Pops & Son 4th Wine Trip, Day 3: Chateau Jean-Gene-ie via WineTwo and tha Kaz

Chateau Jean-GeneDay 3 of our wine trilogy was my last day with Pops on this, our 4th Wine Trip together.  I wrote about the first day in Napa, here and the second, more freestyle day in Sonoma, over here.

Today we were focused on the whole reason we included Sonoma on this particular trip and a reason for which I had quite a bit of excitement…a semi-trade, private reserve tasting at longtime Sonoma Valley stalwart, Chateau St. Jean.

My family from my grandparents down to my sister and I have been making our way over to our neighboring Valley for decades to picnic and tool around the beautiful grounds.  I have to admit however, that despite having many of their more mass-produced wines, I couldn’t remember ever tasting any of their Reserves or winery-only limited run wines.  I was about to cross those off my list!

Wine 2.0WineLog.net is a member and sponser of Wine 2.0, the premiere wine industry group for utilizing new tech to bring wineries and wine-o’s closer and as such, we get invites to the various events that the Wine 2.0 folks host and promote. Implementing that philosophy, WineTwo is an interesting “trade” group in that they include your savvy wine consumer as a member as well as traditional peeps of the wine biz.  I received a rather exciting email from Cornelius Geary of WineTwo and RadCru (very big thank you!) in the middle of June that detailed an invite to a nifty limited event at the above-mentioned winery.  We were instructed to quickly reply in order to be on the list to taste a number of Chateau St. Jean’s (that’s “gene”) reserve and limited run wines.  I dashed off my reply and quietly formulated a plan on how to attend and make an entire weekend around the event (while chuckling evily) and the Pops & Son 4th Wine Trip was born!Black Bear DinerAs is usual on these trips, Pops and I arose early Saturday morning (well, early for me on a non-workday, at around 8!) and walked across the street to another on of our favorite home style restaurants, Black Bear Diner.  Here we had our second breakfast of the trip and third meal overall.  After getting nicely satiated with my favorite dish, Joe’s Scramble, we hit the road for the short, but gorgeous drive to the winery.

The Chateau is found on one of the most beautiful wine country drives in the world, along the Valley of the Moon Highway Scenic Route or Sonoma Highway (CA Route 12). Chateau St. JeanIt is a beautiful 12 mile stretch of slightly winding road that includes some of the most beautiful parkland, small towns and wineries that are to be found in the more Southern portion of Sonoma Valley. We pulled into their long driveway past some of their estate vineyards and I once again noticed the smoky air, still being funneled down from the large fire in Lake County.  You can see the haze in the photo to the left.

Per the norm with our family, Pops and I arrived 45 minutes early to the day’s session.  I actually hadn’t been to the Chateau since I was a wee lil one, so it was nice to get to walk around for a bit.  The grounds are beautifully landscaped and I could have just relaxed in one of the many chairs on on one of many benches all day, enjoying the wind through the gardens.  Chateau St. JeanAlas, heavy lifting work (wine crystal) was to be done and I headed off in search of the people in charge of the activities for the day.

After strolling around a bit and talking to many of the friendly people on the staff at the winery, I was directed to Philippe Thibault, the energetic and knowledgeable Hospitality Manager for the property.  He lead us over to the small Redwood grove where we would be tasting their wines.  Being so early, no one else had yet arrived, but Philippe took care of that by giving us some early background on the winery’s history and calling for some outstanding single vineyard Pinot Blanc to whet our palates for the upcoming wines.

Chateau St. JeanWhile grapes have been grown on the 250 acre property since the 1920’s when it was a summer home for Michigan mining baron Ernest Goff, Chateau St. Jean as it is today, was established in 1973.  Family members Robert and Edward Merzoian and Kenneth Sheffield purchased the estate and named it after Jean Sheffield Merzoian, their sister, sister-in-law or wife, depending on the family member; hence the pronunciation. They replanted with a mixture of red and white grapes.  The Chateau has been meticulously restored and is now listed in the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Chateau St. JeanOther attendees of the day started arriving while we chatted with Philippe and it was then that we found out that Cornelius, the event planner, would be unable to attend and J. Smoke Wallin and his wife Anitra would be leading the proceedings.  We were poured some more Pinot Blanc into our Riedel stemware and then we chose and a table and got started.

