Baconlicous is St. Supery!

When you tIMG_8383hink of wine tasting, I am going to guess that you don’t typically think of line up like this.  Think of your comparative literature class from college, toss in some bacon, and you have St. Supery’s Bacon and Bordeaux tasting experience summed up.

Having tasted the wines at this Napa Valley stalwart several times, I knew that at the very least, I was going to enjoy my tasting experience, but this special tasting brings it to a new level.  Conducted upstairs, in the newly remodeled private tasting lounge, these special tastings are a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the normal rush in the tasting room.

For our tasting, we paired each of the Bordeaux style wines with a bacon-licious dish, each specifically made by the winery chef to play off of the wines.

IMG_83892012 Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a Quesedilla with smoked mozzarella and…bacon with green salsa verde.  Both the Rutherford estate fruit as well as my favorite Dollarhide go in to this blend which has fresh loganberry, pink peppercorn, ripe plums and ginger notes.  The quesedilla brought out dark spices and blue fruit, as well a ground black pepper.

Next, the 2010 Napa Vallely Estate Elu, which is 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 4% Petite Verdot, 2% Malbec, and 1% Bacon (well, really 1% Cabernet Franc.  This is St. Supery’s signature red wine, and has a beautiful Bergemot nose with savory herbal qualities.  Dark cherries, dried lavender, and blackberries in cassis syrup were paired with a classic BLT.
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Next, the 2010 Rutherford Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, which is 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot and a touch of Cab Franc and Petite Verdot, all from Rutherford.  This unctuous red wine was full of coffee and chocolate, with cracked black pepper.  Paired with a Toma Grilled Cheese with applewood Smoked Bacon, the earthy and herbal notes really sang out.

FiIMG_8391nally, the 2010 Dollarhide Elevation is 93% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7%  Malbec.  Dense and deep blackberry notes emerge from this “accidental” blend.  While it is always a blend, it’s typically over 90% Cab to soften the punch.  The Malbec adds in a dense blue fruit, with young & lively notes of dark chocolate and espresso.  As this was our dessert course, it was paired with the “Happy Childhood” – An almond butter & estate fig jam sandwich, with cassis candied bacon.

Yum!While this special tasting experience isn’t always on the menu, be sure to call ahead and make reservations for any of St. Supery’s special tastings.  Experiences start at only $35 per person (group of 4 minimum) and are an event to remember.  I can’t wait to go back and experience another version of this event as the estate garden grows through the seasons!

A special thank you to St. Supery and Scott Tracy, Guest Experience Manager for a truly spectacular tasting experience.

 

The wine and bacon were provided by St. Supery, but all of the sound effects and accolades are purely mine!

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Quinticentually Quintessa

_MG_0049Earlier this year, before I embarked on a somewhat fool-hearty mission of getting my CSW credential, I visited the Napa Valley estate of Quintessa.  Tucked away, hidden from the Silverado Trail in Rutherford, the unique gravity flow moistly underground winery pokes out from the hillside.  When the Huneeus family took ownership of the land in 1990, the land was wild and pristine – and had never been used, or abused by other vines or crops.  Having never been planted to vine, the land had none of the after effects of the post-phylloxera recovery efforts, and mandatory replanting that some older, established Napa vineyards did.  It was virgin territory, and this prime real estate was ready to plant some amazing Bordeaux varietals.  With further research done on what naturally defended against the root louse that destroyed the industry in the past, new rootstock and innovative techniques were put in to place to create an amazing site.

In 2002, the estate winery opened, it was built with a vision of a building that blended in to the natural elements.  In addition to the aesthetic beauty, careful consideration was given to the environmental impact as well as functional design for a working winery.  The result is a stunning gravity-flow winery that beginnings on the top of the hill where the crushpad is located, and continues through chutes in the floor of the crushpad that transport the juice directly to the fermentation tanks with a minimal of intervention.  With all the modern, yet mostly non-intervention techniques, you can bet there will be some great juice coming out of there!

When you visit Quintessa, you have a wealth of tasting experiences to choose from.  The Estate Tasting Experience gives guests a comprehensive visit to the facility as well as the vineyard, and a seated tasting paired with local artisan products.  But the penultimate experience is what we enjoyed, the Quintessential Quintessa.  Here, you start at the winery where you see the operation, and then take a meandering walk up the hill to the ridge where tasting pavillions have been built.  These glass gazebos offer the ability to have a fully indoor / outdoor experience, while overlooking the vineyard property below.

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Up on the ridgeline, you leave the winery and the hustle bustle of the busy Napa Valley behind.  You are truly alone, and have the time to relax, and enjoy the details of the geology of the soils, a full tasting, and a great conversation about what makes teh property so special.  And oh, the cheese!  The cheese…

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With a tasting comparison of the current releases as well as library wine, this experience is a rare and special treat in the valley.  Trying to impress out of town guests?  This is the way to do it.  I especially enjoyed comparing the fresh, young current release, with the vibrancy and fruit forward notes of blackberry and earth, as compared to the library wine, showing dense and chewy notes of tobacco, baking spice and black pepper.  Having the luxury to taste the different blends and different vintages really shows a wine lover how wines can develop over time, but also how particular vineyard sites, soil, and blending decisions impact the final result — which make no mistake — was yummy.

The Quintessential Quintessa is $125 per person, and advanced reservations are required.  I promise, it’s worth every penny!  I look forward to going back and experiencing it again soon!  Alternately, you can book an Estate Tasting, which will also be delicious and informative.

**There are no tasting notes on this post on purpose, because I encourage you to form your own opinions about the wine.  However, if I was forced to choose, I’d highly recommend the unctuous and delicious Cabernet based blends, particularly the 2010 and the older vintages that have surpassed their awkward teenage years.  The discussion of the different vineyard blocks and types of soil ties directly in to each vintage, blending decisions and final results, which is part of the fascinating study of wine.  Go forth and taste them for yourself!**

Special thanks to Fineman PR for arranging this visit.

 

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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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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