Category Archives: Napa

BottleRock Napa 2017

If you’ve never been to a three-day music festival before, BottleRock Napa is a good place to start. I wasn’t sure what to think when I decided to go, and I certainly didn’t know whether or not I’d be able to hold up for the entire weekend! I’m no spring chicken, you know! Still, the idea of spending the Memorial Day Weekend enjoying great wines, delicious food, and listening to awesome live music – at four different stages – sounded fun, so away I went. I’m glad I did!

BottleRock Napa is an amazing, high-energy event. The organizers did a great job of planning and preparing, creating a comfortable and welcoming environment for guests. The main stage area was laid with fresh sod for the comfort of concert goers, and there were plenty of places to sit and relax. The staff were all amazing, and everyone there was in a great mood all weekend. And why wouldn’t they be?

Naturally the wine was amazing! What I didn’t expect is that nearly all the food was from Napa area restaurants. This was no corn-dog-and-funnel-cake festival, folks. No, this was gourmet! (I only wish I had taken pics of the food before I devoured it!)

I had an amazing time at BottleRock Napa 2017. I’m looking forward to going again. Yet, rather than prattle on about the experience, allow me to share it in pictures; both Instagram posts and individual photos. I hope you enjoy them!

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Macklemore & Ryan Lewis poppin’ some tags!

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No, we weren’t that close. This is a pic of the Jumbotron. But still…

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Happy people enjoying wine, food, and music!

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Tom Petty, rock icon

Old World v. New World Cabernet: A Total Wine & More Event

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Total Wine & More bills itself as “America’s Wine Superstore.” I would have to agree. The first two times I walked into a Total Wine store, I walked out empty handed. It was simply overwhelming. Those of you fortunate enough to live near one of their 135 stores in 18 states know what I mean. They stock more wine, beer, and spirits on their shelves than anywhere else I’ve ever seen. Simply walking through the store can be disorienting to the uninitiated. I recommend hiring a guide. If you’re ever in the Sacramento area, drop me a line and for a small fee (a bottle of sumpin’ sumpin’) I will gladly help you navigate the labyrinth.

Like so many retailers these days, Total Wine has a loyalty rewards program; they call the Total Discovery Program. Basically, you earn points for each dollar spent in the store. You start at the “Select” level, which basically gets you coupons. Rack up enough points and you level up to the “Reserve”, then “Grand Reserve” levels. At these levels, you receive discounts on products and classes, and invitations to complimentary Members-Only events.

But this post is not intended to be free advertising for this magical place. Rather, it is about an event I attended there yesterday evening. reserveApparently, even though most of my wine comes to me via online retailers, I buy enough product from Total Wine to have recently achieved “Reserve” level status. Thus, I received an invitation to their Sip & Mingle event, The Great Cab Debate: Old World vs. New World Cabernet Sauvignon. Not one to turn down an opportunity to taste world-class wine for free, I naturally submitted my RSVP accepting the invitation.

As one might imagine, this event pitted four Left Bank (Cabernet based) Bordeaux against four California Cabernet wines, in the spirit of this year’s 40th anniversary of the famous Judgment of Paris tasting. This was not a blind tasting, and as the name of the event, Sip & Mingle, implies, it was as much a social evening as a wine tasting. At these events, participants are encouraged to chat, socialize, and nibble on the snack foods provided. Sure, there were a couple of serious wine tasters present, who stood quietly in a corner sipping, spitting, and jotting notes without interacting much. But for the most part, the 20 or so people there relaxed at the tables and enjoyed the wine and conversation. It was certainly a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on a Friday evening.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “What about the wine?” Ah, yes, the wine. Most of my Bordeaux experience has been Right Bank, Merlot based, so I was anxious to try some of the prestigious Left Bank Chateau creations. These hailed from the Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Pessac-Léognan, and Pauillac appellations. The California wines included one from Paso Robles, and three from the general Napa Valley AVA. In order of recommended tasting, here’s what I thought of them:

Sextant Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles 2014

01-sextant-paso-robles-2014Brick red, ruby rim. Nose of blackberry and red currant. Flavors of blackberry, red currant, black pepper and spice. A little hot but smooth tannins. Long, spicy finish.

Retail $19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars (88-91 points)

Château Pierre de Montignac Médoc Cru Bourgeois 2011

02-chateau-pierre-de-montignac-medoc-2011Brick red, ruby rim. Plum and earth on the nose. Flavors of raspberry, sour cherry, soft oak, and spice. Bone dry with firm tannins and a medium finish.

