A King of Cabs

There are few grapes that are as well known in Napa Valley as Cabernet Sauvignon.  Most every winery makes at least one, and every sub appellation vies for the best, the most unique, the most impactful, fruit to make this king of wines out of.

Faust celebrates an ongoing, and renewed, passion for Agustin Huunees, that a great wine must be a reflection of a great vineyard.  This rich, full bodied Napa Valley Cabernet is sourced  from vineyard holdings primarily in Rutherford and Coombsville, with small lots from Yountville, Mount Veeder, Atlas Peak and St. Helena.  This unique combination of powerful valley floor fruit, unique Rutherford Bench fruit, and acidic, bright, and interesting mountain fruit from Atlas Peak makes this a special wine.

Faust is vinified at Quintessa, which was founded by Huneeus.  With his 50 years of history in wine, he firm belief in terroir is evident in this bottle.  Dark and rich, with dark chocolate and blackberry jam, a touch of Cabernet Franc and Malbec gives it an earthiness that offsets the rich valley floor fruit.

If you’re looking for a splurge bottle, check this out – at $60, it’s worth a steak dinner!

This wine was provided by the PR agency, but I drank it all on my own.

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Live Blogging: Taken Wine Co Red Wine

Taken Wine Company is based in Napa and has 3 blends.

This one is Taken Napa Valley Red Wine, a Bordeaux style blend, made from Cab and Merlot.

This is a rich cab based wine, with deep purple fruit, blackberry, and smokey dried blueberry.

The budget friendly $30 makes this an everyday enjoyable wine from Josh Phelps, who is part of the Phelps family.

High on a hill

There’s a lonely goat herd, yodeleeellooooheeho!  Or in this case, there are some horses, some cows and a whole lot of scrub brush.  Up on top of Atlas Peak, VinRoc creates micro crafted small lot Cabernet Sauvignon.  Above the fog line, overlooking the Foss Valley, where open pastures and oak trees haven’t been overtaken by vineyards, the vineyards are actually east of Stag’s Leap, which is something you don’t realize when you are driving up the hill mandering past a way of life rarely seen in Napa these days.

The estate vineyard is located between 1500-2200 feet on volcanic rocky soils, with sunny days and cool nights.  Because of the inversion layer up here above the fog, it’s actually cooler in the summer with more average hours of sunlight than the valley floor.

We first started out on the viewing platform with the Enjolie Rose, a dry Provencal style wine made from Grenache and Barbera grapes.  It was dark salmon in color, created by fermented the juice on the skins for longer than most typical roses.  It had a sweet candy nose butwas bone dry with raspberries and strawberries, with a very low ABV.  This type of rose is perfect for summer sipping on those very hot days, and at $14 a MUST BUY for summer quaffing.

Next, we moved on to the proprietary red blend, RTW.  Now, this could be Round the World, Red Table wine, Really Terrific Wine, or Rocking Thea’s Wine – whichever you prefer, it was really lovely.  This blend of Cab and Merlot had cocoa, bright dark red berries and dusty plums, and is made by selecting the Cab that won’t be used in the Estate Cab, and blending it with purchased merlot fruit.  The spice on the finish was just what I needed as we sat in the chilly breeze on an unusually dreary day.  This is a special red wine, and at $40 is a treat you can afford more than once a year.  BUY

Once we were inside the cave behind the newly built Japanese Craftsman house and visitors center, we talked to Michael a bit about his wine making techniques.  By harvesting one ton at a time, out of the total 15 tons in the vineyard, they are able to tightly control the harvest vine by vine, creating the best wine possible.  Each ton yields free run juice, which is fermented separately from the single pressing that occurs afterwards.  Once this process is complete, the barrels are fermented separately, and then blended with the rest of the harvest, to create the superior Cab that we tasted.

The 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon had rich dark black ffruit, with figs, baking spice, and black pepper.  I tasted a ot of coffee notes as well as cigar box and cedar, followed by the rich fruit of blackberries and cherries.  It did have a hint of leather and tobacco, and evolved as we sat there talking for an hour.  With only 200-300 cases produced, every bottle is a work of art.

By providing a minimally invasive environment, these truely are handcrafted wines.  Given the abundance of $100 Napa Valley Cabernets, I am not typically a big fan of the over priced cult wine.  That said, this hand made, nuanced cab is a winner in my book.  Yes, it’s pricey, but buy a bottle and hold on to it for a while.  You won’t b e sorry.  SPLURGE

VinRoc provides visitors with a unique and welcoming hospitality experience, in the middle of literally nowhere.  You will forget you are in Napa, and think you are in the foothills of horse country in Kentucky, but with really good wine.  If you’d like to visit VinRoc for yourself, they are open by appointment only and can be reached at 707-265-0943.  Please tell Michael and Kiky I sent you!

