Napa Valley: Part One of My California Wine Adventure

Chateau Montelena

Chateau Montelena

I finally made it out to the Bay Area to visit my sister. Now obviously the most important part of the trip was spending time with my sister but wine tasting was definitely an added bonus! It was a pretty great trip not only did I get to see my sister but my parents came out at the same time. We went to a couple wineries in Napa and a few more in Sonoma. We also spent a day at Alcatraz and a day drinking wine and eating fresh oysters on the beach. All and all a pretty fabulous trip!

So let get down to the important stuff, wine! I’m going to split this into multiple post since there is some much to cover. Let’s start with Napa.

In Napa we went to Chateau Montelena and Duckhorn. The first thing I noticed is the price. It’s not like tasting in Michigan where if there’s a fee it usually about 5 bucks, no the fees out here are more in $20 range, but a lot of the wineries wave the fee if you buy a certain amount of wine.

Chateau Montelena was the one winery I really wanted to go to. It’s Chardonnay is the California wine that one the Judgment of Paris. If you don’t know what that is you should Google it or watch Bottle Shock( this will give you Hollywood version of events).

The first thing you notice when you get to Montelena is how beautiful it is, that’s worth the trip alone. Inside the Chateau, that seems to be built into the side of the mountain, is the tasting room. Here we tasted 5 wines. The 2011 Potter Valley Riesling, the 2010 Napa Valley Chardonnay, the 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2005 & 2006 Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. I actually preferred the whites here to the reds. Don’t get me wrong the Estate Cab was really nice but I sure wouldn’t pay $145 for it!

The Chardonnay (2010 vintage of the Judgment of Paris wine) had a hint of oak and was crisp and fresh. It was balanced and had some Vanilla in the finish. At $50 a bottle it’s not exactly an everyday wine but it was enjoyable and it was pretty cool to taste the wine that the French critics choose in 1976 even if it wasn’t the 76’.

The 2006 & 2005 Estate Cab are both priced at $145 they were good wines with the acidity necessary for aging and good fruit flavor but not worth the price in my opinion. You’re definitely paying for the name here. I will say that there was a distinct difference in flavour between the 2005 and 2006. I preferred the 2005.

At Duckhorn we tasted 8 wines. the tasting consisted of 5 wines but our server gave us 3 extra pours. The tasting was all Duckhorn wine but the extra pours were from some of Duckhorn’s sister wineries. Here we tasted the 2011 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, the 2009 Napa valley Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2008 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2009 Napa Valley Merlot, and the 2009 Three Palms Vineyard Merlot. Our three bonus pours were the Duckhorn 2008 The Discussion (an estate grown wine), the 2009 Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir and the Paraduxx 2009 Z Blend.

The prices at Duckhorn were pretty high. We tried several wines in the $80 range and The Discussion was $125. While The Discussion was a very enjoyable glass of wine I wouldn’t pay $125 for it. Again I felt like we were paying for the name more than anything else here.

The most affordable bottle at $29 a bottle was the Sauvignon Blanc, which is blended with 24% Semillon. It was light with a nice crisp taste. I got a lot of green apple on the nose. There was a nice acidity to this wine which I think would help it stand up against food. The tasting notes talk about nuances of tropical fruit which I did get some of but I don’t think I would have been able to pick it out without the tasting notes.

The Howell Mountain Cab Selling for $80 bottle is very complex and changed with every sip. It’s bottle aged for a year before release to add more complexity and it’s tannis are softer than the Napa Valley Cab. I got a lot of dark fruit and some spices like cloves in this wine but I didn’t really see the earthiness our server talked about. Again a very tasty wine but $80 is a bit pricy for the bottle.

The Paraduxx Z Blend at $48 a bottle is 62% Zinfandel, 31%cab and 7% Merlot. I really liked this wine. It was fruit forward with rich flavors of dark fruits like plums. Baking spices could also be found in this round flavorful wine. This wine definitely has the characteristics of Zin, in fact if it was 75% Zin (the percentage a wine has to be of one grape to be called that type of wine) it would probably be called a Zinfandel. This definitely isn’t a punch you in the face wine but the flavors do burst in your mouth and linger in a nice long finish.

All and all our afternoon in Napa was a great start to a fabulous trip and just left me wanting to go back and try more wineries!


Posted on November 20, 2012, in Cabernet Sauvignon, chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Reviews, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine Century Club, Wine Tasting, Wine Tours and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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