Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends
Preisers’ Reserve: It has been some time since we chose a white wine for the Reserve, but we ran into a superb Sauvignon Blanc sold by Provenance Vineyards, and made by one of our favorite winemakers, Tom Rinaldi. The 2006 Napa Valley Estate ($26) is chalk full of pear, orange, and nuts on the palate, which follow subtle aromatics leaning toward the tropics. Though stainless steel fermented and aged on the lees, a small percentage of new oak barrels was also used. This added hints of spice, and rounded out the body so that it became creamy and smooth. The Estate Sauvignon Blanc is not available in your home town, but only at the winery. So you have to visit the folks at Provenance, or call them – neither of which you will regret.
Hollywood & Vine: We had the privilege of writing about this winery when it celebrated its second release about seven years ago, and ever since we have watched with pleasure the continuing accolades achieved by both the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Chardonnay. Recently we had the opportunity to sit down and chat with one of the winery’s two partners, actor/director/screenwriter Doug Barr (last time we lunched with partner and entertainment mogul Bruce Orosz) to evaluate the new releases made by superb winemaker Celia Masyczek (ma-CHESS-key).
-2006 2480 Chardonnay ($45): This incredible Chardonnay, which is already a darling with the critics, was barrel fermented in new American oak, older French oak, and small stainless steel. It underwent no malolactic fermentation. Now this description might tend to make some shy away thinking this wine is not a traditional California Chard and thus might lack some of the region’s desired characteristics, but that would be a mistake. It evidences balance, creamy smoothness, oak influence, and wonderful crispiness. Yet, with all that beauty, it is the finish that truly sets this Chardonnay apart. It is the longest we have experienced in our month of tasting new Chards, and it provided an added surprise when it dissipated in identifiable layers. Marvelous on all levels.
-2004 2480 Cabernet Sauvignon ($78): For this 100% varietal, Celia gathered fruit from the best locations in the Valley – the Oakville Bench, high on Mt. Veeder, western Rutherford, and the slopes of Spring Mountain. Harvested in small lots, the vineyards were kept in separate barrels for six months before being blended and allowed to “marry.” All in all, 60% new oak was used and the wine was aged for 22 months. Not surprisingly, each appellation is in play here, with evidence of black fruit from Rutherford and Oakville, terroir from Spring Mountain, and structure from Mt. Veeder. These combinations provide a pleasing complexity that is hard to resist.
-Note: Though the numbers 2480 are more prominent on the bottle than “Hollywood & Vine,” the producers prefer the winery be referred to as the latter. 2480 was Doug’s address when he came to the Valley, and is also a subtle tribute to a wine pioneer. So if the owners want it, that’s OK by us. “Hollywood & Vine” it is.
Lancaster Estate: Over the past two years it seems as if it has become de rigour to describe Napa as the home of the best Cabernet Sauvignons, the Sonoma Russian River area as the place to find top Chardonnays, Santa Barbara as the region growing the most extracted Pinot Noirs, etc., etc., etc. Well, we suggest that you pay little attention to this effort to simplify regions and what will grow in each. The fact of the matter is that some wonderful Cabernets are grown in the Alexander Valley and Chalk Hill area of Sonoma, while excellent Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays prosper in county crossing Carneros.
Today we highlight Lancaster Estate, situated on the hillside in southern Alexander Valley near the confluence of the Knights Valley and Chalk Hill appellations. The Cabs and red blends crafted here by winemaker Jennifer Higgins are constant award winners and proof positive that you should watch for good wines in every region and at every opportunity.
-2004 Roth Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley ($40): 83% Cab and 17% Merlot, black cherry pervades the palate before soft tannins make themselves known. There is a medium to long finish that hints of herbs and spices. A nice $40 bottle.
-2003 Lancaster Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($65) and 2004 Lancaster Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (pre release): Some publications opined early that the 2003 vintage in both Sonoma and Napa would not be the best. We have always thought that the better winemakers made just fine 2003 wines. Unfortunately for this vintage, however, is the brilliance of the 2004 Reds now being released. The 2003 and 2004 Lancasters are perfect examples – the former offers good (but not superior) black, plummy fruit enhanced by cloves and licorice. The finish is nice, but a bit lean. On the other hand, the 2004 shows a lush ripeness, and huge plums and black cherries from front to back. The complexities of the tannins as they integrate with the fruit is a thing of beauty that you will have plenty of time to enjoy during the exceedingly long finish.
hope & grace wines: A welcome new addition to the wine industry, hope & grace is owned by long time sought after consultant Charles Hendricks (Barnett, Viader, Regusci). Serendipitously, in 2001 he chanced upon the opportunity to purchase some of the finest Pinot Noir grapes in the world – those grown in the Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Knowing a good thing when he saw it, Charles arranged with Jim Regusci to crush the fruit, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Charles has exploited another opportunity with the opening of a lovely tasting room in charming Yountville, where he is one of only two. And he has expanded his varietal production to include Chardonnay, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and, in a few weeks, Carmenere (which we have not tasted). Also, while you sip wine you can browse through a unique selection of gifts and antiques.
-2005 Chardonnay Beard Vineyards ($26): Peaches, caramel, and Eastern spices define this refreshing wine, made all the more interesting by the use of Yountville fruit – somewhat unusual for this varietal.
-2004 Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow ($38): The flagship of the winery, and deservedly so. Plums and red fruit are abundant, along with a bit of smoke and the usual Sleepy Hollow terroir.
-2004 Malbec Oakville ($60): This was the most intriguing wine we tasted at hope & grace. The nose is clove and vanilla, while we got black berries on the palate. Add a wisp of cigar box and this would go well with many meats and sauces. We did find some heat and a bit of bite during the long finish, which made us question the price point of this otherwise fine effort.
-2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Lewelling Vineyards ($48): If there has been a pleasant surprise for us this summer on the Cabernet Sauvignon front, it would be the emergence of the Lewelling Vineyard into the big time. For hope & grace, it has produced deep black fruit that simply fills the mouth with earth, spices, and herbs. A wonderful buy as well.
Wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser divide their time between Palm Beach County, Florida and the Napa Valley in California. They publish the world's most comprehensive guide to Napa Valley wineries and restaurants titled, appropriately, The Preiser Key to Napa Valley.