Hall Wines Cabernet Cookoff tastes great, gives help

11855799_868280449915926_2336774847356483997_nWe’re a little late on our coverage of this fine event, but we did want to send out hearty Vinopanion props to Hall Wines (WL, FB, Tw, IG, YT) and their highly enjoyable 6th Annual Cabernet Cookoff charity #foodie and #wine event this past April. Fifteen Napa Valley and San Francisco based chef teams competed to see which one could most favorably pair their small bite with the 2012 Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvigon and the 2012 Hall Napa County Coeur Cabernet Sauvignon red wines.  To whet the almost 700 attendees’ palates, the festivities were kicked off with a glass of the delicious 2012 Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.  On this particularly hot April day, the SB was quite a treat, with its juicy citrus acidity, rounded out with some tropical fruit and floral notes, and finishing with some zingy minerality.  Following the SB intro, the Lady and I headed into the array of tents to taste through the many culinary delights on prep.

Bunny Foo Foo welcomes the culinary charity masses. (By Lawrence Argent, Hall Wines).
Bunny Foo Foo welcomes the culinary charity masses. (By Lawrence Argent, Hall Wines).

Hall Wines has been producing ultra high end reds and whites in the Napa Valley at their two properties since 2002.  Owners Craig and Kathryn Walt Hall are renowned art collectors and thoughtful curators of their land and ecology with 5 Certified Organic estate vineyards and a Leed Gold Certified new winery at this, their St. Helena location.  We had the lovely opportunity to attend their grand opening of the gorgeous new St. Helena facility earlier in the year, but this was our first opportunity to see it in the daytime. And it was quite an experience! While it was a bit difficult on the hot sunny day to grasp the pairings with the smoky and oaky young Napa Cab, the brighter acidity and less oaked Coeur paired brilliantly with many of the dishes, including our favorite of the day: The Farmers Market Pantry’s Ancho Chili Roasted Mushroom & Squash Blossom Quesadilla. They were sponsoring the Napa Valley Youth Advocacy Center and their alternating savory and lightly spiced quesadilla rocked it with both the sauv blanc and the Coeur cabernet.


11060935_868285769915394_6407453637873669927_nThe event was a resounding success, raising over $59,000 for the local community and satisfying the thirst and stomach of hundreds of charity-minded patrons that day.  The people’s choice and judge’s choice winners are listed below, along with a link to the fantastic drone video courtesy of Darren Chestnut.

A big thank you to Hall Wines for our attendance that day.  Cheers!

Judges’ Choice 1st Pl: Chef Zack Mutrux, PRESS & Charity, If Given a Chance

Dish: Braised lamb neck with beef fat potatoes and bacon sherry vinaigrette

People’s Choice 1st Pl: Chef Chris Jorosz, Andrea Reiter, Capital Dime & Charity, Food Literacy Center

Dish: Savory wild rice Belgian waffles, crispy duck and fig balsamic wildflower syrup

Drone video of the festivities, courtesy of Darren Chestnut.


Newton Vineyard: A Mountain's Secret Garden

Newton VineyardI have the great fortune of being invited to a number of wine events each year.  All of these events have their merits and many are very cool.  It is the more rare event that completely rocks my vinous world, however.  The annual Garden Party at Newton Vineyard (Facebook, WineLog), 600 feet above St. Helena on Spring Mountain was one of those rare events.  Standing atop the mountain, with a 360 degree view of at least 65% of the entire Valley, with some glorious weather to complement the elegantly balanced Newton wines, paired with nibbles from étoile and the Lady by your side, it’s a bit hard to *not* have a brilliant time.  I decided to suck it up and a have a great time (tongue comfortably in cheek).

Newton VineyardProprietors Peter and his wife, Dr. Su Hua Newton founded the winery in 1977 after selling off their iconic Sterling Vineyard in the mid-70’s.  Their new 500+ Estate (~1 square mile) was instantly notable as a pioneering estate in what is now the Spring Mountain District, with it’s current 120 acres planted in 112 distinct blocks, at altitudes ranging from 500 to 1600 feet and slopes as sharp as 56 degrees.  Come harvest Newton harvesters will go through each block up to 5 times, all under the supervision of winemaker Chris Millard and Madrigal Vineyard Management.  Do the math and you can begin to understand the amount of care that goes into the vineyards leading up to each harvest!  These blocks are necessary, not only to take advantage of widely varying über-microclimates afforded by the differing altitudes and sun exposure that each block receives, but also due to the variou ssoil types that proliferate across the mountain.  While most of the soil is influenced by it’s volcanic beginnings, each block could be dominated by iron-rich, chalky or gravel-based soil types, making the proper pairing of grape variety crucial for each planted portion of the Estate.

