A Toast to Pops

Baby WardIt takes a lot to make us who we are.  Genetics, environments and most importantly, people help shape the person that we become as we continue to get older.  I have been blessed with a number of good, warm people that have surrounded me as I stumble through this life.  Friends, family and on this particular day, Fathers, have been a major positive influence on whom I’d like to be whenever I finally grow up.

As I mentioned above, I have had a number of intelligent and very respectable men to look up to during my life.  Ernst Kadel came over from Munich in 1908 in relatively small boat at the age of 14 to make a new life with his widowed mother and family.  Great Grandpa Ernst had his name changed to Ernest, but the new world did not change his sense of character.  Ernest Kadel - Gladding, McBean and Co.He went on to help create a very successful Kadel family in America, eventually becoming the Head of Design and Principal Sculptor at the premiere terra-cotta design studio and plant, Gladding, McBean and Co.

One of his sons was Edward Ernest Kadel, Sr.  Grandpa Ed was cut right out of the mold of his father.  He was very driven and intelligent and an extremely hard worker.  He eventually went on to create his own family of 3 crazy boys and run the (then) Standard Oil Richmond Refinery, now owned by Chevron.

In another part of this land, a young man named Ronald M. Schroeder traveled to California with his father, a barber on the booming railways.  Grandpa Bud would eventually meet an elegant young lady name Doris, in a soda fountain.  Together they would form a close-knit family that included my mother, Donna Mary Schroeder.  They would eventually retire in a sleepy little spot in California called Napa.

Grandpa Ed’s oldest was the aptly named, Edward Ernest Kadel, Jr.  Here is where the majority of my luck came to pass.  Schroeder & Kadel Family WineryPops is, perhaps, the hardest working and most family-dedicated man that I have ever met.  He is sometimes coarse, yes…but he is the best man that I could possibly hope to have as my father and I’m very grateful for the many things that he has taught me throughout my life.  He is also an outstanding wine partner in crime and if you’ve followed my writings at all, you’ll see that we have had many special wine adventures together.

Pops, as well as the other three gentlemen that I mention above, make me proud to carry my full name, a collection of virtually all of their own: Edward Ernest Kadel, III.

So here is a toast to the men and fathers that have shaped me into who I am now and whether by memory or through wonderful shared experience, are still pushing me to be a better man:

A glass lifted to the first Kadel to start our family here in America…to Great Grandpa Ernst.

A couple fingers of a fine single malt from Islay lifted to Grandpa Ed and his incredibly detailed memory of years past.

A finely structured Napa Cab, lifted to Grandpa Bud and his sternly pointed index finger, whenever my behavior strayed.

And lastly, a glass of plush and darkly fruit-forward Merlot, lifted together with my father, Pops…thank you!

Pops & Me

5th Pops & Son Wine Trip in Napa: Day 2

Stags Leap DistrictThe second and last day of our latest Pops & Son Wine Trip series took a dramatic turn, ie, Pops was no longer involved, unfortunately!  That cold that was was starting to come over him in the morning of the first day and then really kicked in during the afternoon?  Well, it hit big time and he woke up this day feeling terrible…no wine for Pops!  Poor guy ended up in bed all day…so our plans changed!

This was the first part of a Pops & Son Wine Trip with, umm, no Pops!  My sis Na and Moms were actually staying at Na’s in South Napa, so I called them up and asked if they’d like to join me on the days excursions.  In the midst of that, I got confirmation from my best buddy, Jeff van de Pol, now Enologist for Chimney Rock Winery.  “So we can do a quick tour before heading over to our main stop of the day?”  “Of course!”  It was on.

Chimney RockChimney RockChimney Rock is located in Stags Leap District, one of my single favorite wine regions in the whole world.  It is famous for its Cabs, indeed, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars won the vaunted 1976 Paris Tasting with their ’73 S.L.V. Cab, forever changing the world of wine.  We didn’t have enough time to taste any wine at Chimney Rock, but Jeff was nice enough to give us a tour of the property, including a brief survey of the surrounding vineyards.  After a rather interesting discussion of the various cork purveyors that with whom Jeff works in order to bottle the CR wines, we said our goodbyes and headed off the major tasting of the day at Peju Province Winery.

We were incredibly fortunate that day to attend a private tasting and tour of the grounds with Kimberly Mansager (Twitter), the jack-of-all-trades at the winery who helps keep the place humming.  I had met Kimberly just before the first Wine Bloggers Conference and we kept in touch over Twitter (Follow me!).  Knowing that all of this was ahead of us, we were a bit excited as we made the brief trip over to Peju from Stags Leap District. I’ve known about Peju for years, as the winery has been a fixture in Rutherford for over 27 years along 29.  Founded by Anthony and Herta Peju, it has been family owned and operated that entire time, growing and maturing to the point that they now feature wines from at least 8 grape varieties in their 35,000 case annual production.