The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai and other tales of blending


First – apologies for this post being late on arrival.  As some of you may know, I have been dealing with some personal issues that have been hammering me in to the ground like Wile E. Coyote under an Acme Anvil.  I’m trying to come up for air, so here goes.  Please excuse the lack of video, since I still don’t entirely know how to work my Flip.  I will learn someday, but not today.  And the lack of pictures is mystifying since I swear I took some of at least the bottles, but they are lost.  C’est la vie, tech fail!

One recent Sunday, before the madness of Christmas, and after the food orgy of Thanksgiving, a crew of bloggers descended upon the good graces of Paul Askiman and Conn Creek Winery’s AVA Room to create our own personalized blends of wine.

The Conn Cree AVA Room is a one of a kind wine adventure, where mad scientists wine lovers, and it this case, some bloggers, can learn how Conn Creek blends its flagship wine Anthology.

The AVA Room was developed in Conn Creek’s search to find the best Cabernet Sauvignon that Napa had to offer, and in doing so, they found fruit sources from almost all of the 14 sub appellations in Napa.  In this secret room at the back of winery, next to the gardens, you will find 15 different barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon and a barrel each of the classic Bordeaux blending grapes Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Verdot.

The Cabernet barrels are grouped by major profile, like Soft, Supple, Complex, Rich and Bold.  One of the fascinating things about this experience is that as a wine ages in barrel, it may not stay in its category, as it becomes more complex or develops some backbone and loses some of the plush fruit upfront.  This is what makes wine such a tremendous beast.  Each Cab barrel starts out as 100% new French Oak, and eventually matures in 50% new / 50% neutral Oak, which also contributes tot he changes in the wine profile.

I apologize in advance for not remembering all of the different component wines – I just lost my mojo and can’t find my booklet.  If i do, I’ll be sure to share!
The base wine contenders that I particularly enjoyed were:

  • Atlas Peak – Stagecoach Vineyard
  • Rutherford – Conn Creek Vneyard
  • Stags Leap – Clos du Val Vineyard

After sampling the different options for the base wine (the Cabernet) I got to work creating my master blend.

First, I tried 50% Atlas Peak – Stagecoach, 15% Rutherford Conn Creek, 25% Stags Leap Clos Du Val, and a splash of Petite Verdot and Cab Franc.  While I liked this wine, it was the first one i tried and I found it a big of a fruit bomb with blackberry pie, subtle spice, and firm tannins.  I thought I wanted a bit more structure, so I moved on to Blend 2 while keeping careful track of this beginning.

The 2nd try was

  • 45% Atlas Peak
  • 15% Conn Creek
  • 20% Stags Leap
  • 20% Cab Franc.

This was totally different than Blend 1, and it was too earthy and I wasn’t sure if I liked it.  Back to the drawing board.

Blend 3 was another experiment.

  • 50% Rutherford Hozhone
  • 15% Conn creek
  • 20% stags leap
  • 15% cab franc.  Given that this was a totlaly differnet base wine, it wasn’t waht i was looking for.

My final blend wa a variation on Blend 2, which after much tasting and talking, was widely agreed upon (mostly by Marcy Gordon) to be the best.  Yep THE best.  Therefore, I ended my Dr. Bunson Burner experiments with:

  • 45% Atlas Peak
  • 15% Conn Creek
  • 20% Stags Leap
  • 5% Petitie Verdot
  • 15% Cabernet Franc

As I put the finishing touches on my blend, we snacked on Sift Cupcakery baked goods, and the little ginger man called out my name.  Thus, was born, the 2009 GingerMan Bordeaux Blend that I hope to enjoy at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla in June.  I really enjoyed making this wine, but I know with a little time to settle together and meld the flavors, it will become even better.  I look forward to writing about that tasting in the coming months.

The moral of this story is – for $95 you get 2 hours of hysterical fun and a LOT of wine, education on the different sub-AVAs of Napa Valley, a priceless learning experience of how the Pros do it, and…your very own bottle of wine to take home.  This is a MUST do if you are a wine geek, and you find yourself in Napa.  Considering that many Napa Cabs cost $95 just for the wine, this is a tremendous value and I reccomend it to any one who wnats a unique experience in Wine Country.  In Fact, I gave my mother a “custom blending session” gift at christmas, and my dear old brother was asking where his was.  I told him I’d consider it for his birthday if he was a good boy.

There are several places that do custom blending sessions for consumers, including Judd’s Hill (3 bottles), Bennet Lane, Fontanella (case only), and Ravenswood (half bottle).  There are probably more, but I haven’t heard of them – yet.  You can also avail yourself of Crushpad’s FuseBox, where you can blend your own samples at home and then send away for a case of custom labeled wine.  I really think that for the value and the experience, Conn Creek gets a gold medal!

Conn Creek can be found on the Silverado Trail at Conn Dam Road in Napa.  They graciously hosted us in the AVA room and were lovely!  Thanks again for your hospitality Paul!

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