Newton Vineyard Winemaker, Chris MillardThe Lady and I were very fortunate to have 30 minutes of Chris’ time for a tour of the winery before he headed out to greet the rest of the day’s guests.  Chris is tall, rangy man, with kind, bearded features that appear quite younger than his 40-something years.  He smiles often while he speaks and is very careful to put his guests at ease with his calm, considerate cadence of speech.  Newton Vineyard has always been concerned about maintaining their estate and gardens sustainably and that philosophy extends all the way to Chris’ winemaking.  80% of the winery is actually underground, in caves dug out of the mountainside in order to keep land above as green and untouched by structures as possible.  Chris makes the flagship wines of Newton unfiltered and unfined, indeed the Estate line of their wines are called Unfiltered.  The insane, fanatical care found in the vineyards of Newton is continued in Chris winery, where there is a very cool system of 8 inline galleries where their highly regarded Unfiltered Chardonnay can ferment at 8 completely separate, independent collections of lots, at their own temperature and humidity.  It’s really quite a marvel and something that I’ve never yet encountered during my vinous travels around the world.

The garden at Newton VineyardStrolling the garden, one had to believe that Peter Newton knows how to craft a beautiful life, albeit, with all of the hard work that goes along with a lifelong vision.  Peter is the gardener of the of the duo, as illustrated by the gorgeous, more royal British garden, mixed with an Eastern influence.  Meanwhile, Su Hua is the devoted oenophile and the winery is designed with a clearly beautiful Chinese Pagoda flair.  The staff was very warm and friendly, happily manning the tasty wine and food pairings, incredibly constructed by étoile chef, Perry Hoffman.  The pairing for the 2008 Newton Spring Mountain District The Puzzle was particularly successful.  Perry took fresh star anise atop lightly sweetened, high cocoa dark chocolate mousse tartlets to complement the fresh anise, dark fruits, fresh garden herbs and wet earth.  An absolutely superb combo, where neither the wine nor the chocolate overpowered each other, but instead held hands and made each other whole.  Further good fortune in food and drink took place during the Ritual Coffee demonstration kicked off by Chris, clearly a very avid fine coffee lover, as you can see in the video below.

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While this wasn’t my first time tasting wines from Newton, I had only had one other wine of theirs, a Cab, quite a few years back.  I was very interested to try their wines after hearing for so long how the winery was insistent upon making balanced wines with plenty of complexity and a happy lack of bombastic character.  All of the wines lived up to their billing, from the Merlot to the Chardonnay (we only tasted the Unfiltered line that day, along with The Puzzle).   They had acidity and fine, coating tannin structure that had anticipated, but they also had great restraint with their use of toasty oak and feature plenty of wonderful mineral notes.  Perhaps the most striking feature was their ageability, however.  We had a 13 year old Unfiltered Chardonnay that was showing beautiful dried apple and floral notes with a gorgeous dark yellow and green color.  Then the highlight of the day and the wine that completely rocked my world and spoiled me possibly, for tasting any aged red wine in the near future: the 1992 Newton Napa Valley Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine was decanted from a 6L Imperial and showed amazingly deep garnet color for a 19 year old red wine.  The nose exhibited savory leather, earth and flint, alongside deep black cherry fruit, but it was the palate that took me in.  Great acidity and the finest tannins perfectly supported the mix of black and red fruit and savory mushroom and leather for the deliciously smooth mouthfeel.  It was a sensational wine to complete such a day and one that showed just how well these wines can age, as its own life was still far from complete.


A very happy thank you goes out to everyone at Newton and Gregory White PR for our day atop Spring Mountain.  All of these elegant, well-balanced wines that we tasted last weekend in the Garden are tagged with “Newton2011Garden,”so that you can list them in your own WineLog.  All of our photos and videos from atop the mountain can be found on my Flickr in their own set, and also tagged with “Newton2011Garden.”  Cheers!