Peju Province Peju ProvinceWinemaker Sara Fowler (whom we met briefly that day) specialize in the Bordeaux varietals at Peju, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc on the white side of things.  The Peju family has been steadily building up the property to the now iconic stone tasting room tower in the French Provençal style (actually built *after* the label had featured it for many years!), with a beautiful driveway off 29 featuring graceful, curved sycamores that are growing their way over the drive through their garden and vineyards.

Kimberly - Peju ProvincePeju Province CabWe arrived a slight bit late, but our gracious host immediately greeted us with a wonderfully crisp and minerally taste of their ’07 Sauvignon Blanc.  This wine has a delicious mix of very racy acidity that is nicely balanced by a slight creaminess that accompanies the orange sherbet mid-palate.  We took our glasses and embarked on a tour of property, first through their gardens in near the parking lot, featuring a tucked away pond filled with various fish and a huge boulder with multiple ground out holes, which they believe was a grind stone for Wappo Native Americans hundreds of years ago.  We then walked over to the sustainably-grown vineyards that surround the Estate and actually surround their neighbors, St. Supéry.  We viewed their three Cab Sauv vineyards that all featured different trellising systems that reflect the care that the winegrower staff takes to understand their fruit.  Each trellising system is specialized to the varietal clone and root stock that is planted in the separate lots of the vineyard.  Kimberly is incredibly educated, not only about the winery, but also about wine as a general topic and I found the tour particularly dynamic and informative.

Peju Province Napa Valley Rutherford Reserve Estate Bottled Cabernet Franc 2005We made our way back to the winery via the barrel room and entered the main tasting room which has a polished stone floor and countertop that is so complex and multi-faceted that I found it a bit distracting while I walked in and stared at my moving feet…I probably looked like I’d already had too much wine!  We proceeded to taste through quite a few of their Estate wines.  We started with the ’07 Syrah Rosé, which wasn’t to my taste, but then we entered the reds which definitely found a home on my palate.  I fancied the two Cabernet Francs that we tasted, which should come as no surprise to my longtime readers.  The ’05 Estate Cab Franc featured a rich red and black cherry nose with some forest floor and new leather, followed by dried garden herbs.  The palate was plush and round with a lot of more fresh garden herbs and a good grip.  The fruit was red and black cherry, followed by some blueberry notes and a long dried leather finish.  The ’05 Reserve Cab Franc was richer and darker than the former and had red and black fruit on the nose alongside some autumn leaves.  The savory black cherry mouth was a little toasty and was very long-finished and smooth. Both were outstanding examples of the varietal.

Peju Barrel TastingWe finished our day at Peju Province with a very interesting barrel tasting, getting a lucky chance to taste a component of the future 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine that we tried was from their Persephone Vineyard up in Pope Valley.  I found this wine unsurprisingly very tannic at this embryonic stage, but still had a sweet red cherry and rose nose that was rather closed and had some stemminess present.  The palate had more of a sweet Bing cherry fruit to it, alongside some vanilla and that very strong grip that nevertheless pointed to some fine-grained tannins…very interesting exercise.   Unfortunately, it was time to leave Kimberly and the wines of Peju.  Amazingly, Kimberly’s hospitality did not end with the property grounds.  She recommended that we try Piña’s wines next based on our palate preferences and kindly had one of her associates arrange our appointment!  This kind of amiable and knowledgeable service combined with a fair amount of good wines newly cemented Peju as a top winery and wine experience in our collective tasting experiences.  We hugged Kimberly goodbye and headed off to lunch at Oakville Grocery, just down the road.

Piña is another family owned operation, run by the four Piña brothers Larry, Davie, Ranndy and John.  Ranndy, the third brother, writes his own very informative and interesting blog.  It features some great commentary on the daily going-ons at the winery as well as the extensive experience that the family has in the history of the Valley.  The Piña’s have been one of the most well-known and sought after vineyard management companies in the valley for almost the last 50 years.  They’ve been in Valley since 1856 and thus, have quite the roots in and out of the local soil!  Once they realized that they had access to some of the best fruit in and around the Valley, they decided to open their own, albeit tiny, boutique winery.  They set out focusing on single-vineyard Cabs in 1981, but really only got serious about the winemaking around 2000.

PiñaPiña Howell Mountain Buckeye Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005Our host that day was John and he was just finishing up with another couple when we walked into the tasting room.  After we signed in, we tasted through their trio of stellar Cabs that they had out that day.  While it was quite tough to choose a favorite, I was compelled to buy at least ONE bottle from John and I finally settled on the ’05 Howell Mountain Buckeye Vineyard, per my obsession with mountain fruit.  This wine was extremely complex with tobacco, dried garden herbs, darkest cassis and currant; Eucalyptus, and clove on the nose.  The palate was fantastic, featuring blueberry, slight toast, some black fruit with clove and cardamon with a black cherry finish. Wow, what a setof wines!  We thanked John (and Kimberly!) for his hospitality and decided to hit one more winery before calling it a day.