J. Smoke WallinWe shared a table with a young and very diverse mix of wine-lovers, along with Smoke and Anitra.  Pops and I unwrapped the delicate spread of cheese, bread and olives and I prepared my palate a bit with some of bread.  Philippe provided some thorough commentary on each wine as we progressed through the lineup. I found at least a little to like and sometimes to love with each wine.  While I was a little underwhelmed with the Fumé Blanc, I really enjoyed the aforementioned Pinot Blanc and even the Reserve Chardonnay, though it isn’t in the style that I normally enjoy.  Despite the toasty oak, it still retained some great crispness and finished with a mix of heavy and racy elements…a nimble linebacker, if I may.

Chateau St. JeanAs we progressed into the reds, we hit the highlights of the tasting.  The Cinq Cépages was a tremendous example of a legendary meritage continuing to hit its mark. Understated oak with a still closed nose and palate, but the depths of black fruit belie the future greatness of this blend.  At one point I asked Philippe the rationale for having a Malbec after the ’03 Reserve Merlot and he instantly switched the order, but I actually think the original lineup was more correct.  The ’03 Reserve Merlot was a masterful red wine with a healthy dose of aging that isn’t normally seen.  No unstructured fruit bomb here.  Chateau St. JeanA new wine for the Chateau, it was a silky stunner, with all colors of fruit lurking in its depths, surrounded by good balance and structure and some dark chocolate.  The ’04 Reserve Malbec followed, but was actually a smaller wine, and seemed a bit worn out after the wonderful Merlot. After finishing the Malbec and the dregs from some of the earlier wines, Pops and I had to leave to catch the final act of the day, a visit to a winery that I’d been meaning to visit for years, Kaz!

Kaz!Kaz Winery & Vineyard are the twisted brainchild of one Richard “Kaz” Kasmier, former professional photographer and one who seems to be happily crazy in this world of stodgy wine.  He believes in organic vineyard management and is more than willing to include or disclude new and old vinting techniques in order to make the best wine.  Kaz!His wines are geared towards food and always have big backbone of acidity to accompany their very pure fruit characteristics.  With Randy Hall he also co-hosts the long-running www.WineBizRadio.comWine Biz Radio, found both online and on KSVY-FM 91.3 in the Sonoma Valley.  His family is deeply involved in the operations of the winery, with his wife Sandi hosting some of our pours (free with blogger credentials!) and his son Ryan designing many of the labels and the cheeky website.

Pops and I drove just a bit North of the Chateau and pulled into the winery, a bit more in the backwoods of the valley off of Adobe Canyon Road on the outskirts of Kenwood. We strolled into the restored Barn and were greeted by Kaz, himself!  He quickly popped the cork on some of his racy Trixie’s Secret Rosa and we got started.  Tripping through the rosé we decided to go right into the reds, where I was an instant fan of the ’05 Dudes and the ’05 Moo Vedra, buying a bottle of the latter when we left.  Kaz!Both were unusually mouth-watering vineyard-based expressions of two fav varietals of mine, Petit Sirah and Mourvèdre, respectively.  I especially loved the spicy tobacco and black fruit in the Moo, and I’m still hoping that Pops hasn’t slurped up that bottle, as I forgot it at their digs in Napa!  We finished with a fortified wine from Kaz’s other label, the Bodega Bay Portworks.  Incidentally, you can also rent the house that Kaz and Sandi own near the golf course in Bodega Bay.  It’s a great pad and Pops and I have seen it many times before during our our numerous family visits over my lifetime (if you do go, be sure to visit Gourmet au Bay!!).  After receiving a call from Moms and Na, intercontinentally (is that a word?) from Paris, we finally decided to call it a day, and bid farewell to Kaz, his family and his highly unique and delicious barn of wines.

Feel free to check out all of the reviews from our last day tasting, below. They’re in the order that they were tasted. If you would like to list all of these wines in your own WineLog, I’ve tagged them with “4thPSWT2008“, along with all of the others in this trip. Enjoy!

Chateau St. Jean Alexander Valley Robert Young Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2006

Chateau St. Jean Alexander Valley Lyon Vineyard Fumé Blanc 2006

Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Valley St. Jean Estate Vineyard Viognier 2006

Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County Reserve Chardonnay 2005

Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County Reserve Pinot Noir 2005

Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County Cinq Cépages Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County Reserve Merlot 2003

Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County Reserve Malbec 2004

Kaz Lake County Trixie’s Secret Nebbiolo Rosa 2007

Kaz Sonoma Valley Plunge Sangiovese 2005

Kaz Sonoma Valley Hooligan’s Grenache 2005

Kaz Sonoma County Dudes Petit Sirah 2005

Kaz Sonoma Valley Red Said Fred 2005

Kaz Sonoma County Moo Vedra Mourvèdre 2005

Bodega Bay Portworks Sonoma Valley Admirals Reserve Lot 8 Red Port NV

Pops & Son 4th Wine Trip, Day 2: The Good and the Bad

Carneros MapFriday was the sandwiched day of our trip, a continuation of the 4th wine trip that I’ve taken with Pops. I wrote about the first day when we visited Flora Springs via GiftyBox and Pope Valley Winery. It was the beef in our burger, cold cuts in the sammy, ice cream in the It’s-It, or…ok, enough! Anyhow, Friday was our transition day to from Napa to Sonoma. It was also the only day on the trip where Pops and I had no set plans.

We started the day as usual, having coffee at Brown’s Valley Yogurt & Espresso Bar, with Pops’ buddies. Following that, we headed out, alllll the wayyyy to Sonoma (it’s about 20 minutes max, from my Parents’ home in Brown’s Valley, Napa). Our first stop was actually a couple miles South of Sonoma at one of our favorite diners, the Schellville Grill. It’s been serving great down-home food for decades and almost just as consistently, flooding every Winter. The all-important big wine-tasting breakfast accomplished, we headed further South to the Sonoma portion of Carneros after some thoughtful planning over our country potatoes.

Napa to Sonoma
Carneros is one of the few sub-appellations in California that actually straddles two full appellations, Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. It is a much cooler region, known mainly for their Burgundian varietals, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. As the North Bay inland temperatures gain in digits during the later afternoon in areas such as Napa, Yountville, Calistoga or Sonoma, thor lower air mass rises, drawing in cool air from the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific. Cline Cellars Cool Climate SyrahThis allows the grapes to cool down during that critical part of the day, retain their acidity and slow sugar development. All of this allows for longer hangtime, particularly for those two cool climate varietals. I find two other varietals make even more interesting wine from this region, however. Cool climate Syrah and Merlot have really piqued my interest of late. I think that it gives these traditionally jammier and perhaps, flabbier wines more structure and restrained power. This tension creates some fascinating aromas and flavors that combine into a more complete wine than might be seen in warmer climes.

Cline CellarsThe first winery we visited was Cline Cellars, one of the longtime producers of wine in California and well-known for their Zinfandel as well as their wines from their original hometown of Oakley in Contra Costa County. After starting at the outside temporary wine bar alongside the beautiful pond and plaza, we moved indoors and were nicely served by Stan. He had a tremendous store of information about Cline and their extensive vineyard holdings around the state. The ’06 Cool Climate Syrah and ’07 Cashmere GSM blend were two of my favorites. Pops and I both agreed that all of the wines had exceptional quality for their low prices. After diplomatically deflecting an out of state tourist’s colorful comment about my mohawk, we decided to head out a little further South to Viansa.