Newton Vineyard (Facebook, WineLog):

Newton Napa County Unfiltered Chardonnay 2008

OldWorldWK - WKBadges Newton Napa County Unfiltered Chardonnay 1998

Color: Deep and darker yellow green.

Nose: Dried yellow apple and some dried chamomile, light apple pie near the rim.

Palate: Getting towards orange wine tastiness with its age, dried apple here as well, still juicier finish. Good, from a magnum: OldWorldWK.

Newton Napa Valley Unfiltered Merlot 2008

Newton Napa Valley Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

AwesomeWK - WKBadges Newton Napa Valley Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 1992

Color: Medium ruby and light brick core, light ruby edges.

Nose: Gorgeous earth and leather nose, with deep black cherry fruit and some light flint minerality.

Palate: Also amazing here, with deeper medley still of black and red fruit, savory black olive, mushroom and leather here to balance that, with the finest tannins and acid for a perfect balance. One of the best wines that I’ve had all year: AwesomeWK.

KeeperWK - WKBadgesNewton Spring Mountain District The Puzzle 2007

Color: Darker garnet, ruby edges.

Nose: Very complex, with great savory garden herbs to balance the all dark fruit right now, with a hint anise at the rim.

Palate: Medium bodied, with juicy acidity for the all black fruit here as well and very smooth mouthfeel. Garden herbs here too, fresh, with hints of fresh wet earth in the juicier, structured finish: KeeperWK.

Vintners Hall of Fame 2010 Inductee Luncheon

Vintners Hall of Fame - CIA GreystoneLast year in late November, I had the very fortunate opportunity to attend the 2010 Inductee Luncheon for the Vintners Hall of Fame at The Culinary Institute of America, Greystone in St. Helena.  CIA Greystone is the premiere college for the culinary arts, with the main campus at Hyde Park, New York.  They also have additional campuses in San Antonio, Texas and in the imposing former Christian Brothers stone building in St. Helena, California.  It is here at Greystone that they have converted the old winery Barrel Room into a an impressive showcase of the many men and women that have shaped the wine industry in America.

Barrel Room - Vintners Hall of Fame - CIA GreystoneThe day’s event was to introduce the newest class of the VHoF during a small private ceremony before the public grand induction ceremony that will be held on March 13, 2010.  I arrived a bit early to the event in my excitement, and grabbed an espresso at my favorite coffee shop in this earth, Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company, only a about a mile south of Greystone on 29.  The weather was fairly terrible, with the first true downpour of the season just starting to the it the valley that very morning.  I tried to park near the entrance to escape from being entirely drenched before the event!  With the extra time that I had, I took in the sights at Greystone, chatting some with the very informative and kind volunteer near the entrance and also checked out the late Brother Timothy’s incredibly impressive wine bottle opener collection…I had *no idea* that there were so many different types of openers over the centuries!

The David and Judy Breitstein Collection - CIA GreystoneAs I walked around early on snapping photos (does anyone really *snap* a photo anymore?) of the Barrel Room, other invitees started coming in.  One thing that was immediately impressive was display of The David and Judy Breitstein Collection of 150 bottles of historic and iconic Californian wine.  Proprietors of the esteemed Duke of Bourbon wine shop in  SoCal, their collection is unsurpassed and they have generously donated all 150 wines on permanent loan to the CIA.  I enjoyed a very interesting conversation with David and Judy about the history of many of the wines on display that day.

Mike Grgich & David BreitsteinThere were many wine luminaries there, including a few previous Hall of Fame alumni, such as the indomitable Mr. Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, someone whom I’ve always wanted to meet.  Mike and I had a rather interesting conversation, discussing the passing of Mr. Robert Mondavi and whom should pick up the torch and continue the march of spreading the wines of the Napa Valley around the world.  I brought up Mike himself, but with a mild chuckle he passed on commenting upon that choice.  I was also excited to fun into W. Blake Gray (Twitter), wine writer and previously the wine editor of the now integrated SF Chronicle Wine Section and Podcast.