Reynolds Family VineyardsReynolds Family VineyardsOur last stop on this Pops & Son (and Family!) Wine Trip was at a spot that sits somewhere in the fondest parts of Na’s heart, Reynolds Family Vineyards.  This little boutique producer sits near the base of Silverado Trail and producers wines from both Napa Valley proper and Carneros. Pops and I have actually visited this winery during our own travels, but it was a great ending for what turned out to be a wonderful last day of tasting, actually featuring some warm winter weather, as well.

Reynolds Family VineyardsWe were well taken care of in the tasting room, Adam and company their to guide our tasting and provide some nice local commentary, as well.  We started off with Moms’ favorite, the ’06 Napa Valley Chard.  This is nicely balanced between good tropical fruit and crispness, along with some barrel-fermented creaminess in the middle.  My personal favorite here was the ’04 Persistance proprietary blend.  It’d be a full Meritage, but for the additional Syrah that Steve Reynolds tossed into the blend.  While featuring a lot of upfront sweet and toasty oak like most of their wines (something that I typically don’t enjoy), this also has an incredible depth of dark fruit and good savory elements of new leather that point to a long and more integrated future for this wine.  By the end of this tasting we were sufficiently relaxed and tired…it was time to head home and “rest up” before our tasty meal at our family favorite, Tuscany in downtown Napa later that night and the end of this 5th Pops & Son Wine Trip!

Please see all of the wines that we tasted during that second day in Napa, by checking out all of my reviews below. If you would like to list these wines in your own WineLog, they are all tagged with “5thPSWT2008-D2“. All of the wines that were tasted on this trip are tagged with “5thPSWT2008“. Feel free to leave a comment if you’ve had these wines before, too. Enjoy!

Peju Province Winery:

Peju Province Napa Valley Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Peju Province Napa Valley Estate Syrah Rosé 2007

Peju Province Napa Valley Estate Bottled Zinfandel 2005

Peju Province Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Peju Province Napa Valley Estate Bottled Cabernet Franc 2005

Peju Province Napa Valley Rutherford Reserve Estate Bottled Cabernet Franc 2005

Piña Napa Valley:

Piña Yountville Wolff Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Piña Napa Valley D’Adamo Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Piña Howell Mountain Buckeye Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Reynolds Family Vineyards:

Reynolds Family Winery Napa Valley Chardonnay 2006

Reynolds Family Winery Los Carneros Pinot Noir 2006

Reynolds Family Winery Stags Leap District Merlot 2005

Reynolds Family Winery Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Reynolds Family Winery Napa Valley Persistence 2004

Wines that I had with dinner:

Hagafen Napa Valley Estate Bottled White Riesling 2007

Rombauer Vineyards California Zinfandel 2006

5th Pops & Son Wine Trip in Napa: Day 1 Afternoon

The afternoon of our first day on the 5th Pops & Son Wine Trip continued the vinous adventure that we had started in the morning at Kirkland Ranch and William Hill.  As we traveled up Silverado Trail on the Western side of the Valley, we mused about which winery to next visit, as we had plenty of time before our 2:30 appointment with the highlight of the day, Terra Valentine on Spring Mountain.  We passed numerous wineries along the way, including many Stags Leap favorites such as Regusci, Darioush and Clos du Val.  As we approached the Oakville appellation, Pops asked if I’d ever visited the large contemporary building that housed Miner Family Vineyards.  I had not done so and just that easily, we had picked our next winery!

Miner Family Vineyards is a family owned and operated winery (refreshing in this conglomerate era), tucked into the foothills of the Vaca Mountains on the Eastern side of the Valley.  It was founded by Dave Miner in 1996.  They are best known for their powerful, yet elegant reds, particularly their meritage blend (a domestic blend made up of only 2 or more of the Bordeaux varieties of grapes such as Cab, Merlot, etc) called The Oracle.

Pops also decided to sit this tasting out as he was increasingly starting to feel a cold brewing.  I only had a little bit of time, so I got to work.  The main tasting room is a beautifully designed contemporary setting with light tones and plenty of slate and marble.  The room was comfortably busy throughout my short stay, with patrons from all over the US there to try their many wines.  I was very pleased to see that they serve their wines in my favorite “stemware,” the Riedel O Series varietal-specific glasses and all are etched with the striking Miner logo on the bottom…a very nice touch.

Jeff was quite knowledgeable about the wines and the winery and poured good, reasonable-sized tastes, which is not always the case at tasting rooms these days.  One of the things he mentioned is that the vineyard that surrounds the winery and makes up the ‘05 Oakville Cab, while owned by the Aunt in the family, it is not considered part of the winery’s holdings.  The highlight wines for me were the two Stagecoach Vineyard reds, the ‘05 Merlot and ‘05 Cab.  I love the wines that come out of this vineyard and have written about Stagecoach Vineyard wines many times.  Also interesting was that this was the first time that I have been really impressed by The Oracle.  The ‘05 is just a tremendous wine and drank brilliantly that day.

