Dallas Uncorked Visits Napa and Sonoma – Part 1

There are a handful of places that I just love, Napa and Sonoma are two of them.  Late December we had a chance to escape to both for a few days.  Napa is amazing, but always a lot to do in a very, very short time…Sonoma is a little more laid back…or maybe that is how we plan that portion of the trip.  Either way California wine country is a little piece of heaven, and this trip offered some new adventures that we didn’t expect. 

We had gone out to surprise my sister for her 40th birthday earlier that week.  Being smart travelers we took the opportunity to spend a few days up the road in Napa and Sonoma with two of our dearest friends, Don and Ellen Winspear.  Three days, 9 wineries, great friends…what more could you want?

View from Colgin's patio

I have been to Napa probably 15 times, and never have I started the way I started this trip.  First stop…100 point wine at Colgin.  We had been able to set up an early appointment to meet with the lovely Ann Colgin, and her hubbby Joe Wender.  Ann started Colgin in the early 1990’s after leaving her position as President of Fairchild’s Fine Art in New York.  She always had a love for beautiful things and wanted to have a hand in the creative process…and lucky for us, her chosen canvas turned out to be wine. 

Ann Colgin with me
After a stunning tour of their property and wine making facilities, including their research and development room that holds bottles and bottles of some of the most amazing wine in the world in all shapes and sizes from traditional 750ml bottles to magnums, jerobaums, methuselahs and more, such as a 1966 Chateau Latour and a 1982 Cheval Blanc, we got down to tasting. 

The nice thing about Colgin wines is their elegance and balance.  Though they are bold wines, they are not fruit or tannin bombs.  These wines have style, beauty and texture with a lingering finish, making you want more.  The 2006 IX Colgin Red Blend brings Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot together as the signature wine for Colgin with licorice, cherry and forest floor aromas, showing the true terrior of Colgin estate fruit.  Stunning. 

Next stop, one of our favorites and a must for every trip we make to Napa, Miner Family Vineyards.  I have been a fan of Miner since the late 1990’s when Dave Miner started the winery and introducing friends to Miner is one of my favorite things to do. 

It was one of our favorite stops on the first trip Gary and I made together to Napa, and this visit was as great as that one.  My buddy Jamie, who works in the Miner tasting room, took us on a tour through the caves for a barrel tasting, then out to the deck on the top floor of the tasting room for Benedetto Cab and a while soaking in the view of the valley.  Every wine that Miner makes is superb, amazing since they are often experimenting with new varietals.  Their focus is to make wine with a unique and individual style with superb quality. 

Gary and Jamie barrel tasting
They recently released a Tempranillo from vineyards in the Sierra Foothills.  This trip was the first time for me to try this wine, but I do like a Tempranillo, being a big fan of Sapnish wine.  This one was big with lots of cherry and spice, with balanced tannin and acidity.  Their Viognier is an excellent example of this grape done right, but the 2009 took this up a notch with an extra layer of bright fruit and crispness that some of the previous vintages haven’t had as much of.  My favorites from their portfolio continues to be their creamy, vibrant Wild Yeast Chardonnay, but we also love their base Napa Valley Chardonnay; their Stagecoach Vineyard Merlot, the Merlot I give non-Merlot drinkers to help them change their opinion about this grape; their beautiful Gary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir from Santa Lucia Highlands.  This vineyard produces some of the best Pinot Noir grapes in the region, if they are handled correctly, which is basically to keep your hands off, which Miner does, allowing the beauty of the fruit to shine. 
Gary with Ellen Winspear at Miner

Gary loves The Oracle.  Being a Bordeaux lover this is his perfect wine, as it blends Caberenet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. 

The 2006 has a bit more Cab Franc than Merlot, which I love, filling the wine with good earthy, cocoa and spice notes with great aging ability.

Our third stop for the day was a new winery for me, but one we soon fell in love with for the tasting experience if nothing else.  Add great wine and it is a winning combination. 

Wine cave at Ancien

Ancien  is set in the heart of Napa and is known for making superb Carneros fruit Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  After a brief tour of the vineyard we head to their “tasting room.”  We are handed a few bottles and our guide grabs some glasses and leads us on a slightly precarious path through filled barrels of aging wine to a candlelit table in the middle of their barrel room. 

There we tasted excellent Pinot Noir.  When asked what makes Ancien so different the response was simple, their approach and attitude is not like anyone else.  And, they focus on just a few grapes making them the best they can.  The 2008 Toyon Farm Pinot Noir was lively and intense with earthy, cherry flavors and a lengthy finish.

We check into our hotel, the beautiful Meritage Inn and Spa on the edge of Napa, and rest for a bit before we head to dinner with our friends, Eric Grigsby and Mary Rocca of Rocca Family Vineyards

Over dinner at the Grigsby/Rocca home we enjoy some new wines I hadn’t tried before, including their stunning 2002 Syrah filled with smoky, spicy flavors and lots of fruit.  A relaxing night with Mary and Eric, and their charming wine maker Paul Colantuoni, celebrating wine, food and conversation.

A perfect day enjoying the beauty of Napa Valley at four of the best and most representative wineries in the valley.  On to day two…..