But most importantly, the 2010 Inductees were there and appeared very humbled by their awards and clearly enjoyed being able to socialize with other longtime members who have shaped the wine industry in the US.  The Vintners Hall of Fame 2010 Inductee Class consists of:

Leon Adams - Vintners Hall of FameLeon Adams, the “Pioneer Inductee” and a legendary historian of wine as the author of The Wines of America and founder of The Wine Institute. I was able to meet his delightful family over lunch!

Andy Beckstoffer - Vintners Hall of FameAndy Beckstoffer, one of the most influential grape growers in the history of the United States.  He has shaped the quality of wine grapes grown in California, as well as innovating economic policies that have helped encourage quality wine grapes.

Al Brounstein - Vintners Hall of FameAl Brounstein, founder of Diamond Creek Vineyards and one of the first pioneer’s of Californian wine to recognize our unique terroir, by releasing some of the first single vineyard wines in this country.

Randall Grahm - Vintners Hall of FameRandall Grahm (Twitter), the indefatigable winegrower, thought leader and champion of the lesser known grape varietal while directing his winery, Bonny Doon Vineyard.  His first collection was published last year, Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology (the book website was created by our own Jason Coleman).

Zelma Long - Vintners Hall of FameZelma Long, the fearless and talented female winemaker and winery CEO was one of the first to handle both sides of the wine business, at wineries Robert Mondavi Winery, Simi Winery and her own Long Vineyards, no less! Zelma had to call in from South Africa, were her and her husband produce wine for Vilafonté.

Charles E. Henning - CIA GreystoneLunch was kicked off by the Managing Director of CIA Greystone, Charles E. Henning who urged us to spread the word about the VHoF and encouraged us to provide any tips on how to grow the Hall.  One way that they can increase the reach and exposure for the Hall is to utilize some easily grasped social media strategies.  Much like the CIA itself, start a Fanpage on Facebook, open a VHoF Twitter account, but perhaps most importantly, make it a lot easier to find the Vintners Hall of Fame website.  Currently, unless you dig around the Greystone portion of the site, you won’t find the HoF anywhere on the main pages.  The Hall already has its own URL that redirects to the subdirectory page on CIA website; flesh out the site and make it standalone, yet still integrated by style and content with the CIA homepages.  I’m happy to chat more about all of these ideas.

Vintners Hall of Fame - CIA GreystoneLunch was very interesting for me, as I was seated next to Lori Narlock of one of my favorite wine portfolios, Wilson Daniels (Twitter) and Paul Franson (Twitter) of the long-established chronicle of Napa culture, NapaLife, as well as  TravelTastes.  Our table was filled out by the family of Pioneer Inductee, Leon Adams.  While I had little time to enjoy the many wines at the event, I did get in some Schramsberg bubbly early on (my favorite domestic sparkling producer) and Greystone’s own wine was served with both courses of the hearty luncheon menu.  The ’08 Sauv Blanc paired wonderfully with the Chilled Dungeness Crab Louie, while the ’06 Cab Sauv created some palate synergism with the Red Wine Braised Veal Shank that literally fell from the bone.  At the end of dessert, I had a chance to talk with VHoF 2009 alumus Carole Meredith and her husband Stephen Lagier. We discussed their latest endeavor, Lagier Meredith Vineyard up on one of my favorite appellations, Mt. Veeder.  I’m hoping to make a visit there in the near future to try some of their highly lauded Syrah!

The actual induction ceremony stands to be a grand affair and is open to the public, culminating in the induction ceremony 03/13/2010.  With a grand evening celebration as well as a number of ‘“A Day in Wine Country” salons and exclusive wine country lunches with tours and tastings,’ there are plenty of exciting events from which to choose.  More information about the events and ticket sales can be found online.

I would like to thank everyone at CIA Greystone for an exceptional day and all at Balzac Communications for enabling me to attend, particularly Michael Wangbickler (Twitter).

Check out my full reviews of the wines that we had that day during the delicious luncheon ceremonies.  If you would like to list these wines in your own WineLog, they are tagged with”2010VintnersHoFLunch“.  All of my photos from the day are over at my Flickr site, and are also tagged with “2010VintnersHoFLunch“.  Cheers!