I finished off the great wines at Miner and rejoined Pops out on the patio.  We still had a fair amount of time before heading up Spring Mountain Road so we meandered over to St. Helena and had an early afternoon pickmeup at my favorite coffee shop of all time, Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company.  I could be a bit biased as I used to work here and at the downtown Napa location while going to Vintage High.  They truly roast my favorite espresso on this planet, however.  I even recommended them in my Napa Recommendations post awhile back.  With our caffeine needs satiated, we headed a little further North in town and out onto Spring Mountain Road towards Terra Valentine.  I first read about Terra Valentine in the handy read, A Moveable Thirst.  They received a great review in there and the descriptions just stuck with me until I started planning this trip.

The drive up to Terra Valentine was much further up Spring Mountain that we ever thought…in fact, I had never traveled up that far and with the weather as it was, it ended up being a really neat drive.  It was already misty and sometimes rainy, but we hit the cloud line about 10 minutes into our drive, about 5 minutes before the estate and it provided wonderful atmospherics to our adventure.

We pulled up to the winery after passing some rather enthusiastic bike riders who were headed pell-mell down the slim mountain road.  I had a complete sense of déjà vu when we reached the gate and I had to tell Pops to pull the Jeep over for some pics.  All of the sudden I was back in high school, fully immersed playing Myst at 1 in the morning.  Quite a trip!  Anyhow, the weather and Old World beauty of the estate was very striking and really appealed to both Pops and I.

Terra Valentine has a very interesting history during its roughly 40 odd years on the upper part of the mountain.  Eccentric engineer and inventor, Fred Aves bought the property in the 60’s, largely funded by the royalties from the curb feelers he invented that you all had on your Caddies.  Mr. Aves was quite the da Vinci and decided to design and build the hand-set stone villa and 17K square foot winery himself, along with five other carefully picked craftsmen.  He also had a primo sense of self-sufficiency and a healthy dose of mistrust about the world, as evidenced by the private concrete batch plant he constructed to build his estate and the total recluse to which he became, eventually leading the original winery into disuse in the early 80’s.

The estate was revived in 1999 when Angus and Margaret Wurtele purchased the mountain property and immediately began updating the vineyards and the property.  Virtually all of the vines had to be replanted and now the estate sports two fantastic and very different vineyards, the Wurtele and Yverdon Vineyards, featured as two single vineyard estate Cabs.  All of the equipment has been updated, including automated punchdown fermentation tanks (very, very state of the art, no pumpovers here), but they were careful to preserve and restore the original architecture, such as the Aves designed and constructed stained glass windows that stand out on the two buildings.

We still managed to arrive early, so as I walked around still snapping mad amounts of misty photos, Pops realized that it was kinda cold and headed into the winery.  Inside you continue to see wonderfully detailed works of architecture.  The doors and handles were also handmade by Aves and the detail is fantastic.  Pops went in search of our host and I continued to explore the facility.  Erina Fischer greeted us from the office area, just off the main entrance and led us over to the richly decorated sit-down tasting room, replete with Hearst-owned wood paneling and a huge fireplace.  We started off with their ‘07 RRV Viognier, which is showing wonderful peach and pear aromas alongside a full mouth that still retains some great acidity.

Once the three other guests arrived we began the full tasting which, while still a formal sit-down affair, was very comfortable and amiable, matching Erina’s warm personality.  She had only been working for TV for a few months and yet was already very knowledgeable about the winery and wines.  We moved along to the reds, trying the silky, unfiltered ‘06 RRV Pinot, followed by the three Estate Cabernets that really stuck with  me the rest of the trip.  These three wines really became the highlights of the whole two days.  Winemaker Sam Baxter has done some amazing work with these wines. They are all from the 2005 vintage, with the Spring Mountain Estate Cab just a ridiculous value ($38).  A truly great wine, made from a mountain sub-appellation, that could be a flagship wine at the majority of the wineries that I have visited in my life…yet it is merely the starter Cab here!  Following that effort, we delved into the two single vineyard wines, with the Yverdon just barely eeking out a win for the wine for the day.  Both featured eucalyptus in the nose and the mouth, but the Yverdon had tremendous depths of black fruit, followed by spicy cherry.  The mouth was luxuriously silky already, all of the fruit from the nose and finishing with rose petal highlights.  Lovely.

