bit of an early harvest. That usually translates into some pretty good wines. It gives the winemakers some options.” Goldberg said that ongoing replanting of existing vineyards (about 6-7% this year) “gives us advantages we wouldn't have had 30 years ago. Better rootstocks, alternate spacing and trellising systems and recently developed remote monitoring technology tend to mean higher quality fruit.

“We're always looking for ways to conserve water usage,” said Garrett Buckland, a partner at Premiere Viticultural Service. “Just by changing our management techniques, we saved quite a bit. Much of farming is risk management and we've done a pretty good job,” explained Buckland. Though August's earthquake was presumably not included in any of the growers' plans, it did have one silver lining. “A six point zero earthquake is pretty violent and that started some creeks running again (even though they were dry until the quake). That shows we're sitting on some good aquifers.”

Buckland said that prices for Napa's Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux grape varieties are at an all time high and that will allow growers to spend the money for the viticultural practices. “Quality is becoming better and better,” he declared. “And growers are getting smarter. I would expect the Napa Valley to make major strides in sustainability and quality.”

Editor's note: If you're planning a visit to the Napa Valley we suggest you first check out Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of all the Wineries, as well as to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options.

Saturday, 06 September 2014 19:31

September 5, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

Beringer 97 P Reserve Cab S Picmonkey

2007 Pvt. Res. Cabernet Sauvignon

 

Beringer

Napa Valley

Alcohol: 14.6%

Suggested Retail: $180*

*This wine not currently available at the winery. Several internet sources have it for $125-$150.

 

“Beringer's Private Reserve is a reliable example of top echelon California Cabernet and the 2007 vintage may be among their best efforts. It's 100% Cabernet Sauvignon with two-thirds of that coming from the Bancroft and Steinhauer vineyards atop Howell Mountain.

“Powerful, rich . . . you could even describe it as opulent. Aromas of cassis, blueberry and anise announce that this is a wine to be reckoned with. Lush flavors incorporating blackberries and currants are followed by subtler aspects if the wine's personality. These include a bit of sage, some cocoa and dark chocolate notes and a touch of licorice. Long and satisfying finish. Expensive, but not in that stratospheric price category of Napa cult Cabs favored by the nouveau riche consumer. Though wonderful when tasted this week, this vintage will be even better in a few more years. It's a good wine to put away for a special occasion.”

Food Affinity: “Whatever you serve with this wine, make it special. Our choice would be rack of lamb served with mashed potatoes incorporating some sour cream and horseradish”

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