Travel, Etc. --> Charlene's Napa Trip 2017 Part III
Charlene's Napa Trip 2017
Thursday we made our way to Howell Mountain. Finally, after two and a half days of rain, the sun decided to shine, which I felt was a sign of good things to come at my most anticipated visit of the trip, Venge Vineyards. Their Silencieux Cabernet and Scout’s Honor Red Blend are staff and customer favorites at Grapevine Cottage. We were greeted by our host Bradley and treated to a private seated tasting.
Fifty percent of the winery production is made up of Scout’s Honor and Silencieux. Scout’s Honor was named for Kirk Venge’s Labrador retriever, whom he rescued in the '80s. Scout passed away in 1996. Kirk made 100 cases of a Zin blend and threw a party in Scout’s honor, gave the wine away, and is still making it 21 years later. A blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Charbono, it does not need to be aged so there is no need to hold onto it, it can be enjoyed now, they have just released the 2015 vintage.
We were treated to their Sauvignon Blanc, sourced from the Jewell vineyard in the Russian River Valley. They age their Sauv Blanc in concrete, which allows the wine to breathe and creates a creamy mouthfeel, then finish it in stainless steel tanks. Production was 9,000 cases. Citrus and stone fruits on the palate with a touch of minerality, it fisished with ripe pineapple and savory melon. Refreshing and delicious, bring on warm weather!
Next up was the Signal Fire old vines Zinfandel. Sourced from a vineyard in the northernmost part of Calistoga near Chateau Montelena, this vineyard was known as the “signal point” for early frost warnings at the turn of the century. Smudge pots were lit to warn growers of frost conditions which could be disastrous to proper ripening. Today, large fans are placed in low lying sections of vineyards to help ward off frost conditions. Average vine-age from this vineyard is 70 years and impart notes of blackberry, white pepper and honeysuckle.
The 2014 Silencieux Cabernet was a real treat. Sourced from 6 distinct Napa vineyards, it is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petite Verdot, and 2% Merlot, powerful and full-bodied, it spends 18 month in 65% new tight-grained French Oak barrels. Gentle gravity flow winemaking is used whenever possible for this and every Venge wine and it is bottled unfiltered. 1,790 cases produced.
Dinner that night was at Press in St. Helena. An American Steakhouse featuring a Napa only wine list with wines from the 1950s forward, anything cooked over their almond and cherry wood fire is outstanding. You can also order a flight of bacon from the bar, a little bit of Indiana right here in Napa!!
Friday morning brought us to our last visit of the trip, Opus. The sun was shining as we arrived and marveled at the unique architecture of the limestone and silver oak structure. We were greeted by our host, Cory, who escorted us into the salon and told us about the history of the wine and its founders, Robert Mondavi and Baron Phillipe De Rothschild, while we enjoyed a glass of Overture.
We then went to the vineyard to learn about their competitive viticulture practice, rows are planted no more than 4 feet apart, and vines are close to each other. This encourages deep roots and concentrated flavors, grapes the size of a blueberry are the perfect size. Larger fruit means there is too much water in the grape, decreasing the intensity of the finished product. They utilize gravity flow and an optical sorter, at $850,000 it is a feat of engineering, using a blast of air to reject any individual grape that does not meet specifications.
The 170 acres of vines are hand harvested at night to avoid the heat of the day and its drying effect on the fruit. They produce 300,000 bottles of Opus One a year, half of which goes overseas. The wine spends about 3 weeks in a fermentation tank, 9 months in the Grand Chai (pronounced “shay”, French for wine barrel storage room) before being moved to a second barrel room for another 9 months. Then it spends 18 months in bottle.
They utilize new French oak barrels which cost between $1,200 and $2,200 each depending on cooperage. They are able to sell barrels when the vintage is complete and recoup $400-600 per barrel, but the buyer must sign an agreement to avoid advertising that the barrels were used for Opus One.
While visiting the Grand Chai we were treated to a glass of 2013 Opus One, a superb combination of fruit and structure. We enjoyed our glass and a bonus taste of the 2011 vintage on the sunny veranda overlooking the lovely vineyard framed by mountains in the distance. The perfect end to a perfect Napa adventure!
Charlene's Napa Trip 2017 Part 1
Charlene's Napa Trip 2017 Part 2
July 5, 2017