We then took a tour throughout the rest of the winery, starting with a walk down one of the twin iron spiral staircases that lead to the winery proper  and barrel room below.  The fog was lifting a bit and it was definitely brighter outside, but it really couldn’t lift the surreal mood that the stunning wine and surroundings had instilled within me during our time there.  As all good things go, it was soon time to end our day atop Spring Mountain and we said goodbye to Erina and the other guests.  I kept thinking about the dark stones and misty clouds, along with all of the beautiful wines as we drove down to the Valley floor…and how  I need to revisit the estate soon!

Please see all of the wines that we tasted during the second half of the first day in Napa, by checking out all of my reviews below.  If you would like to list these wines in your own WineLog, they are all tagged with “5thPSWT2008-D1“.  All of the wines that were tasted on this trip are tagged with “5thPSWT2008“.  Please leave a comment if you’ve had these wines before, too.  Enjoy!

Miner Family Vineyards:

Miner California Simpson Vineyard Viognier 2007

Miner Napa Valley Stagecoach Vineyard Merlot 2005

Miner Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Miner Napa Valley Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Miner Napa Valley The Oracle 2005

Terra Valentine:

Terra Valentine Russian River Valley Viognier 2007

Terra Valentine Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2006

Terra Valentine Spring Mountain District Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Terra Valentine Spring Mountain District Yverdon Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Terra Valentine Spring Mountain District Wurtele Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Wines that we drank with dinner:

Lang & Reed North Coast Cabernet Franc 2007

Hahn Estates Monterey County Merlot 2006

5th Pops & Son Wine Trip in Napa: Day 1 Morning

Vaca Mountains in Stags LeapAnother holiday season means another wonder trip to wine country with Pops.  I usually get the week off between Christmas and New Years from the day job and with that extra time I like to spend some quality father and son time spent, well honestly, what else but drinking wine?  We also recently added a summer trip to the roster, as one trip is usually not enough for the two of us.  We decided to continue to explore parts of Napa that were still new to us for this trip, especially with the economy in a wonderful tailspin.

The first stop of the day was intended to be at one of the best value-driven brands in the marketplace, Cartlidge & Brown off of Green Island Road.  Unfortunately, they weren’t open and thus we weren’t able to taste nor pick up Pops’ wine club selections.  Seeing as how we were in the Southern-most part of the Valley, we decided to then head over to Kirkland Ranch Winery, off of Jamieson Canyon Rd (SR-12).

Kirkland Ranch WineryNo…Kirkland Ranch is *not* the same as Costco’s brand, Kirkland Signature, but it IS another great value brand and in a handy spot all to its own, across the road from Chardonnay Golf Club (where I had my Junior Prom!) in the hilly and beautiful Jamieson Canyon.

Here, in yet another case of the small town feel that Napa can still provide, we were greeted and hosted by a former student of Pops!  Jessica had Pops as a sub back when she was still at Justin Sienna High School and playing some really good softball.  After the hellos, we moved away from the huge Western-styled tasting bar on the second floor and sat on the couch next to the fire for our leisurely tasting and Napa gossip session.  The wines were had just as good a Quality to Price Ratio (QPR) as I remembered in the past, and I was particularly taken with the ’02 Napa Valley Estate Syrah. It showed a great medley of black and blue fruit along with some chocolate and lavender in the nose and the smooth palate.  I know that Kirkland Ranch has been having some financial difficulties, so that might have been a factor, but if you purchase soon, you’ll find that their QPR is even better than usual…they’re having a 50% off sale on many of their wines!

William Hill Estate

We headed back up into the Valley proper after saying goodbye to Jessica and Co. at Kirkland.  Our next stop was to be a winery about which I’d heard quite a few good things and yet I had never swung by its location, right near Silverado Country Club off Atlas Peak Road…William Hill Estate.  Our friends have raved about their Cabs and as I found it, it was for good reason. Will Hill is actually somewhat quietly owned by E & J Gallo.  Before you get all huffy about family wineries being bought up by conglomerates all over California however, keep in mind that Gallo is still a private, family owned and run operation (and one of the largest vineyard owners in France, interestingly).  Will Hill owns extensive vineyard land around the winery and further South in Carneros, with plantings that include all 5 major Bordeaux varietals and many other varietals including Chardonnay.  They feature beautiful grounds with some picnic space and while they say they are appointment only, stop on by and you should be happily accommodated.

William Hill EstateI had to make this tasting a bit short and sweet as Pops was planning on sitting this and the next out, as the very kind driver for the day.  I chose to tackle the Estate tasting as I saw a particular pet love of mine (and sometimes hard to find as a single varietal) was the first choice…the ’05 Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Franc..yum! While I found the smooth Cab Franc to be rather tasty, I was more taken with their wine made from a varietal that is even less commonly found as a single wine, the ’05 Napa Valley Estate Petit Verdot.  This is usually only a wine club exclusive wine for Will Hill, but the elegant Claire was pouring it that day as part of this series.  I found it to have huge depths of multi-faceted fruit and while big and bold, the structure was already starting to integrate and combine into a beautiful wine.  This is a must-try if you are able to make it into the winery!

After a  thankful cheers to Claire, we again headed out on our way to our afternoon tasting appointments, despite an unfortunate experience on the way to the parking lot.  After sustaining a significant blast (outside, even!!) of perfume by a passing female patron, I again commented on how rude it is to wear heavy (or any) perfume or cologne to a wine tasting.  Wine is all about aromas and tastes…if you’re constantly tasting the rose perfume or spicy cologne dripping off of the patron next to you, it can be very challenging to enjoy oneself at a wine event.  A helpful hint to all of you planning your next trip to taste wine somewhere:  please leave the scents in the cabinet that morning and you will be a very respectful taster to those around you later in the day or night (and everyone around you will respect you for doing so).

Find out where we went in the afternoon in the next installment coming in just a few days! Please see all of the wines that we tasted on the first half of our first day in Napa, by checking out all of my reviews below.  If you would like to list these wines in your own WineLog, they are all tagged with “5thPSWT2008-D1“.  All of the wines that were tasted on this trip are tagged with “5thPSWT2008“.  Please leave a comment if you’ve had these wines before, too.  Enjoy!

Kirkland Ranch Winery:

Jamieson Canyon Napa Valley Pinot Grigio 2005

Jamieson Canyon Napa Valley Sangiovese 2002

Jamieson Canyon Napa Valley Merlot 2002

Kirkland Ranch Napa Valley Estate Syrah 2002

Kirkland Ranch Napa Valley Estate Reserve Cuvée 2002

Jamieson Canyon Napa Valley Late Harvest Viognier 2007

William Hill Estate:

William Hill Estate Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Franc 2005

William Hill Estate Napa Valley Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

William Hill Estate Napa Valley Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

William Hill Estate Napa Valley Estate Petit Verdot 2005

Pops & Son 3rd Annual Wine Trip – Napa

Ehler's Estate - St. HelenaMy father and I started a new annual tradition in 2005, the year that I started at Genentech. While not an obsessive like myself, Pops is a wine-guy (kind of hard not to be while living in Napa). We decided back in ’05 that we should start taking a wine-tasting trip every year that I get the week off between Christmas and New Years. The first year we stayed in Glen Ellen and hit much of the Southern region of Sonoma Valley. Last year we stayed in Healdsburg and took care of the Northern regions.

This year we decided to make it a little cheaper and just stay at the house and go to the many places in the Napa Valley that we hadn’t hit yet. Indeed, we stayed very low-profile on Thursday, just taking a taxi downtown and hitting some of the many tasting rooms that have or are about to open up in the city of Napa. Napa Valley Opera HouseThe Napa downtown has (finally) come into its own again over the last 3-4 years, somewhat coinciding with the completion of the Napa Valley Opera House restoration. There are almost no empty storefronts any longer and there is actually some building going on and further restoration work happening in various places. The other part of the resurgence has been the proliferation of tasting rooms. The Napa Valley Register published a list of 17 tasting rooms downtown (15 are currently open already) earlier this year in August (thanks Na!) and we used that list to plan out our day. We heard later that there are supposed to be up to 10 additional tasting rooms that are to open downtown in 2008!

My mom and my sister decided to duplicate this endeavor and they were heading out the same day to Healdsburg to do a similar Northern regional tour of Sonoma. We all met up for a solid starter breakfast at the local joint that we’ve been going to for years, Emmy Lou’s. Fully satiated, we bid farewell and headed out to our respective wine regions.

Vintner's Collective (Wine Country Getaways)Once downtown, Dad and I decided to first hit up a multi-winery tasting room where I had been briefly once before with Jeffro. Vintner’s Collective is an outstanding place to start a trip in Napa. We tasted about 15 wines between the two of us from many of the 15+ wineries represented at the collective. The winery list is quite impressive and includes many rising stars within the Valley, such as Melka, Parallel, Mi Sueño and Buoncristiani. We were well taken care of by Andy and Raul, who were manning the tasting bar for the day. Housed in the beautiful Pfieffer Building, the restored ambience only helps add to the wines’ elegance. Andy and Raul were extremely capable pourers and my Dad and I had quite a few great conversations about the wines and various local going-ons. I also spoke with Andy about some new wine projects that he has up his sleeve and I’m excited to try them once they get closer to bottling. The Mi Sueño Syrah that I purchased was a favorite, as well as the Richard Perry Cab and the Buoncristiani O.P.C (who grew up down the street from me in Browns Valley).

