If you’ve been following along with our American Viticultural Area tour of the Napa Valley, you’ll know what’s going on. If not, check out past Sunday posts here as well.
(image left from destination360.com and right from napaman.com)
Yountville is another one of Napa’s truly famous AVAs, situated around the eponymous town first settled and plated to vine in 1836 by George Calvert Yount. Yountville is also home to French Laundry, the only 3-Star Michelin restaurant in the United States outside of NYC and Las Vegas, as well as plenty of other high-end dining options.
After having read a fair share of climatic information on many of the Napa AVAs, it seems that no matter how the region is affected by fog, it’s seen as an advantage. In the cooler, high altitude areas, being above the fog is good, because there is more direct sunlight on the fruit. On the valley floor, fog is good because it cools down the fruit to preserve acidity. It does make sense! Anyways, Yountville is blessed with fog from San Pablo Bay, which is trapped here by the Yountville Mounts – a 458 ft, forested hill in the middle of the valley. It’s cooler than Rutherford, Oakville and St. Helena to the north, but warmer than Oak Knoll and Carneros to the south.
The boundary of Yountville includes 8000 acres of land, 3000 of which contain vineyards of Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, and Petit Syrah among many others. There are less than 20 wineries based here, but nearly 50 growers. The intriguingly designed, yet completely uninviting estate that is Dominus, ranks among the most famous. I was looking to pick up a bottle of their revered second label “Napanook,” but it seems to be sold out around San Francisco.
My most memorable experience with Yountville wine so far, was a tasting last spring with the legend Mike Grgich, and his biodynamic wines from Grgich Hills. Among many others, we tasted the “Yountville Selection” Cabernet Sauvignon from ’04, ’01, and ’99. The elegant ’01 particularly stuck out to me with it’s amazing concentration of layered black and purple fruit and a dusty road component. Extraordinary wine, yet at +$200 a bottle in BC, you’d hope it would be good.
For other Yountville based wineries or wineries with Yountville AVA labels check out this list here.
(A screenshot of Mt Veeder from a Brandlin Vineyards video)
Mt Veeder gets the AVA award for the greatest name. It’s actually named after German Presbyterian pastor, Peter Veeder who lived in the hills around the time of the Civil War. Then one day Peter shot and killed a fellow drinker at a bar in Napa, later jumping ship to Japan. True story. This region is a patchwork of complex topography and high elevation vineyards (up to 2500 ft) in the Mayacamas Range on the western side of the Napa Valley. These steep sites are mostly harvested by and and also boast some of the lowest yields in the valley. Only 1000 acres are planted on volcanic soils in this 15,000 acre AVA with predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Franc. Mt Veeder is also considered to be the best place to grow Malbec in Napa.
(Old vines from the Brandlin Vineyard and Franus’ Brandlin Zinfandel)
One of my personal favourite Napa wines, that I have tried so far, is Peter Franus‘ ’05 Brandlin Vineyard Zinfandel. I love the herbaceous, oregano and black olive characters on the nose (Southern Italy? Primitivo??). The palate is steered back on the Napa Zin track with ripe purple fruit and spice. Very interesting balance of characters and a fantastic bottle. When we tried the ’06 last year, it was still fairly closed up, but I’d love to see how that and the new ’07 release are tasting now. Franus’ Brandlin Zin runs for a very reasonable $35 winery direct in California and around $55 in BC. I think I remember seeing it at Marquis in Vancouver.
I’m very interested to try the Syrah from Lagier-Meredith, which is made by husband and wife duo Stephen Lagier and Carole Meredith from their 4-acre vineyard. As an interesting side note, Kurtis and I are quite familiar with Carole as she used to be a professor for the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis and hosted all the DVD lessons we watched when taking a distance winemaker’s course.
Also, I picked up the ’05 Mount Veeder Cabernet from Cuvaison. The tasting notes will have to wait, as this bottle was viciously corked.
As always, please feel free to contribute any information, experience or tasting notes that you feel are relevant and check back next Sunday for more AVA action.