Retail $19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars (88-91 points)

Courtney Benham Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2011

03-courtney-benham-napa-2011Purple color with brick rim. On the nose, green bell pepper, light blackberry, and dusty earth. Blackberry, black plum flavors with soft, smooth tannins and light acidity. Medium finish with berry and white pepper.

Retail $24.99

3.5 out of 5 stars (85-87 points)

Château Landat Vieilles Vignes Haut-Médoc 2012

04-chateau-landat-vieille-vignes-haut-medoc-2012Ruby color. Nose of raspberry and blackberry. Flavors of ripe raspberry, plum, red currant, earth, and spice. Supple tannins, medium acidity, and a medium, spicy finish.

Retail $29.99

4.0 out of 5 stars (88-91 points)

Christophe Limited Edition Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012

05-christophe-limited-edition-napa-valley-2012Purple color with ruby rim. Aromas of ripe blackberry and soft oak. On the palate juicy blackberry, cassis, and white pepper. Super soft tannins and light acidity. Medium finish of dark berry.

Retail $35.99

4.5 out of 5 stars (91-94 points)

Château Larrivet Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan 2009

06-chateau-larrivet-haut-brion-pessac-leognan-2009Deep purple color with ruby rim. Nose is fig, mushroom, and cedar. Flavors of ripe blackberry, cassis, black pepper, and black plum. Soft, velvety tannins and balanced acidity with a long, fruity, spicy finish.

Retail $39.99

4.0 out of 5 stars (88-91 points)

Baldacci IV Four Sons Fraternity Napa Valley Red 2012

07-baldacci-four-sons-fraternity-napa-valley-2012Deep, inky purple color. Aromas of blackberry, bramble, cassis, and a hint of licorice. On the palate, blackberry, cassis, black pepper, and spice. Rich and fruity, with soft tannins and balanced acidity. Long finish with berry, cocoa, and spice. My favorite of the evening.

Retail $46.99

4.5 out of 5 stars (91-94 points)

Château d’Armailhac Grand Cru Classé Pauillac 2012

08-chateau-darmailhac-pauillac-2012Ruby color with brick rim. On the nose, herbal notes with green bell pepper and blackberry. Flavors of blackberry, bell pepper, earth, spice, and cedar. Still young, the tannins are edgy and its a little acidic. This one needs a few more years in the cellar.

Retail $44.99

3.5 out of 5 stars (85-57 points)

This was a fun evening. Although not a blind tasting, it was interesting to compare Old World v. New World Cabernet Sauvignon based wines. Overall, as in ’76, Napa won the evening. At least for me! I look forward to my next invitation to a Total Wine & More Sip & Mingle event!

Review: Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

This is the first review in my Judgment of Paris wines series. I came up with the ridiculous idea of sampling recent vintages of each of the 10 reds and 10 whites represented in the famed blind tasting of 1976. This will probably take a couple of years to complete, but they say it’s good to have goals, right?

Freemark Abbey was one of 11 wineries representing Californian wine at the 1976 blind tasting event. In addition, Freemark Abbey has the distinction of being the only producer to have wines represented in both the reds (Cabernet Sauvignon/Bordeaux) and whites (Chardonnay/White Burgundy) competitions. The wines entered were hand-selected by the organizer, Steven Spurrier. Each of the wines chosen were considered the best of the best, and was selected over hundreds of others. So even though the Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon placed 10th out of 10 entries, it’s still a very impressive showing.

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Photo Credit: FreemarkAbbey.com

 

Freemark Abbey has no connection to nuns or monks, or any religious institutions for that matter. Nevertheless, the winery has an intriguing past, with many notable mileposts. Freemark Abbey Winery’s history dates back to 1886, when Josephine Tychson, a Victorian widow, built a redwood cellar on the site, becoming the first female winemaker in the Napa Valley. 12 years later, in 1898, a friend of Ms. Tychson named Antonio Forni bought the winery. He renamed it Lombarda Cellars in honor of the Italian town of his birth. Forni constructed the winery building which still stands today. The current name came about in 1939, when three southern California businessmen bought the winery. Charles Freeman, Marquand Foster, and Albert “Abbey” Ahern combined their names to form Freemark Abbey. Of course the role Freemark Abbey had in the 1976 Judgment of Paris, and the impact that event had on the Napa Valley, remains one of the winery’s crowning moments.

