Interestingly enough, I rarely review Napa wines. Occasionally, I receive Napa wines from friends to enjoy, but I don’t receive Napa wines specifically as media samples. I am not sure if that’s because I live here and work in the wine business? The winery for which I work now encourages comparative tastings and even hosts them for staff, so I am happy there is not a conflict of interest when I do find Napa wines I feel like sharing. The past month or so, I have managed to get my hands on a few Napa wine samples and all were unexpected. I decided if they blew me away, I would write about them. Well, they did, so here we go.
2012 Coquerel Petite Sirah, Walnut Wash Vineyard, Calistoga
I don’t usually pair my wine with music, but this wine calls for two songs, Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix and Purple Rain by Prince. I really wanted to mention Purple Rain, because that’s one of my all-time favorite songs, soundtracks, and movies. The Coquerel petite sirah is so purple, it’s almost black. The fruit flavors are equally dark: blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, and plum. Add pepper, spice, and ample acidity and you have a total package petite sirah. You won’t mind that your teeth are stained when you are finished sipping. If you love petite sirah, you will love this one. $39 direct from the winery. Winemaker: Christine Barbe.
2010 Spence Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Spence is a small, private Napa winery on Howell Mountain. As good fortune would have it, I had the opportunity to taste this wine, the current release, with vintner Jacalyn Spence herself, then I took the rest of the 375ml (half) bottle with me to taste later. While beautiful right out of the bottle, I think it benefited from being open a while longer. This cabernet sauvignon is rich and supple, with fine, integrated tannins. While the nose exhibits dark berry notes, my first impressions on the palate are not fruit, but rather chocolate and coffee, enshrouded by a veil of dusty earthiness. The black cherry fruit reveals itself more in a supporting role. The spicy finish lingers longingly on the palate. $75 directly from the winery. Winemaker: Ted Osborne.
2014 Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc, St. Helena, Napa Valley
This bottle is challenging to photograph, but it looks pretty funky laying on a white surface, yes? This wine is from where I work. The tasting room staff opened this bottle and somehow a fruit fly met its demise inside, so the wine couldn’t be served. I volunteered to take it home to drink, not to review, but because I really need to keep learning about our wines. However, it turns out that I had a sauvignon blanc moment with this wine and I wanted to share it. Sauvignon blanc is one of my favorite varietal wines, but not often in Napa, where, as my co-worker and I were discussing, it is sometimes produced like a California-style chardonnay. For me, this Ehlers Estate offering is everything I want in a sauvignon blanc. If you are like me and you enjoy a clean, crisp, citrusy wine – as in lime/lemon citrus, not sweet or tropical fruit flavors – and a more substantial mouthfeel, this is your style of sauvignon blanc. It’s 100% estate, 100% organic fruit from a single vineyard on our property. Handcrafted in stainless steel and neutral French oak, it is aged sur lie for six months, which imparts a creamy texture. However, the floral aromatics, purity of fruit, and juicy acidity take center stage. $28 direct from the winery. Winemaker: Kevin Morrisey.
As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I am looking forward to spending the day with a friend who cooks like nobody’s business, and I will be providing most of the wines. I am not sure yet if I will review any of the wines I am bringing or just relax and have a good time, but I will take a notebook just in case.
Wishing you and yours a happy Thanksgiving!