The 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 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.
Winemaker 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.
We 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.
We 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.
We 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.
Our 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.
Our 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.
We 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!
Wines that I had with dinner: