Grape vines flying by…
We found ourselves with a free day earlier in the week and after grabbing a Zipcar, embarked on a rainy drive through Sonoma and Carneros and into Napa on the lookout for a few wineries to drop in at.
The Benziger property is gorgeous; It’s also a biodynamic theme park. After achieving the right to use the Demeter certified word, they’ve used it ad nauseam. Maybe I’m just bitter that I didn’t get to go on the Biodynamic® Vineyard Tram Tour, but I’m certain Rudolf Steiner is rolling in his Biodynamic® grave.
We opted for the reserve tasting flight where you choose five wines from a selection of their small production, biodynamic and single vineyard wines. All serious wines including the ’07 “Sangiacomo Vineyards” Chardonnay from Carneros (the one of the bunch that is neither organic nor biodynamic), ’05 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, ’06 Oonapais Bordeaux Blend, and their flagship ’06 Tribute Bordeaux Blend. Good concentration and quality across the board.
Stylistically, my favourite of the lineup was the ’07 De Coelo Pinot Noir whose production is a mere 250 cases and runs you a hot $69 at the winery. Along with the assorted basket of red fruits you’d expect, this bulking Pinot had an enlivening gingersnap spice on the finish. A tasty wine that was fun to try, especially because of the production level, but not fun enough for me to spring the $70.
The first impromptu pullover was Landmark Vineyards whose Chardonnays have given me joy in the past. The flight of three intensified and grew in weight from the Overlook ’07, which is a blend of 22 vineyards, with baked green apple and focused acidity; to the Carneros-sourced and my favourite of the three, Damaris ’07, with spiced fruit, and more depth and oak; and the Russian River Valley’s Lorenzo ’07, which was even spicier and slightly smoky, but after showing a lot of complexity and promise up front, seemed to fizzle out quickly. I admire how well the Landmark wines carry the oak-driven style that they’re burdened with, and how they all punch above their weight class (prices are $24, $40, and $53 at the winery).
A nice shot of the power lines outside Cliff Lede
Cliff Lede (LAY-dee), an Edmonton native whose family built the oil and construction company Ledcor, decided to chase the Napa lifestyle while jogging through the valley in the late 90′s. Cliff eventually found a property for sale in the Stags Leap District and compiled a high profile team – Winemaker Michelle Edwards (Peter Michael, Colgin), Vineyard Manager David Abreu (Colgin, Araujo, Grace, Bryant, Staglin, Pahlmeyer, Harlan, Screaming Eagle, etc, etc, etc), and even threw a little consulting from Michael Rolland in the mix (because why not?) They focus on red Bordeaux varietals and one Sauvignon Blanc.
The actual tasting experience here was the best. Our host left us to the wine and discussed technical aspects afterward. No one blurted out flavour descriptors or impressed us with numbers between 90 and 100 while I had my my nose stuck in the glass.
We began with the ’06 Claret (57% Cabenet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc), a light and feminine style I found quite refreshing. The ’06 St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon (with 13% Cabernet Franc, 12% Merlot) and the spicier, darker and more bruting ’06 Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon (5% Merlot, 2% Malbec) were both delicious wines, but didn’t excite me enough for the price. ($40, $65, $60 as listed at the winery).
Image from zoomermag.com
What did excite me was the ’08 Sauvignon Blanc. The style is very aromatic and Gewurztraminer-like in it’s spice, smoke, and perfume qualities. Rich, with the creamy orange blossom character that I’ve heard people trumpet as a BC white trait. I like the fact that, although 28% was fermented in oak (and 6% in concrete eggs!), there’s no obvious oak fingerprint mucking things up. Very good Sauvignon Blanc done in a very cool style. (Apparently a little hard to come by these days, but it’s $22 at the winery).
A few of these wines are imported into BC by Landmark Selections, including the Sauv Blanc for $34, Stags Leap Cab for $76 and the flagship ‘Poetry’ Cab, which I haven’t tried, for $176.
Overall, a great first introduction to Napa, yet I look forward to another jaunt through the valley, where I can make some reservations and plan out all the stops.