Etude Back-Vintage Tasting

I had the wonderful opportunity this weekend to taste some back-vintages of Etude Napa Valley Cabernet and Carneros Pinot Noir. Etude is a well-respected new-world producer of many white and reds sourced mainly from their vineyards in Carneros and other parts of the Napa Valley. Some people think that they are best known for their incredible sub-appellation specific Cabernets, however, I think of them more as a great house of Pinot Noir. The winery is housed in the grand old buildings that formerly housed RMS Brandy Distillery.

Etude Winery

Etude was founded about 25 years ago by the New World Pinot Noir luminary, Tony Soter, who still acts as one of head winemakers. The other outstanding winemaker is Jon Priest, another veteran of the California wine industry.

All of the wines available for tasting that I’ve listed below were poured from Jeroboams and decanted in a Riedel Cabernet-Merlot magnum decanter prior to tasting. The amount of time in the decanter really varied, so I can’t really comment on how long they were getting some air.

The highlights of the night were the 1998 Etude Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2001 Etude Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, even if the ’01 was still a bit muted. Coming from the large format bottle, it could have been in that sometimes quoted “5-10 year dumb stage” for Napa Cabernets. This refers to the fact that wines are constantly evolving as they age and sometimes you find that great Napa Cab’s have a stage in their development about 5 – 10 years after their vintage where they can be found to be surprising muted as their flavors and structure continue to integrate. The other wines we tasted and greatly enjoyed, are listed below.

1995 Etude Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

1994 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir

1996 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir

1999 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir

Check out the links above for my tasting notes on these outstanding wines and the background information on Etude and wine, in general.

Maui Weekend & Wine


Beth and I made our way back to Maui this past weekend for a 4-day sojourn with our friend Troy, who lives in a little bungalow above Wailea, in Maui Meadows. Along with sleeping on his screened in lanai, heading to the beach everyday and BBQing Upcountry, we had a fair bit of wine!

First of all, if you live on Maui or are heading that way (lucky you!), the best place to purchase wine is actually right near the airport in Kahului. Hawaii Liquor Superstore, despite the misleading name, is not only the best wine store I’ve been to on Maui, but one of the best that I’ve ever been to, period. It has an incredible selection of wines from around the world, even giving some good rack space (yes, besides the display bottle, all are horizontal) to Chilean and Argentinian wines. I’m used to this over here in the Bay Area, but I know that is not common across the US, much less on the islands where Maui has only two dominant wine distributors. The prices are very comparable to what I’ve seen at home and some Californian wines were actually cheaper. They even have back vintages of some wines, like one of my favorites, the 2001 Galante Vineyards Blackjack Pasture Carmel Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. We spent a tidy sum here, buying a wide array of mainly Californian wines, but also delving into New Zealand (I love their Sauvignon Blancs), France and Chile.

Tedeschi Vineyards

On Saturday (10/13/07), we made the aforementioned trek Upcountry and headed across the lower slopes of Haleakela over to the lone winery on Maui, Tedeschi Vineyards. After living in and around Napa, Sonoma and Livermore most of my life, I’ve always wanted to check out the winery on Maui. The grounds of the winery are beautiful, all the buildings are from the turn of the century or earlier, and the gardens are very alluring.

All of Tedeschi’s wines are non-vintage, meaning that they are a blend of multiple vintages, which can be done to provide a consistency for the wine across each vintage. They make 3 pineapple wines, 3 grape-based wines and 1 raspberry framboise. The tasting was structured so that you could choose from a list that segregated wines into pineapple still wines; pineapple and grape sparkling wines, grape still wines and the 1 dessert wine. You can then choose to taste 4 out of the 7 wines they currently have available.

I started off with a wine that has surprised me in the past, the NV Tedeschi Vineyards Maui Splash!, a pineapple still wine. It has the color of a Pinot Grigio or light Sauvignon Blanc that colors the nose and smells of the ripest, sweetest pineapple. The palate then surprises you, however, with a profile that is much more akin to a decent, dry Pinot Grigio and only the slightest notes of pineapple in the finish. Very refreshing and very surprising!

I then headed over to the rather solid NV Tedeschi Vineyards Rose Ranch Cuvee Sparkling Brut. Before finishing with the Red (NV Tedeschi Vineyards Ulupalakua Red), which I didn’t really care for, I had the NV Tedeschi Vineyards Upcountry Blush dry rose. This was another nice surprise and rather tasty and refreshing, particularly in the hometown tropical climate.

We had a fantastic weekend with a big thank you going out to Troy for his great friendship and hospitality. Thank you also, to the great people behind the tasting bar at Tedeschi! Click on the links above to find out more about the places I mentioned, as well as to see the tasting notes I have uploaded to for each wine.


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