ViansaI’ve heard mixed reviews of Viansa Winery & Italian Marketplace over the years. It was described as both bombastic and impersonal and conversely that it was a wonderful enclave of Italian culture. It was time to see for ourselves. Originally started by part of the venerable Sonoma wine family of Sebastiani, it is now owned by small conglomerate. Pops and I pulled into the rather full parking lot and I was concerned that it might be too busy to be enjoyable. As we stepped into the upper part of winery towards the tasting room, we realized that we might have been right…it was packed. Pops had already made the decision to skip this one, but I trudged on (it’s rough, I tell you!). I was making no headway after almost 10 minutes, however. ViansaAs I looked behind myself, I saw another bar (which you can see in the back of the photo) that was empty and unmanned despite the other bar stacking 4 people deep. I did get a couple tastes after a pourer urged others in front of me to pass along my glass, but I lost my patience over the next 10 minutes and set my wine glass down 3 tastes short with my payment as a coaster. While heading back out to the parking lot, Pops and I asked the sort of maitre’d of the establishment about some back story and about why the other bar was empty. He proceeded to tell us that it was *too slow* at the winery that day and they didn’t want to open the other bar…a rather confounding decision, to say the least!

JacuzziWe hung a right out of the parking lot and headed over to another flamboyantly, Italian styled winery and Cline owned property, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards. Jacuzzi has some gorgeous architecture, but has definitely taken inspiration in scope from the neighboring Valley’s palatial wine estates. While impressive and very rustic, it does tend to give off a bit of an ostentatious feel, which is very rare in the more rural Carneros, minus the previous winery that we had just left. Fred Cline, owner of our first winery of the day, began making Jacuzzi wines in a tribute to his grandfather, JacuzziValeriano Jacuzzi, the famed inventor and home winemaker in 1994. They finally finished their palatial winery last Summer and have quickly built up a large contingent of wine visitors. Pops and I were taken care of by a tag team of Linda and Robert, who were very courteous pourers. My favorite wine pick from Jacuzzi was (as no surprise to my loyal readers) their ’04 Valeriano Super Tuscan blend, made up of Estate fruit from their extensive cooler climate holdings in Carneros. While it would have been nice to hang out for a bit to enjoy the view from their piazza overlooking the Los Carneros watershed alas, it was time to head to another venerable California wine destination.

Buena VistaBuena Vista Carneros has an extremely long and sometimes storied history in California. Originally founded as the very first winery in California in 1857 by the self-described Count Agoston Haraszthy, a very colorful Godfather of wine in this state, it has been through many iterations since then and seen it’s original extensive holdings split up (indeed, another favorite winery of mine Bartholomew Park, is on land that was part of the original estate and named for one of the owners over the years, Frank Bartholomew). I can recall numerous family picnic visits to this winery as a child with vivid recollection due to the incredible original Buena Vistaarchitecture that houses the winery and tasting rooms. Boasting one of the best places to picnic in the Carneros (or Sonoma for that matter), I was excited to actually be old enough to finally taste their numerous small lot wine selections from their Estate Vineyard Series. Diane treated us to some fine selections of mainly Pinot and Chardonnay, with my palate enjoying the Pinots the best. It was pretty difficult to pick a favorite from the series that features small lot wines, all with different clonal selections from their premiere Ramal Vineyard in Carneros. The Chards were not in the style that I prefer, that buttery, full-bodied and toasty “Napa Style” that is more to Mom’s palate, but I can’t deny how well those wines embodied that style. Their lineup of reds were really the stars of the day, however.

SebastianiAfter finishing up the last of the Pinots, we headed out for a quick stop at the last wine destination of the day at another legendary Sonoma family winery, Sebastiani in the town of Sonoma. The Sebastiani’s have been growing and making wine in the valley for over a hundred years, starting in 1904 with Samuele Sebastiani, a Tuscan who emigrated to the valley at the turn of the century. The last couple decades have seen the Sebastiani’s emerge as one of the premiere domestic negociants, as well as the producers of solid and affordable estate grown wines. Their extensive campus has recently completed renovatons, something from which their website could also benefit as it is a bit cumbersome to navigate. We only had a brief time to visit here before they were close to closing, but I did get to taste a nice selection of wines that were ably poured and described by Jerry before heading out to an early dinner. Their ’06 Barbera was the most interesting wine of the group.