Rocca Family Winery winesOnce we were satiated at the collective we ventured a whole half block away to the Rocca Family Vineyards tasting room. There we met Karen, who was handling the tasting and wine bar for the day. These wines were not only the stars of the day, but were some of my favorites for the entire trip! What a fantastic collection of wines. Rocca is owned by the husband and wife duo of Mary Rocca and Eric Grigsby. Their winemaker is the highly acclaimed Celia Welch Masyczek, of Silverado and Staglin fame. Rocca has been gaining its own critical and cult fame, gaining many 90+ reviews in Wine Spectator and even a star feature article in the same mag. They have also prevailed in some highly competitive wine tastings of late, both in France and in the 2004 SF Chronicle annual wine competition. All that said, it was no surprise that my father and I loved all of their wines. One discontinued backvintage that Karen was pouring that day was some of the last of the 2000 H. Gray Cab. It is almost painful how good this wine was, punctuated by the incredibly low price for such a high-quality back vintage ($29). Rocca & Grigsby must be masochists…I bought two bottles! Karen mentioned that they only had a few cases left of that wine and they were planning on selling out (so call now!). This is, essentially, their Rocca Yountville Estate Cab, but it was under a different label at the time of release. We (reluctantly) finished up our tasting in the beautifully restored building after another great conversation with Karen and decided that some coffee was next on the menu.

Napa Valley Coffee Roasting CompanyI had the expected outstanding shot of espresso at my favorite coffeehouse and roaster on Earth, Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company (we went to the one on Main in Napa). I might be a bit biased about RoCo, seeing as how I worked there all through high school (Go Crushers!) and my first year at UCD, but so be it…the espresso and coffee are incredible. We saw some friends of my dad’s there so we chatted a bit with them and allowed the coffee to counteract the vino for a little while, then set off for the last stop of the day.

Napa Wine Merchants has been a wine staple downtown for many years. They’ve recently gone through a bit of change and are now focusing more on the wines from GustavoThrace, complemented by some special boutique picks from chosen local and foreign wineries.Napa Wine Merchants Casey and Thrace, herself, were very knowledgeable about the GT wines that they were pouring (not surprisingly) and we had another great conversation exchanging local knowledge with Thrace. The winery was founded in 1996 by winemaker Gustavo Brambila (of 1976 Paris Tasting fame, working under Mike Grgich) and Thrace. One of the wines that really caught our eye (palate?) was the ’02 Signature Zinfandel, made with fruit from Nichelini Ranch in Chiles Valley. Nichelini Winery is the oldest family owned winery in the Valley and one that I’ve been going to for years while growing up in Napa and after I started becoming a wine freak. My parents have been members for years and Beth and I joined their wine club a few years back, as well. I like the fact that GT has retained a great sense of value and humor with their wines, even after 20+ years in the biz. Their 3rd Bottle red and white wines are incredible values with 100% Rutherford and Carneros fruit, respectively, in their non-vintage (NV) blends. These are the wines they’d like for you to reach for once you’ve had two bottles already…something that I can truly understand! Bidding farewell to Casey and Thrace, we caught a taxi back to the homestead in Browns Valley.

Graeser WineryThe next day, after an unexpected detour to Healdsburg overnight, Dad and I headed back over to Calistoga on the back from Sonoma on Mark West Springs Road. Our intent was to start the day at a winery that I’ve been dying to visit the last few years, Graeser Winery on Diamond Mountain. I haven’t been to this winery since I was about 7 years old! Richard Graeser, proprietor and winemaker, has made wine on this property for 22+ years. His family has owned the property for 50 years and they plan on celebrating that momentous interval with a rather large party later this year. I’m a little unsure if I can describe the property and the wines with the proper respect, but I’ll give it a fair shot. Graeser Winery picnic areaThe property sits on pine and oak wooded rolling hills, interspersed by the East-facing estate vineyards of all Bordeaux varietals. Once you turn off Petrified Forest Road and head up the private drive, you quickly feel as if you’re way off in the boonies…good stuff! The first building you see is the old estate house of Richard Beverly Cole, dating back to the 1880’s. Richard (Graeser) has been restoring this house for as long as my dad can remember and we were fortunate enough to get a tour of some of the (almost) finished rooms. The tasting room is situated in another old building on the property and this day was manned by Mr. Graeser, himself. He can actually be found on the property almost every day of the week, unless he’s back making the wine that we were soon enjoying. Tasting RoomBeth and I have been on a big Cabernet Franc kick the last few years and that single-varietal wine is one which Greaser really excels at producing. I was incredibly pleased to find that they have a large selection of back-vintage wines of many of their varietals, dating all the way back to 1990, at some very affordable prices. I decided to go the whole way back and purchased a 1990 Estate Cabernet Franc. I haven’t opened the bottle yet, so I’ll be sure to post the review once I savor that aged Franc. Estate houseI’ve never actually had a single-varietal Franc with that much age (well, I haven’t had many of ANY wines that old!) and I can’t wait to check it out. We shot the manure for quite some time with Richard until we embarked on the short house tour. My Dad and I then walked around the property a little bit more, saying hi to their two huge dogs while gathering some photos until we decided to continue our wine journey South, down 29. We waved goodbye to Richard, his wife and their grandson and headed out.