Freemark Abbey Cabernet 2012

Here’s my review of this historic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon:

I decanted the wine for a little over an hour. Deep, inky purple color. Aromas of ripe blackberry, Marionberry, and cassis, with soft oak. As the wine opened up, the luscious aromas filled the room, and some light violet scent emerges. On to the tasting! This is a rich, full-bodied wine. There are flavors of blackberry, cassis, black plum, mild oak, and pepper. The tannins are soft and smooth. The berry and oak flavors continue into the medium-long finish, with the addition of some baking spice and dark chocolate. There is also a little lingering alcohol on the finish. Paired well with grilled ribeye and roasted rosemary potatoes.

4.0 Stars (88-91 points)

Total Wine & More: $32.99

So, one down, 19 to go! Now it’s on to the next one. Wish me luck!

 

Review: Bruno Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2013

Cabernet Sauvignon. The king of the grapes. The stuff of Grand Cru Bordeaux, and Napa legends. From poets to journalists, critics to bloggers, much has been written about this most famous varietal, and much more will be in the future. None of the words put to print can adequately capture the magic that happens when a skilled winemaker plies his art on this noble grape, and produces the fine elixir sought by kings and paupers alike.

Ah, but I wax poetic. Who am I kidding? That’s not my style! Let me just say that Cabernet Sauvignon is some darn fine wine! It is one of my favorite varietals, and if you believe the stats, it is my #1 favorite. And you can’t argue with stats! I had always considered Zinfandel my favorite, but looking back on my wine apps, I have consumed and rated more Cabernet Sauvignon than any other varietal! So much so, that Vivino considers me an Expert of California Cabernet Sauvignon! I don’t know that I’m an expert of much of anything, but if Vivino says it of me, I’ll take it!IMG_0917If you follow my blog, or have read my very first post, Appetite for Wine, (found under the About tab), you know that I tend to live in the Under-$35 world of retail wine prices. Most of my purchases are in the sub-$20 region. At this price point, you can find quality, but a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon in this range is rather one-dimensional and uninspiring. Not that it’s all bad…many have very good flavor, but are often blends that dilute the unique terroir, and/or spend very little time in oak, which I consider to be very important for Cabernet. As I discussed in a previous post, A Cabernet is a Cabernet. Or Is It?, not all wines are created equally, and things like climate, soil, and blending can change the character of wines made from the same varietal. Generally speaking, as with most things in life, the higher the quality, the bigger the price tag.

Another thing you probably know about me is that I am a NakedWines.com Angel. NakedWines.com is a crowd funded winery, whose winemakers produce high quality, boutique wines, which they sell directly to Angels. By avoiding the costly and archaic three-tier system, NakedWines.com is able to pass their savings to the Angels by selling at reduced prices. Therefore, Angels get better quality for the price. NakedWines.com seeks out the best and brightest winemakers. Many of them have worked in big name wineries, and have years or decades of experience.

The wine I am reviewing today is an excellent example of both Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, and what makes NakedWines.com such a great deal. The winemaker, Richard Bruno, has more than 20 years of experience, making award-winning wines at such notable wineries as Francis Ford Coppola and Sebastiani. He is a recent addition to the NakedWines.com family, and this is the first of his wines that I have tried. It will not be my last!

Since Vivino considers me a California Cabernet expert, I am making an “Expert Recommendation” for this wine!

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Oh wow! I had to double check the Angel price on this beauty! $19.99? Must be a typo. This is at least a $40-45 bottle of Napa Cabernet!

This wine is a great example of why Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of grapes. Deep garnet in the glass, the nose is a basket of freshly picked boysenberries, blackberries, and blueberries. On the palate these berries are joined by deep, dark black currant, spice, and hearty oak. The oak enhances, but does not overpower the wine. This is a dry wine with bold tannins. But even straight from the bottle without decanting or aerating, (yes, into a glass! I’m a oenophile, not a wino!) the tannins are not harsh, but are smooth and chewy, and balanced with bright acidity. After decanting for an hour, the tannins are even smoother, the flavors enhanced, and the acidity nicely balanced. The finish lingers long with berry, spice, leather, and smoke.

This wine will age gracefully for several years, but if you have a slab of beef or lamb laying around that needs grilling, open this one up and find out what everybody is talking about. 4.5 hearts (92-94 points) now. Definite 5.0 with a couple years of age.

NW LogoIf you’d like to try this, or any of the other outstanding wines available from NakedWines.com, click here for a voucher worth $100 off a first-time order of $160 or more. You’ll be glad you did.

Cheers!

 

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