Buena VistaWe finished up the day with an early dinner at the longtime Irish pub establishment just off the Plaza, Murphy’s Irish Pub. It was some darn good grub and it was great to have a rather refreshing Irish brew after a long day of wine tasting. We then headed back to our hotel for some pool time. We stayed at the the Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn & Krug Event Center, also just off the Plaza. While it was relatively nice and had a decent pool and spa area, it was not worth the $200 that we spent on our standard 2 bed room. One boost however, was the free Friday wine tasting happy hour. Now, normally these things feature mass-produced wines that can be found in any supermarket, but the Inn was not going that route that night. Steve Morvai from Roshambo was there pouring some of their very latest releases, which was a very nice treat. I was amazed that I could still clamor for more wines to taste! It was a nice, relaxing way to complete a very good day with Pops.

Feel free to check out my reviews below of all of the wines that we tasted on that second day of our trip. All are tagged as the others that we tasted on this trip, with “4thPSWT2008” if you would like to list these wines in your own WineLog. Enjoy!

Buena Vista Carneros Estate Vineyard Series Ramal Vineyard Clone 17 RY Chardonnay 2005

Buena Vista Carneros Estate Vineyard Series Ramal Vineyard Clone 5 Pommard Pinot Noir 2005

Buena Vista Carneros Estate Vineyard Series Ramal Vineyard Clone 828 Pinot Noir 2005

Buena Vista Carneros Estate Vineyard Series Ramal Vineyard Dijon Clones Chardonnay 2005

Buena Vista Carneros Estate Vineyard Series Ramal Vineyard Dijon Clones Chardonnay 2006

Buena Vista Carneros Estate Vineyard Series Ramal Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004

Buena Vista Carneros Estate Vineyard Series Ramal Vineyard Pinot Noir 2005

Buena Vista Carneros Estate Vineyard Series Ramal Vineyard Syrah 2005

Cline California Cashmere 2007

Cline California Oakley fiveREDS 2006

Cline California Oakley fourWHITES 2007

Cline California Zinfandel 2006

Cline Carneros Estate Marsanne Roussane 2007

Cline Contra Costa County Ancient Vines Mourvèdre 2006

Cline Contra Costa County Mourvèdre Rosé 2006

Cline Los Carneros Estate Syrah 2005

Cline Los Carneros Estate Viognier 2007

Cline Sonoma Coast Cool Climate Estate Syrah 2006

Cline Sonoma Coast Estate Pinot Gris 2007

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Carneros Giuseppina Estate Chardonnay 2006

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Carneros Valeriano 2004

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Knights Valley Dolcetto 2006

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards North Coast Morine Ranch Primitivo 2005

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Paicines Arneis 2006

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Sonoma Coast Rosso di Sette Fratelli Estate Merlot 2005

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Sonoma Valley Gold Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Tracy Hills Nero D’Avola 2006

Roshambo Dry Creek Valley Frank Johnson Vineyards Gorey Gewurztraminer 2007

Sebastiani Alexander Valley Appellation Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Sebastiani Hames Valley Adagio Port 2005

Sebastiani Russian River Valley Unoaked Appellation Selection Chardonnay 2007

Sebastiani Sonoma County Proprietor’s Wine Selection Secolo 2005

Sebastiani Sonoma Valley Appellation Selection Barbera 2006

Viansa Sonoma County Arneis 2005

Viansa Sonoma Valley Riserva Anatra Bianco 2005

Pops & Son 4th Wine Trip, Day 1: Giftybox, Flora & the Pope

OK, so I wasn’t off gift shopping for some flowers to take to the Pope, I admit it. His continent was involved, however. Pops walking to Buena VistaA few weeks back, my sister and my mom headed off into the skies towards a three week trip in London and Paris. Freed from familial ties, my Dad and I decided that it was time for another Pops & Son Wine Trip, this time in the Summer. Previous wine trips taken during my week off from the day job during the holidays have included Glen Ellen and surrounding Sonoma wineries, Healdsburg and surrounding wineries and wineries in Napa that we had yet to visit. This time we were planning on doing a hybrid of both valleys.

Earlier this year, Jason and Kim sent me this really great wine gift package to review, from Giftybox.com. I figured that this would be a great time to use my Winery Tour & Tasting package. It’s actually quite a neat idea. You get a nicely bound book of the 60+ wineries with which they’ve partnered across the US to choose your winery, where you receive a variation of a private tour and Reserve tasting for two that includes a hand chosen free bottle of wine. Giftybox.com Winery Tour & TastingIt’s essentially a wonderfully conceived package geared towards that person or couple whom you always have trouble figuring out a new gift each year. California has the most wineries of course, but they also feature wineries in 8 other states. If wine isn’t your friends’ thing, than you can choose to send them any of the 7 other Giftyboxes that they sell including the Outdoor Adventure and the Spa & Well-Being for Two. After much deliberation, I chose to go to Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards with Pops, a longtime wine producer in Napa that I’d yet to visit during my wine adventures.

Flora Springs Winery & VineyardsFlora Springs Winery & Vineyards is a third generation, family owned and operated winery that has been producing highly acclaimed, primarily Estate wines for over 30 years on their 300 acre estate just South of St. Helena. The entrance is actually at the Western end of Zinfandel Lane in the Northern part of the Valley. The estate name refers to the matriarch of the family who together with her husband Jerry Komes, purchased the original vineyards and ghost winery in the late 70’s. The property included a natural aquifer that continues to provide the main estate with all of its water needs. Since that original purchase, the winery has been upgraded with numerous improvements over the years including a huge cave system, new winemaking facilities and a large solar array that complements their sustainable, organic farming philosophy by providing all of the power that the winery requires, and then some. They are also about to reopen their tasting room on Highway 29, newly housed in a highly unique property designed by Joel Miroglio of Miroglio Architecture + Design.

Flora Springs Winery & VineyardsAs we pulled in through the gate at the head of the property, we were curious as to whom might be leading our package that day. We were very pleased to find that our guide was incredibly nice and extremely well-informed about the property and winemaking in general. Flora Springs’ Hospitality Coordinator Flora Springs Winery & VineyardsJason Bullock gave perhaps, the finest and most engaging and informative winery tour that I’ve yet had the great pleasure to attend during my wine adventures. We started off with some tasting in the main tasting room on the property then headed out to tour some of the Merlot vineyards (Pops’ favorite grape!) that are found next to the Bocce court in front of the main building. Jason easily answered all of my technical questions, including the reasons for planting Merlot both N-S and E-W (for historical reasons and in order to capture the differences that sunlight can drive in the taste profile of the fruit).

Flora Springs Winery & VineyardsFollowing the vineyard tour, we headed into the most exciting part of the tour, a surprisingly long walk through their caves sent into the hillside and below their aquifer. At the end of the cave tour we were treated to a very unique and fascinating barrel tasting experience: 3 tastes of the sleeping 2006 Napa Estate Cab, from Hungarian, American and French oak. All were produced from the same cooperage and toasted with the same medium toast (one thing I love about Flora Springs’ wines is the restrained use of oak…no oak bombs were to be found!). I found the Hungarian oak really seemed to highlight the bright red fruit in the wine, whereas the American tended to bring out secondary characteristics like tobacco and a nice earthiness. The French oak had more traditional oak notes up front of spicy vanilla and some dill. Great stuff, regardless of the aging material and I can’t wait to taste this wine from the bottle in a few years!

Flora Springs Winery & VineyardsWe finished our day at Flora Springs with an impromptu blind tasting of the ’04 and ’05 Trilogy, which was a very cool way to see the influences of vintage and blending on a wine. The Trilogy is one of the original and most renowned meritage blends from California and these continued this wine’s legend. The 2004 was tied with their phenomenal Rosé of Sangiovese for the best wines of the day. At the end of the day we chose to trade the free bottle of wine for a discount on the wines that we chose to purchase and bid adieu and many thank you’s to Jason and a glorious wine experience. I highly recommend visiting Flora Springs when you are visiting Napa (call ahead for a similar tour and say Ward exhorts you ask for Jason!). The Giftybox package was a wonderful experience and highly recommended for those wine lovers in your circle of friends and family.

After a tasty lunch up the road at Taylor’s Refresher in St. Helena, we took the long way around to the other side of the Valley and headed past PUC towards Pope Valley. As we headed further Northwest, the air got smokier and smokier and by the time we stopped at our destination we could actually taste the smoke in the air from the Lake County fire (hmm, this wine is some smokey oak notes!). That coupled with the rather stifling heat made the thought of cooking our newly bought wine in the back of the car. Forunately we’ve had some experience tasting wines during the summer and Pops had brought along one of his coolers to keep our vino nice and cool.

Pope Valley WineryAfter a hazy but enjoyable scenic drive, we arrived at one of the oldest wineries sites in Napa County, now known as Pope Valley Winery. The property where Pope Valley Winery resides has been an operating winery off and on since 1897, and much of the wonderfully historic property dates all the way back from when Ed Haus first started a winery on that ranch that he named the Burgundy Winery & Olive Factory. Two more iterations later, the latest version was started by a partnership of six longtime Pope Valley residents Jim, Sam, and Henry Eakles, Ralf Gerdes, Manny Gomes and Rodney Young in 1998. Various family members of the partners work in and around the ranch and winery, but when we got to the small, original wooden building that housed the tasting room, we couldn’t find anyone to help us. We had somehow managed to walk right by the sign at the door that instructs you to ring the bell when you arrive to get the tasting started…oops! Our tasting hostess for the day, the charismatic Shelley Byrne, was kind enough to demonstrate the proper technique later during a quick tour of the property.

Pope Valley WineryThe highlights from the (nicely) long list of Estate wines that Shelley opened for us were the ’06 Sangiovese Rosé and the ’05 Reserve Cab. Winemaker Greg Gallagher has crafted some very interesting and site-driven wines that are quite a steal at their prices. This is a perfect winery to visit when you want a no-nonsense, family-style wine tasting experience cloaked in comforting history. I definitely want to make a trip back up and spend some more time on their ranch. I’m also quite interested to follow the progress that is being made to make Pope Valley its own Napa sub-appellation. A lot of fruit is now being grown up in this small valley and the earthier fruit that ripens well in the hotter days and yet retains its food-friendly acidity can create some very unique Bordeaux-varietal wines. I hope to see more wines that feature only Pope Valley fruit!

Feel free to check out my full reviews of all of the wines that my Dad and I tasted that day. All of the wines that we tasted on this 4th wine trip together are tagged with “4thPSWT2008“. Enjoy!

Flora Springs Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Flora Springs Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Flora Springs Napa Valley Merlot 2005

Flora Springs Napa Valley Pinot Grigio 2007

Flora Springs Napa Valley Sangiovese Rosato 2007

Flora Springs Napa Valley Trilogy 2004

Flora Springs Napa Valley Trilogy 2005

Flora Springs Oakville Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc 2006

Pope Valley Winery Napa Valley Bella Rosa Estate Sangiovese Rosé 2006

Pope Valley Winery Napa Valley Eakle Ranch Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Pope Valley Winery Napa Valley Eakle Ranch Estate Merlot 2005

Pope Valley Winery Napa Valley Eakle Ranch Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Pope Valley Winery Napa Valley Eakle Ranch Sangiovese 2006

Pope Valley Winery Napa Valley Eakle Ranch Zinfandel 2005

Pope Valley Winery Napa Valley Old Vine Meyercamp Ranch Estate Chenin Blanc 2007

Pope Valley Winery Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Pope Valley Winery North Coast Zinfandel Port 2002