We received many comments on our column from last week regarding our trip to Napa and Sonoma Counties. Universally readers have asked, “Well that was a great update on the crop and community, but what about the wine?” So here we go with a brief review of the wines we tasted while traveling around Napa.
Our tasting at Spotswoode, as me mentioned last week, was truly spectacular. This historic and iconic property in the heart of the town of St. Helena is unrivaled in its beauty and charm. Spotswoode only makes three wines: Sauvignon Blanc and two Cabernets, the Lyndenhurst Cabernet and their Estate Cabernet ($100, $90 wine club and $300, $270 wine club respectively). While delicious, both of these wines are tightly allocated and the amount we receive each year sells out quickly.
Their 2018 Sauvignon Blanc ($60, $54 wine club) is expensive, we get it. But I will also say it is one of the best white wines I have ever had in my wine consuming career. It is easily in the top two California Sauvignon Blancs around and probably as good as any from Europe. The wine is an extraordinary example of perfect balance and lovely texture, but is still clean on the palate with loads of pink grapefruit toned fruit flavors, but bone dry with a lengthy, deep finish but still crisp. If you are a white wine enthusiast, this wine simply should not be missed.
We have long been fans of Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay ($70, $63 wine club) and when we had it at the winery, it met every expectation! Of course, the view didn’t hurt. Shafer sits on a bench just above the Silverado Trail, south of St. Helena, with commanding views of the Southern half of the Napa Valley; it is an exceptional property. We have kept the Chardonnay on the shelf for several years now. This year we did receive an allocation of both 750ml and magnums of the 2015 Hillside Select Cabernet ($400, $360 wine club for the 750ml, $900, $810 wine club for the “Mags”) and we are thrilled to be able to offer it to our customers at last. The wine shows much of the character of the nearby Rutherford Bench, with a bit of dusty aromatics to go along with opulent plum flavors perfectly framed by firm, but not overbearing tannins. It represents the best Napa has to offer.
We were also very impressed with the Shafer TD 9 Red Blend. The wine is Merlot based and we will be adding it to the shelves soon. We will review the wine with pricing once it arrives.
At Failla we were fortunate to taste through their full portfolio of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and their new Zinfandel called Day. We have had the Failla Sonoma Coast Chardonnay on the shelf and continue to carry it. The wine ($50, $45 wine club) is a lovely restrained Chardonnay with butter, oak and fruit flavors of broiled citrus and golden apples all in perfect balance. The Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir has been one of our favorites for years ($55, $49.50 wine club) and it also fulfilled all of our expectations. With lovely cherry fruit and earthy aromatics, it will be on our shelf for as long as we can get it.
Unfortunately, their vineyard designations of these wines do not make it into distribution. We did secure several magnums of both their vineyard designated wines and their Sonoma Coast bottlings. We will not have pricing until the “big bottles” are set up with the distributor. We do expect to have them in the shop prior to the holidays, just in time for your Christmas and Thanksgiving gatherings, so check in at the shop for when these arrive.
Our other tasting was at Pride Mountain Vineyards, and the question there is: where to start. Pride has been one of our favorites since we lived in Northern California, long before we even thought of opening the dinner party. Their lineup is nothing short of spectacular, however we don’t get all of their wines every year. Even after all this time, the production of Pride remains pretty small. We did try, and right now have in the shop the 2015 Cabernet ($100, $90 wine club) so we will focus on that wine. Pride sits high in the Mayacamas Mountains on the county line between Napa and Sonoma counties. This high-altitude vineyard gets lengthy hang time in the fall and develops an extraordinary balance between bright fruit flavors and firm tannin. It is one of our most popular, high-end Cabernets every vintage, and is well worth the price.
We look forward to seeing you at the shop to try these wonderful selections going into the fall and winter holidays.
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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.