Schramsberg Vineyards North Coast Blanc de Noirs 2006

Greystone Cellars Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Greystone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

ACME Atelier Tasting: An Assembly of All-Stars

ACME Fine WineA little while back I was given the chance to attend a very special gathering of established winemaker luminaries and taste a whole slew of outstanding wines, courtesy of a very gracious invite by Monica Collins of All Access Napa Valley.  I’ve never seen such a lineup of All-Star winemakers, nor the chance to have such access to speak with those that make or have made famous wines such as Kamen, Screaming Eagle, Scarecrow, The Prisoner, Rocca Family and L’Angevin.  The event was held at the innovative ACME Fine Wines in St. Helena.  Ever since opening their doors in April of ’03, co-owners and organizers of this event Karen Williams and David Stevens have consistently reinvented the wine retail, storage and event industries.  Their efforts have been noticed by numerous newspapers and wine writers.

David Stevens & Karen Williams of ACME Fine WinesRecently one night, whilst Karen and David were (undoubtedly) sitting around a great bottle of wine at work, they brainstormed about ways to take wine tastings to a new level.  They came up with a rather astounding plan, one which was obvious in retrospect, yet never before attempted and awesome in scope…instead of having a large number of yes, great wines made by great producers available to taste and having them poured by the various PR folk that help promote the wines, maybe they could do something different.  Karen and David decided to have an event where wine lovers could not only taste a number of highly allocated and cult wines which they may never normally be able to drink due to high demand, but to also provide exciting access to the acclaimed winemakers who birthed these fine wines.  This would be accomplished by having the winemakers pour the wines, themselves at the event!  The inaugural ACME Atelier wine tasting event was born.

All Access Napa ValleyI attended the event that fine morning in late April with one of my usual wine partners in crime, Xandria (Twitter), of the venerable Brix Chicks. We tweeted a bit on the drive up and I got my trusty Centro ready for the day’s copious note-taking.  We were very nicely taken care of by Monica once we arrived and I quickly snatched up a bottle of Pellegrino and a Reidel tasting glass to get started while we still had time left in the press portion of the tasting schedule.  I had something of a set plan heading into the day.  I’ve always wondered what it was like to be a consulting winemaker, particularly in the situation where you’re hired to come in and “fix” the wines and winemaking process alongside the house winemaker.  It always sounded like a tricky situation to have to navigate, much less to do so and succeed with a better wine at the end of the harvest.  I planned to pose this question to as many winemakers as was possible.

Robbie MeyerXandria and I toured the facility first, in order to get our bearings. ACME is gorgeous inside and out, with dark wood highlights and contemporary brushed steel inside and has plenty of windows for great natural lighting.  There are two main rooms, a gated office area and a good-sized kitchen in the back of the building.  Our first winemaker host was Robbie Meyer, most recently of Peirson Meyer and L’Angevin.  Robbie cut his winemaking teeth with no less than five years at Peter Michael and a few more at Lewis Cellars.  Now he is co-owner and winemaker at both Peirson Meyer and L’Angevin and is consulting winemaker for a number of other wineries.  Robbie exudes a very kind and approachable persona and we found it quite easy to chat with him about his wines and his new venture whereby he and his partners are merging their two wine labels mentioned above, into one exciting estate.  We started with his very tasty ’07 Untitled #3 Chardonnay, which was very complex with outstanding balance and crisp tropical fruit that was caressed by the silky mouthfeel.  The ’07 L’Angevin Pinot had wonderfully bright and currently fruit forward red raspberry and tarter cherry, followed by some nice mocha in the finish.

Vignerons who employ Russell BevanRussell BevanFollowing Robbie, Xandria and I decided head over to the opposite room and see what was jumping  on that side of the tasting.  We immediately were taken in by the rambunctious table of Russell Bevan wines.  We were also very happy to see that digital queen Shana Ray (Twitter) has arrived and joined in the wine fun. Russell is actually a former wine writer who put down his pen in 2004 to take up a life on the other side of the stories that he used to put down on paper.  The star of his set of wines was the ’08 Grey Stack Cellars Bennett Valley Sauv Blanc. It was showing great juicy tropical fruit and fruit blossoms in both the nose and on the palate, to go with its crisp acidity and pineapple finish.

I decided to break off from the crowd in order to hit up two winemakers that I was determined not to miss.  The first of these winemakers was the man who brings a heck of a lot of presence, Mark HeroldMark is an (aptly) self-described Renaissance man and one with which I can empathize, when wondering how to tackle multiple passions, particularly science and winemaking.  While those two crafts might seem merged in this post-UC Davis world, in truth they can be night and day from each other, yet pull just as strongly upon the heart and mind.  Mark HeroldIndeed, as I type this I am en route to Scottsdale to conduct some training for a oncology assay that I’ve developed for a new cancer drug now starting human clinical testing, yet I’m writing about (and sipping!) some vino…never the two shall meet!

Mark started his own path through these two crafts while getting his Ph.D. in Ecology, Nutritional Biochemistry at UC Davis.  While there he was persuaded to make some home wine and the passion for a more artistic craft was lit.  After finishing his orals and receiving his advanced degree, he decided to try and wield his scientific expertise in the wine biz, away from the labs and field studies of his post-graduate degree.  He worked for six years as Research Enologist at the landmark Joseph Phelps in Napa Valley, honing his vineyard-first winemaking acumen and moved from there to building is own label in the heart of downtown Napa, Merus Wines. He has also been consulting winemaker on a number of other highly successful and exclusive projects such as Kamen Estate, Harris Estate, Celani Family and now Kobalt.

Mark Herold, et al.I had a chance to chat a bit with Mark as I was tasting through his excellent selection of wines at the event.  I mentioned the presence of the man, part of this is his substantial height at well over 6′,  as well as his calmly confident demeanor and sharply cynical sense of humor.  When I asked him my central question of the day, how does one consult for wineries that already employ a house winemaker, he said that he was not only very concerned about such projects, but that they helped define his business relationships…as in the lack thereof.   He refuses any jobs whereby he would be compelled to work with another winemaker.  This is in part because he doesn’t feel the need to introduce any drama or conflict into his life.  But it also stems from the fact that he has already developed a deep sense of what will work to create great wines (not that his scientific sense of experimentation has ever left…he still strives to learn to better his wines) and that just may not click with another, similarly lauded and experienced winemaker.

Celia Welch MasyczekFollowing the fine selections that Mark had brought for us to taste, I moved to another winemaker for whom I already held in high regard.  Celia Welch Masyczek has been crafting superior wines for over 25 years.  She also attained her initial college wine education at UC Davis and has worked all over the world since then, in order to soak up as much diverse winemaking experience as is possible. I first became aware of her vino-mastery when Pops and I tasted her work at the Rocca Family Vineyards tasting room in downtown Napa during our 3rd Pops & Son Wine Trip in late 2007.  The balance and constrained power in those wines completely enthralled my nose and palate and I’ve been hooked on her liquid art, ever since.  Celia was pouring a number of wines that day, including the youthful Cornerstone Cellars wines that I’ve now enjoyed on a couple of occasions, which was when I also bumped into the esteemed Craig Camp (Twitter) of Wine Camp Blog and now Cornerstone.  I very much enjoyed the Lindstrom and Scarecrow Cabs that were open that day, but the star in my book was the ’06 Husic Stags Leap Cab.  This was actually being poured by the owner himself, Frank Husic.   Situated adjacent to the acclaimed Fay Vineyard, Husic Vineyard has been producing finely grained, deeply complex Cabs for a number years, as well.  This one had incredible balance with great red and black fruit and char, alongside some good savory notes and with great acid.

Heidi Peterson BarrettI decided to rendezvous back with my wine blogger comrades after tasting through Celia’s wines.  The building was in full swing at this point, as the public portion of the tasting had been going full swing for some time.  I discovered Xandria and Shana over by another effervescent winemaker, Heidi Peterson Barrett.  Married to the now immortalized Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena (as seen in the fictionalized, but fun wine flick Bottle Shock and in the outstanding book on which it was based), Heidi is another winemaker for whom I was taken in by their rather luminescent presence.  While perhaps, best known for her work as the winemaking guru behind the pinnacle of cult Napa Cabs, Screaming Eagle, it is her other work that has captured much of my attention (though that could be due to not having the means to purchase a bottle of her back vintages of $2K/bottle Screaming Eagle Cabs!).  She currently consults on a number of wines and also has her own line of mainly modestly-priced, high QPR premium wines under the guise of La Sirena and the very high-end Amuse Bouche.  I decided to taste one consulting wine and then go through the entire line of La Sirena wines that were on the table.  The ‘05 Lamborn Howell Mountain Cab was a fine work and much in line with most of the other wines that day, lush, filled with fruit, but with plenty of acid and silky tannin to support such power.  The La Sirena wines were quite a step away from that style, however.  All were much more angular and strongly structured than the wines I had tasted prior to this set, with the ’05 Syrah coming out as a clear winner.  It was very finely structured with some red fruit sitting atop deeper blue fruit, surrounded by some smoky, savory notes.

