In the year of their 20th anniversary, St. Supéry Vineyards & Winery (Twitter) hosted the 2nd Wine Bloggers Forum (WBF) at their beautiful Estate in Rutherford, Napa Valley, California on Saturday, 04/04/09. The event continued the spirit of intimate and collaborative blogger and industry interaction that was first started as an offshoot of the WBC that debuted last year. The first WBF was at Hahn Family Estates in their Napa business offices and perfectly organized by the incomparable Lisa de Bruin (Twitter). This latest edition was organized by Lesley Keffer Russell (Twitter), VP of Marketing and Sales at St. Supéry.
The winery was founded in 1989 by the Robert Skalli family, the leading wine producers from the South of France. They were on the lookout for new wine-growing regions to purchase and develop in the early ’80’s and came upon Dollarhide ranch and purchased that in ’82, now planted with about 500/1500 acres with mainly Bordeaux red and white varieties. They purchased the Rutherford property that now houses the main Estate in 1986 and the full winery was up and running by ’89.
I arrived just a tad late that day, but made it there courtesy of my ever-reliable sis, Na. I was unsure as to how much wine was on the menu, so I decided to park it at Moms’ and Pops’ in Browns Valley and get a ride over to the winery estate, for which Na kindly obliged (Thanks, sis!). Most of the usual suspects were already strategically aligned on the front porch of the Southern-styled home that acted as the reception area for the morning’s activities…as in, right next to the table where the two kind St. S staff members were pouring some white wines to start our day and complement the great breakfast that was provided inside.
I started off with the very racy and citrusy ’08 Dollarhide Limited Edition Sauv Blanc, which was filled with tasty minerality. I also made the early rounds, greeting Luscious Lush & Vinquirer Thea (Twitter, Twitter2), Brix Chicks Liza (Twitter), Xandria (Twitter) and Nesta (Twitter); WineHiker Russ (Twitter), Sonoma Wine Guy Jim (Twitter), my old Napa High School baseball buddy and rival Cork Board Trevor (Twitter) and the one and only Wine Diver Girl, Lisa dB (Twitter)…whew! The Sauv Blanc paired rather nicely with the extremely tasty bacon, pastries and the outstanding quiche, courtesy of winery chef, Ron Barber. We listened over our food as ringleader Lesley Keffer Russell (Twitter) gave us the rundown on the day’s agenda and made many introductions, as virtually everyone who worked at St. S was present that day. In fact, the only person missing was Winemaker Tom Rees, who apparently picked the short straw to be stuck over at Dollarhide ranch finding and fixing a broken irrigation pipe, after working since midnight on a frost protection, ouch!
Our next location after breakfast was a walk through the Estate vineyards that surrounded the main winery and visitors center. Our guide for this and the grand tasting that was to follow was the Vineyard Operations Manager, Josh Anstey. Josh had also been up since midnight, yet he still managed to extract a large chunk of information out of his sleepy brain and handily pass it along to us, info-hungry bloggers. The vineyard in the photo to the right is trellised with unilateral cordons and planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc in 1996, which grows best in the gravely soil, further from the finer soil near the river, planted with Merlot. St. Supéry is both certified Napa Green and Fish Friendly Farming. They are firm believers in susatainable farming, not only for the minimized impact on the surrounding environment, but Josh also believes that those techniques make a better wine. Josh utilizes barley, vetch, bell beans, other legumes for healthy nitrogen fixation and had just tilled them into the soil the week prior to our visit. We then made our way to the back of the property where we found various fruit trees that they have all over the property near many of the vineyards. This fruit is not only used for estate cooking, but is even sold to various local restaurants for their own fresh, delicious locavore creations. Some of these restaurants include big names such as ad hoc, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, Auberge du Soleil, Ubuntu and even Chez Panisse.
We made our way back inside for the grand tasting of the day, once the glorious sun’s rays (finally!) started to really beat down on our necks. We passed through their large downstairs tasting room which was already humming with relatively early tasters and headed upstairs past some vibrant artwork that was featured along the stairs. We had six wines sitting before us and the quality of these wines were the stars of the day. While it was difficult to choose some favorites, I was very impressed with the ’06 Winery Exclusive Petit Verdot and the ’05 Rutherford Limited Edition Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The PV was definitely and not surprisingly, in a very young, closed stage right now, but the palate was still already showing some great cool, full-bodied fruit that really coated the mouth with its big tannins. The Rutherford Cab, while still integrating its rich oak tones of vanilla, smoke and char, had that crazy-good dusty Rutherford red and black fruit that many, many people have grown to love over the years. The true star of this tasting for my palate, however, was the ’06 Winery Exclusive Malbec. My notes read:
“Color: Dark garnet with violet edges
Nose: Hint of black cherry, but this is really all dark and dusty fruit at the moment with dried earth towards the end.
Palate: Great medley here of cool blue fruit from the Malbec, then dusty black fruit from both and ripe black cherry from the Cab. Great brightness on this wine and round, balancing tannins and vanilla/oak that is integrating quite well. Very good!”
Seated next to me at the tasting tables was outgoing CEO and longtime influential wine biz persona, Michaela Rodeno (Twitter). She informed me that if I liked the Rutherford Cab…just wait for the Dollarhide! With that soon-to-be prescient comment, we headed out under the 250+ year-old oak tree out in front of the winery for our concluding three course lunch, tenderly prepared by Estate Chef Ron Barber and his crew.
The first course was paired with the ’06 Virtú, St. S’ white Meritage. This wine had the bright fruit and lighter fresh herbs to pair nicely with Ron’s Shyhill Farms Fallen Goat Cheese Soufflé. The second course was the rather tantalizing Rosemary Scented Cornish Hen with Spring Vegetables & Israeli Couscous, paired with the red Meritage, the ’04 Elu. Here was a surpise at first…a full-bodied red paired with white meat?? Yet, just as Ron said when he soothed our traditonal thinking, the spices found on and in the Hen intermingled deliciously with the Bing and black cherry in the wine. We finished with a traditional cheese selection, featuring all Farmstead California cheeses from Laura Chenel, Fiscalini and Vella. These were paired with a stunner of a Cab, the 2005 St. Supéry Napa Valley Dollarhide Limited Edition Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine floored me, enough to force me to give in and grant it 5/5 stars for its balanced match with my palate. Again, my notes speak to the wine the best:
“Color: Dark garnet core, ruby edges with great viscosity
Nose: Great fresh garden herbs and also freshly rained forest leaves. Red and black fruit with anise, loam and truffle. Great nose!
Palate: Outstanding herbs here with deep black/red fruit with phenomenal complexity. Great, really perfect balance in the full mouth, hint of oak and some spice, finishing very long with anise, slight toast and black cherry. Outstanding!”
…Michaela’s earlier comment proved to be correct! Our final delicacy were handmade Dollarhide Ranch Honey Chocolate Truffles, replete with honey from the Estate’s own hives, down at the Ranch! As we happily finished off the bottles that were still distributed around both tables, we all decided that a final photo was needed to capture the people, wine, food and place that were experienced on that wonderful sunny day. A very big thank you goes out to Lesley, Michaela, Josh, Ron and everyone else in the St. Supéry family, for that warm Spring day in Rutherford!
Please check out my reviews of all of the wines that we tried that warm day at St. Supéry in Rutherford, below. If you would like to list these wines in your own WineLog, all are tagged with “BlogForum2Supery“. Also, check out St. Supéry’s own blog and find them on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Enjoy!