Love That Mountain Fruit

Look, the region is called Napa VALLEY. You’d expect there’s plenty of good stuff at low elevations. But I’ve always been excited by the uppermost regions, which I first explored at Cain and Smith-Madrone on Spring Mountain. So I was excited to be invited to a tasting of wines from Antica Napa Valley, located on Atlas Peak.

Antica is owned by Italy’s famed Antinori family, with 26 (!) generations of wine know-how. Legendary. But if this makes them seem historic (they are) as in content, resting on their laurels, living in the past, etc. that is W-R-O-N-G. Case in point is heading to Napa, founding Antica, and building a winery in 1994. Why Napa? Why not? As well as Washington State, Chile, Malta, Romania, and Hungary.

But lets head back to Napa Valley and take a look at the trio of wines I enjoyed. (Oh, and I just realized Antica=Antinori + California. Duh.)

Antica Napa Valley Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon

  • 2017 Antica Napa Valley Mountain Select Chardonnay ($35)
  • 2016 Antica Napa Valley Mountain Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($70)
  • 2014 Antica Napa Valley Townsend Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($110)

You know I love Chardonnay with oak. But good oak! Yes, that can be new oak. Just be deft with it, like if you were in your kitchen and tasked with being the architect of a judiciously buttered piece of toast.

This wine is estate-grown, the fruit is from vines ranging in age from 4-31 years and from altitudes topping 1,400 feet.

Back to the oak. Half of the barrels are new, so no overkill. Also that mountain locale means things cool down quite a bit at night, preserving freshness. So you’ve got a wine with great fruit, richness, and texture that also offers refreshment. That Fab Four makes sweet Chardonnay music, and for $35 this is a killer Napa Chard!

Speaking of price…$70. Can a wine be $70 and considered a to be a value?

I say yes.

Am I crazy?

Certainly, but not about this.

Stay with me.

Napa Cabernet is very expensive, that’s just a fact. There are a lot and I mean A LOT of bottles well over $100. I’ve tried many of them. Some are great, some are ok, and some are bad. (How’s that for top-shelf wine criticism?)

So when I tried the Antica Napa Valley Mountain Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (a preview of the new 2016 vintage), I was gobsmacked. It was really delicious. The wine had what I love about Cabernet: lots of great fruit popping all over the place with a savory backbone. It’s 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. Even though it seems like a tiny amount, the Cab Franc really adds something. (It’s one of my favorite red wine grapes, particularly from the Loire Valley.) Like the Chardonnay, it’s sourced from similarly high vineyards and made with 50% new oak.

I would split a bottle of this with a friend and get some takeout burgers or a cheesesteak or something without meat that is mushroom-forward. So you get two big-ass glasses of wine for $35 total. In this era of $15+ cocktails as the norm, is this such a bad deal?

The Townsend Vineyard was also very good but a little closed. Probably could have used some serious decanting. It just started to open up after a couple hours. This is a candidate for the cellar and I bet it sings in five years. The Townsend vineyard is slightly higher, sitting at 1,600 feet, and the wine gets the 100% new oak treatment. If I had the dough I’d buy a case of the Mountain Valley Cab and drink one every four months. I’d have a case of the 2014 Townsend waiting for me at the end of that 12-bottle/4-year period and then I would open two every year.  Then I’d drink my last bottle in 2029 and marvel at my genius and patience.

Two qualities that are definitely critical when it comes to making great wine.

Clarification: when I say “my genius” I mean “my genius about this one very specific thing I did at one point in time.” Also, did I get that math right?

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2014 Kiona Red Mt. Syrah ~ Best Buy!

2014 Kiona Syrah
91 Points – Wine & Spirits

Named Best Buy by Wine & Spirits and one of the best US Syrah’s, I was thrilled with this gorgeous Syrah from Red Mountain, one of the most notable wine regions in Washington.

Two nights ago while out dining, I ordered another notable $50 Washington Syrah, which I think the state excels in, which was luscious and rich from the beginning, but by the end it was so intense and over the top I couldn’t finish it, kind of like when you should have stopped at eating ONE chocolate truffle.

That is the perfect backdrop to what I loved about this wine. While it’s smooth and polished, it’s not overly fruity and dense, so it has a great elegant mouthfeel without being overdone. And although Red Mountain is known for it’s structure and tannins, this wine has just a wisp of that in the finish.

In 1975 Kiona planted the first vineyard on Red Mountain, an area now known for producing some of the world’s most powerful, opulent wines of distinction. And while I like most from their line-up every year, this Syrah is one of their most polished and approachable by far, partially due to the fact that they age this wine in neutral oak barrels. I do suggest decanting this wine or using your fancy aerator before drinking, as that will help open this baby up a little…

For a 91 point 100% Red Mountain Syrah with only 343 cases produced, this wine is worth buying one if not more, especially if you prefer Old World style wines over some New World fruit bombs!
David LeClaire, Sommelier

This Blog is 15 Years Old, But Where Do I Go From Here?

Photo by Brian Wilkins via Flickr.

Happy Anniversary to my blog! Fifteen years ago yesterday I published my first dang post. And almost five years ago, my legendary, fiery defense of the Champagne flute debuted.

This blog has led to opportunities, adventures, and even money-paying jobs (!). And people along the way as well. Yes, blogging helped me interact with…other humans! And speaking words and hearing them say stuff in return. Conversations, I believe they are called? Whoa.

I was searching Flickr for a cheery and/or LOL-y image, but ended up selecting this I-15 sign. Why?

Well, I’m wondering about the future of this blog. And the crow makes it look…portentous, contemplative.

This came to a head while I was at Troost, one of my favorite bars in Brooklyn and NYC as a whole. I was with a couple friends and bellyaching (something I’m very good at) about “wine, blah blah blah.” What is there to say? I was having a Wine Hamlet moment. Cue the hand-wringing.

Fortunately, someone overheard my frustration who works at Gotham Writers. Serendipity! We had a nice, inspiring, motivating chat. Lesson: If you are unhappy about some aspect of your life, complain loudly about it at a bar full of interesting, intellectual people.

Sidebar: Don’t try this at Buffalo Wild Wings, though. TVs are too loud, for starters.

So I signed up for a Creative Nonfiction class, which started last week. My first session was great. It kicked my rear in gear to work on some personal essays, pulling from my past exploits, failures, embarrassments, etc. But I plan on making these stories bearable/entertaining via a self-deprecating, humorous, vulnerable delivery. Hopefully I’ll be writing some marginally interesting stuff I can pitch to magazines and online publications. STAY TUNED.

Worst case, I go through in-class exercises, complete my homework, and have some good training under my belt. (I’m also doing some cool reading. Check out this article: “How to Write a Memoir.”)

I do feel like this blog isn’t “just” about wine. I always try and shoehorn some personal detail, annoyance, or foible into each post. I have no idea at what level I’ve succeeded, but I guess that’s for you, Dear Reader, to tell me.

Anyway, excited for the future. Onward!

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