Heidi Peterson BarrettDuring the hubbub and clamoring glasses in this corner of ACME, I was able to ask my central question of Heidi.  She was very considerate about all of my questions, at one point even telling me that it was perfectly OK to take up more of her time as she was interested in what I had to discuss.  Heidi said that she was happy to take on consulting winemaking jobs with already established winemakers, but acknowledged that it can sometimes be a tricky endeavor.  She said that she never tries to deviate from the house style, nor from the type of wine that the vineyard will offer during each vintage.  She more will work towards bringing more focus to these already established wines and wineries and try to increase the quality of each winemaking step, utilizing her many years of highly successful experience, spanning over the last 30 vintages.  I thanked Heidi for her time, grabbed another sip of the La Sirena Syrah and headed over to the last winemaker of my day.

Dave PhinneyDave Phinney has really exploded on the wine scene over the last 5 or so years.  His quirkily named and labeled Orin Swift wines have blown up right along with his reputation, and rightfully so.  The Prisoner, his iconic Zinfandel blend has improved with every vintage and subsequent efforts have started at those already lofty heights and continued the string of fine wine, most notably seen in his Papillon blend.  Both of these wines were available to taste that day, although I only was able to grab a new taste of the ’05 Papillon, of which I’ve already enjoyed at a favorite local haunt Artisan Wine Lounge, courtesy of proprietor Lena Chu.  Many vignerons have noticed Dave’s success and have requested his services with their own wines.  Two of these that were available that day were the ’05 Cavus Cab and the ’05 Beau Vigne Juliet Cab.  These were both very unique, yet nicely balanced and varietally correct.  The Cavus, in particular, had a some wonderful minerals and sea salt in its long finish.

NespressoPanevinoIt was time to head back to the East Bay, unfortunately and so with a very hearty thank you to Monica, David and Karen, Xandria and I grabbed some tasty nibbles from the kitchen, prepared by Panevino and a rather elegant espresso, pulled from a Nespresso machine.  We then grabbed our well-earned Atelier tasting booklets and bid farewell to the stylish elegance of ACME.

Feel free to check out my full reviews of all of the phenomenal wines that we tasted that day at ACME Fine Wines.  If you would like to list these wines in your own WineLog, they are tagged with “ACME2009Atelier“.  If you too were at ACME that fine day, please leave me a note and tell me about the wine that was your own favorite for the day.  Enjoy!

Robbie Meyer:

Peirson Meyer Sonoma County Untitled #3 Chardonnay 2007

L’Angevin Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2007

Sage Vineyards Napa Valley Veedercrest 2005

Jericho Canyon Vineyard Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Versant Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Russell Bevan:

Grey Stack Cellars Bennett Valley Dry Stack Vineyard Rosemary’s Block Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Westerhold Family Vineyards Estate Syrah 2007

Sanglier Sonoma County Kemp Vineyard Syrah 2007

Showket Vineyards Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Mark Herold:

Kamen Sonoma Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Celani Family Vineyards Napa Valley Ardore 2005

Kobalt Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Kobalt Napa Valley 41.08N 08.40W 2005

Celia Welch Masyczek:

Lindstrom Stags Leap District Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Scarecrow Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Husic Vineyards Stags Leap District Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Keever Vineyards Yountville Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Heidi Peterson Barrett:

La Sirena Napa Valley Moscato Azul Dry Muscat Canelli 2007

La Sirena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

La Sirena Napa Valley Syrah 2005

Lamborn Family Vineyards Howell Mountain Vintage III Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Dave Phinney:

Orin Swift Napa Valley Papillon 2005

Cavus Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Beau Vigne Napa Valley Juliet Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

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