Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc. --> Jim Bandy's Visit to Napa Valley May 2012 Part II

Jim Bandy's Visit to Napa Valley May 2012 Part II
Wine Guy Jim Bandy pays yet another visit to Napa Valley...

Saturday morning we were ready to go a good 30-minutes before our friends. Taking advantage of the close proximity, we walked along the Napa river and over a block to the famous Oxbow Market. If you’ve never been to the Oxbow, I can only describe it as a smaller, more upscale, foodie version of the City Market. Looking for breakfast to go, we found it was too early for most of the Oxbow vendors but not for the Farmer’s Market in the parking lot. There we chose fresh cherries and an assortment of baked goods with which to surprise our friends who by now, were probably waiting on us in the lobby. We hurried back, loaded everyone into the car, and headed out to continue our tasting experience.

Oxbow Market 610 & 644 First Street, Napa, California 94559 (707) 226-6529

Continuing with my beverage pairing with a several-course meal analogy, our ‘soup’ course for the trip was with the appointment only Buehler Vineyards. When John Buehler agreed to meet with us early on a Saturday morning we leapt at the chance. Munching on our baked goods and cherries, we made the long but oh-so beautiful drive to Buehler winery. The mailing address says St. Helena but after six miles of winding mountain roads you felt very far from town. John has been making wine professionally since 1978 from these high-quality vineyards and that experience shows. After touring us through his property, and regaling us with side-splitting stories, we returned to their office where John poured several wonderful wines. Buehler wines make regular appearances at Grapevine Cottage. If you haven’t tasted them yet, go buy some Cabernet at Grapevine Cottage now! Parker called the 2008 Cabernet a ‘real steal’ and one of the greatest ‘sleepers’ in Napa.

Buehler Vineyards, 820 Greenfield Road, Saint Helena, CA 94574 (707) 963-2155

In John’s company, time seemed to evaporate and we found ourselves behind schedule. We finally made it, though, to the historic Terraces Winery for our ‘salad’. The first vines were planted on the property in 1881. Those vines are long gone but the understanding of history in the winemaking here is a very special touch. Tastings are available by appointment only. I had met Nate Page, the assistant winemaker, and Tim Crull, owner and winemaker on an earlier visit and really wanted to go back.

I like funky salads and Terraces produces an interesting and eclectic mix of wines. From dry Riesling (yes, there is Riesling grown in California) to Petite Syrah. My favorites are their Chenin Blanc and Zinfandel. I don’t know if they submit their wines for review but they are wonderful and very reasonably priced for Napa.

The Terraces, 1450 Silverado Trail, Saint Helena, CA 94574 (707) 963-1707

Trying to get back on schedule we grabbed real food at Dean and Deluca, and ate on the drive up Spring Mountain. There we had an appointment with Mark Porembski who, with his wife Jennifer Williams, make Zeitgeist wines. Mark, who also makes wine for Charnu and Anomaly and Jennifer who is the winemaker and vineyard manager for Spottswoode, make ‘exceptionally small batch wines’ that are extraordinary. One of their releases is a Trousseau Gris. A new varietal for me, I can say this was very different from any other white I can remember; dry with both fruit and floral notes that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. As interesting as that was, my favorite is their Cabernet. And just like having gourmet truffled mac-and-cheese as a side dish, after just a sip of Zeitgeist Cabernet, you say ‘Oh my.’

Zeitgeist Cellars, Saint Helena, CA 94574 (707) 963-9017

It’s always nice to include a favorite ‘entrée’ in your menu. So, our last stop was Behren’s Family Winery, a perennial favorite with us. Robin Cooper is their sales manager and she’s so much fun! Tastings are done in a restored 1947 WestCraft trailer. It’s a fun atmosphere that makes you think you’re drinking wine on a camping trip! Behren’s Family Winery, previously known as Erna Schein, produces an eclectic array of red wines, most of which are Cabernet-based. Teeth-staining powerhouses, these are impressive smaller batch wines that earned equally impressive scores from Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate. My favorites of the current release were the Spare Me Cabernet and Kick Ranch Petite Syrah. After tasting with Robin, you can drink in the view from their mountain top location.

Behrens Family Winery
4078 Spring Mountain Road, St. Helena, California, 94574 (707) 963-1774

For our ‘dessert’ course we dined at the famed Celedon restaurant in downtown Napa just a couple of doors away from Angèle. There’s an indoor option that’s small and, at least that night, loud. So we opted to sit in the covered atrium where the atmosphere was much more conducive to a relaxed meal with good conversation. Celedon’s menu offers interesting options of which we took advantage. Our only disappointment was not having room for dessert, which looked just as delicious as our entrees.

Celedon, 500 Main Street, Suite G - Napa, CA 94559 (707) 854-9690

Like having an interesting multi-course meal, we found new tastes for us, as well as reaffirmed our devotion to some favorites. Returning to Indy that Sunday, I was happy not to have waited until next February.

Jim Bandy

Click here to see Jim's Napa Trip 2012 Part I