Monday, January 9, 2012

Napa Valley Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignons flight and Carneros Chardonnay

Napa Valley Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignons flight and Carneros Chardonnay

For a gala dinner to celebrate Beth's birthday, we opened a flight of Napa Valley Howell Mountain big Cabernet Sauvignons to go with NY Strip steaks from the farm. Starting with caprese salad, lobster medallions were featured with a Napa Valley Carneros Chardonnay and Champagne. Artisan cheeses included Fair Oaks Farms aged cheddar cheeses - 2, 3 and 5 years old.We finished with Linda's fabulous flowerless dark chocolate cake and Eiswein.

Main course big cabs flight ... 

Clark Claudon Napa Valley Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

This was the consensus favorite of the tasting.

Deep dark purple - full bodied - big mouth-full of forward complex but polished spicy black and edge of red berry fruits, violets, layers of mocha and oak with a long lingering tannin finish.

The 2004 Napa growing season was condensed with early bud break, warm days, cool nights and one challenging heat spike. The result was a small harvest of intense, flavor packed fruit from an unusual, but exceptional year that is showing and drinking well and should last another decade.

RM 93 points.

We first met Tom Clark and Laurie Claudon-Clark during our Napa Wine Experience 1999 when we hosted them at our wine dinner at Pinot Blanc in St Helena (see picture left). We tasted Clark Claudon 1995-96 against ten year 1989 Bordeaux. Our vertical collection of  Clark Claudon continues to this day.


O'Shaughnessy Napa Valley Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2000

Dark inky color, full bodied, the black berry, black currant and black raspberry fruit predominate but are a bit flabby lacking the more typical depth and concentration of greater vintages, a layer of lead pencil and a slight herbaceous tone, hints of tobacco and charcoal linger on the firm tight tannins indicative of Howell Mountain terroir. 

RM 89 points.

La Jota Napa Valley Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

Dark inky purple, full bodied, notes of blackberry, black raspberry and black currant, turning to cedar,  leather, then oak and silky smooth tannins on the finish.

RM 90 points.

Legendary winery on Howell Mountain since the turn of the last century released wines as early as the late 1890's.

Blue Hall Vineyards Camiana Napa Valley Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Blue Hall Vineyard sits 1700 feet above the valley floor atop Howell Mountain. Its three acres are planted in Cabernet Sauvignon and is the used to produce one Estate bottled single vineyard wine, Camiana, named for Juliane and Camille, the two daughters of Vintner and owner, Dr. Andrew Zolopa, is a world-renowned researcher and the director of Stanford University's HIV/AIDS program. Zolopa spends most of his time researching HIV, but his second passion is wine; and his spare time is dedicated to fine-tuning Blue Hall Vineyard.Cabernet Sauvignon. They built a get-away weekend retreat high up on Howell Mountain and eventually planted three acres of Cabernet vines. The first limited vintage was in 2004, increasing production with the subsequent releases. 

The wine is full bodied and dark inky purple color, the nose is perfumed with violets, cedar box and dusty earth, The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon flavors are complex, tight and dry, with big firm tannins masking the intense concentrated black berry and black cherry fruit accented with tobacco, hints of cassis and sweet oak. This wine is great now but should be laid down for five to 10 years.

RM 91 points.

 Before dinner, with the artisan cheeses ...    

FogDog Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006 

Medium bodied, ruby colored, bing cherries, raspberries, cedar, spice box, and hints of anise and mocha.

RM 88 points.

A Joseph Phelps project, Freestone Vineyards are a 100-acre, cool climate site on the Sonoma Coast now coming into production, with a selection of  Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs under the Freestone and this FogDog labels.

Ramey Napa Valley Carneros Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay 2005

This was highly praised by everyone. Medium bodied with  golden yellow color; full forward creamy flavors of pear, lychee and baked apple with hints of nut, caramel, and touch of citrus - nice structure and depth with a well balanced clean and crisp lingering aftertaste. 

RM 91 points.  

 Situated in the rolling hills of Carneros in the southern Napa Valley on the road to Sonoma sits Hudson Ranch whose Hudson Vineyards source grapes to over 32 wineries throughout Napa and Sonoma counties.Carneros is one of the nations finest grape growing regions where the cool breezes off north San Francisco Bay allow the grapes a longer hang time in which to develop flavor and intensity, without sacrificing acidity and balance. The Hudson site was originally known as Talcoa Vineyards, an Indian name meaning ‘laughing land.’ It was on these lands in the 1880’s that the first American successful scientific experiments were carried out to overcome phylloxera, which was devastating the vineyards of Europe.

Hudson Vineyards produces 10 different grape varietals in the Los Carneros AVA of Napa, California on 160 acres.Only a select few producers that source their grapes from Hudson produce wines that bear the ‘Hudson Vineyards’ designation. These producers are those whom Hudson Vineyards has established long term contracts to for specific blocks of the vineyards. Those wines are of great importance and interest as those are sites of intense, interesting, varietal the grower and the winemakers.

The vineyards north of the Carneros Highway, but further west, have terrain that is more rolling with lighter more  friable soil. This year’s bottling is the second to come entirely from B-block, planted in 2001 to a Wente selection from the Hyde Vineyard, so the vines were eight years old this vintage and further developing their maturity resulting in Hudson Vineyard wines being more muscular and masculine broad-shouldered character.

Finis w/ flowerless dark chocolate cake and fresh berries ... 

Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Eisrebe 2010

100% estate-grown Scheurebe from a Spring Valley Vineyards outside of St. Helena. The Scheurebe grapes are picked late in the season and then frozen, thereby concentrating their already high sugar levels resulting in a wine viscous and smooth, with good acidity levels to balance the sweetness, and luscious flavors of citrus and apricot.The grapes are left to shrivel on the vines. They must reach the same level of sugar concentration
as Beerenauslese.

Pale gold, full  bodied. Predominant full concentrated Peach flavor with hints of apricot, orange oil and clove on the luscious long lingering finish and aftertaste.