Just after Christmas and during the week leading up to New Years we tried two great new wines. In many ways the wines could not be more different, while at the same time both posses many similarities. Not in flavor profile or winemaking, but in lineage and history. At the same time with these similarities, the wines are a study in wine made in a newer style vs. coming from the old-school process of grape growing, style and wine making. These contrasts and similarities are what makes wine so intriguing for the consuming public.
The first wine is the 2016 75 Wine Company Cabernet from Napa. The wine is made in more of the new-school model; it shows focus on red fruits, cherry and red berries. The aromatics are lovely, with ripe fruit shining through and just the right amount of barrel spice and warm oak notes. The finish is long, sleek and elegant with smooth tannins. It is really quite extraordinary, especially for $25 ($22.50 to our wine club members).
There is great history and lineage with the wine too. Andy Beckstoffer is an iconic figure in the Napa Valley, with a history of growing some of the best wine grapes for decades. In fact, Andy has won the award for Grower of the Year in Napa many times. During all of this time growing grapes and managing some of the most prominent vineyards in “the valley” he never made wine. His son, Tuck Beckstoffer, is now making wine, and the 75 Wine Company Cab is one of those. The name, a homage to the year his dad started growing grapes, combines both Andy’s long history and his own recognition of the importance of the history that Napa Valley brings to a bottle of wine.
The other wine we discovered, or rediscovered, during the last week of December is the 2016 Louis Martini Alexander Valley Cabernet. It is another winner with lush, blue fruit aromatics of crushed Italian plums and the lightest hint of spice. The palate has perfect weight and balance, highlighting fruit flavors of cherry and black friar plums. The tannins are a bit more firm — a nod to the old-school nature of the wine and a history of the Martini family that dates to the very beginning of the wine business in Northern California. This combination of a winemaking approach of really embracing tannin along with the different climate conditions of the Alexander Valley versus Napa makes for a fascinating comparison.
The Louis Martini Winery is now owned by the huge Gallo family of wineries. The good news (and an interesting part of the winery today) is that the wine is made by Louis’ grandson, Michael Martini. This stability and family connection is a great tribute to the family and to their new ownership Gallo. At $35 ($31.50 for our wine club members) the wine is an extraordinary value given the quality.
We still have a bit of both wines in the shop for sale. As we frequently do, we offer these finds to our wine club members first. This is part of the personal service and expertise we offer to our club members and we then strive to bring wines like these to all wine consumers in North Idaho. We encourage you to come and give these lovely wines a try.
One final “wine country” story. One of our wine club members who summers here and winters someplace warmer grew up in the Napa Valley. Her friends and classmates include some of most famous people in the wine business, those iconic names we all recognize, the true luminaries from the business when it was in its infancy. Her stories are compelling and entertaining. When I emailed her regarding these wines, she emailed back to order some, but also told me of her time in school with Carolyn Martini, Louis’ daughter, and how the Martinis and her parents were friends, frequently going to each other’s homes for dinner. It turns out her parents were friends of Andy Beckstoffer as well. Hearing these stories and reflecting on them over a glass of these two great wines is what drives the passion of wine. The best part!
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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop.