Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc. --> Jim's Annual Visit to Napa Valley Part 2 of 2

Jim's Annual Visit to Napa Valley Part 2 of 2
By Jim Bandy

Sunday was a bit more relaxed. We let Model Bakery fortify us again before heading up to Howell Mountain to taste with O’Shaunnessy. For those of you who have not traveled to Howell Mountain before, please note – it’s a trek! And you have to leave much earlier than you think necessary as the serpentine roads hold your speed down. This is a good thing since the scenery really isn’t to be missed.

I’m a Howell Mountain fanatic so I was in heaven, helped along by the fact that the O’Shaughnessy vineyard sits above the clouds most days. Beth arranged to be there on a Sunday and was a most gracious host. The O’Shaughnessy Sauvignon Blanc always sells out early, but we were fortunate enough to get a taste. This was a classic California take on this grape. Citrusy but with a mineral edge that kept it alive and vibrant. This wasn’t the elegant Clew from the night before, but it had more going on than the Twomey, and I felt lucky to enjoy it while overlooking the valley below. If I could have purchased some, I would have.

O’Shaughnessy makes two Cabernet’s and the first was from Mount Veeder. This 2009 almost stood up out of the glass and said ‘Hey! I’m talking to YOU!’ Lots of detail in this lovely wine, but I was on Howell Mountain and wanted Howell Cabernet, so that came next. To quote Wine Advocate’s description, because I couldn’t say it any better myself, the 2009 was: ‘all minerals, graphite and pure Howell Mountain. Layers of dark red fruit come to life… We cradled our two bottles down the mountain like rare family treasure.

Our next step was another far flung destination – Altamura Winery on the Wooden Valley Road. Maybe not quite as far as Howell Mountain, but it sure seemed like it. Altamura is the only winery in this area so if you make a reservation, you really need to be prepared for the trip. I was expecting all Cab’s, but no! We started with a Sauvignon Blanc. Altamura gets my top rating for the most unique Sauvignon Blanc I’ve ever had. It was 2012 yet Monica poured a 2006 for us. Blasphemy? I wondered. Crinkling my nose a bit I decided to be nice and try it. WOW! I still can’t believe I was drinking Sauvignon Blanc. The fruit and floral notes that leapt from the glass made me wonder if she was really pouring a young Chenin Blanc. Then she poured the 2004 and it was sublime (First I say elegant, and now sublime. Am I really talking about Sauvignon Blanc?) I could see myself drinking this all year. And I would, too, but the price was in the range of some Cabernets so I settled for just a couple to take home. Ask me in a year or two if it was a fluke.

Now we got to their Cabernet. You probably remember Altamura as the winery that regularly receives outstanding scores and was #5 on Wine Spectator’s Top Wine of the Year 2010. Grapevine Cottage has two vintages at the time I write this. The 2009 was everything I had expected. Excellent cabernet with beautifully-integrated tannins even at this young age. No wonder James Laube of Wine Spectator rated it at 94 points. This one I can see buying, or investing in, several bottles and enjoying one per year. I bet you’ll join me in saying ‘How does this keep getting better and better?’

Of all the minuscule production and non-distributed wines I experienced this trip, I am happy to say the Altamura Cabernet is available today at Grapevine Cottage. Happy because I didn’t have to make room in my suitcase for any more wine. Instead I made a beeline for the Cabernet section and scored some from Doug! Did I leave any for you?