The next stop on our Viaje de Vino was St. Clement. This is another property that has a long and rich history in the Valley. Though it is now a part of Foster’s Wine Group after a series of buyouts, it still produces some great wine on their historic hilltop location. Abbott's Merlot and myself!The unfortunate part of this tasting, however, was the medium-sized tour bus that pulled up and proceeded to crowd into the small historic tasting room in their restored Victorian mansion. Dad decided to head out to the patio (which has a wonderful view of the Valley North of St. Helena) while I shuttled back and forth with each wine. The star of this tasting was the ’03 Abbott’s Vineyard Merlot, from the Carneros appellation.

Our last stop of the day was at another Napa winery that I hadn’t visited since I was old enough to have wine, Rutherford Grove Winery and Vineyards. Here we were greeted by Karen, who provided a lot of back history about the winery of which I wasn’t aware.Rutherford Grove tasting room door The winery was founded in 1993 by the Pestoni Family, who have resided and worked the land in the Valley for almost as long as it has been called the Napa Valley. We tasted 4 wines from Karen with the star wine actually from an additional wine label that they’ve released this year, the ’06 Quackenbush Mountain Vineyards Zin. This wine was doing incredibly well for being so young. It wasn’t quite wide open yet, but it did show some lovely fruit and a lot more structure that you usually get from that variety. The high altitude of the vines, ~2000′, are probably to thank for such a beautiful, claret-style wine. Their single vineyard Pet was also a welcome taste to my palate. After finishing here, both my dad and I decided that our mouths needed a break. We headed back home and then finished the day tasting with a friend of ours in the Southern part of the Valley.

Done for the day, we headed to Suppertime for a nice down-home meal of beef tenderloin and some amazing mashed potatoes. Luddite VineyardsWe needed wine for the meal, of course, so we stopped by the outstanding local market, Browns Valley Market. This market is within walking distance of where I grew up in Browns Valley and now treads the thin line between a comfy local market and a gourmet grocery destination. They have great values on the huge selection of local wines from both Napa and Sonoma. In honor of the man purchasing the dinner and the wine, we decided on a Merlot taste-off between and ’03 Stags’ Leap Winery and ’05 Luddite Vineyards. The Stags’ won my father over while I preferred the Luddite. We ended the wonderful trip with some good food, good wine, a nice fire and great movie. What a trip!

Please feel free to peruse all of the wines we had during the trip listed below. If you would like to list all of the wines together for your own winelog or to print out the list, I’ve tagged them all with “PS3rdTrip“. Enjoy!

Vintner’s Collective (WL):

2006 Gregory Graham Rolling Knolls Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

2005 JC Cellars The Imposter

2006 Ancien Toyon Vineyard Pinot Noir

2004 Mi Sueño Napa Valley Syrah

2004 D Cubed Howell Mountain Zinfandel

2004 Buoncristiani Family Napa Valley O.P.C.

2005 Parallel Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

2003 Richard Perry Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

2004 Clark-Claudon Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

2005 Chiarello Roux Old Vine Estate Petite Sirah

2000 Showket Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Rocca Family Vineyards:

2000 H. Gray Yountville Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

2005 Rocca Yountville Estate Bad Boy Red

2003 Rocca Yountville Estate Syrah

2004 Rocca Yountville Estate Syrah

2003 Rocca Yountville Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

2004 Rocca Yountville Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Wine Merchants (WL):

2005 GustavoThrace Lodi Sauvignon Blanc

2003 GustavoThrace Carneros Chardonnay

2002 GustavoThrace Napa Valley Signature Zinfandel

2003 GustavoThrace Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

NV GustavoThrace The 3rd Bottle White Table Wine

NV GustavoThrace The 3rd Bottle Red Table Wine

Wineries:

2006 Graeser Rebecca’s Rosé

2003 Graeser Simba’s Sinful Zinfandel

2002 Graeser Napa Valley Barrel Select Merlot

2003 Graeser Diamond Mountain District Coeur De Leon Estate

2003 Graeser Diamond Mountain District Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

2006 St. Clement Bale Lane Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

2006 St. Clement Carneros Chardonnay

2003 St. Clement Napa Valley Merlot

2003 St. Clement Abbott’s Vineyard Estate Merlot

2004 St. Clement Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

2005 St. Clement Napa Valley Oroppas

2005 Rutherford Grove Rutherford Estate Sauvignon Blanc

2006 Quackenbush Mountain Vineyards Lake County Zinfandel

2003 Rutherford Grove Rutherford Bench Estate Merlot

2004 Rutherford Grove Rutherford Bench Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

2005 Rutherford Grove Spring Creek Vineyard Petite Sirah

Others:

NV Barefoot California Chardonnay

2005 Luddite Vineyards Coster Vineyard Merlot

2003 Stags’ Leap Winery Napa Valley Merlot