Napa, The Wines
By: George Balling
The feedback from our series of columns on our trip to Napa has been truly rewarding. We hope it will spur many of you to make the journey, but if that is not in the cards perhaps you can make the trip vicariously by having the opportunity to try some of the wines. Here are the ones we found to be outstanding, many of which are in our shop now, and more will arrive soon.
Failla has been one of our favorite wineries and some of our favorite wines for many years. Our visit there this time was wonderful and as we mentioned we were able to spend some time with Ehren Jordan, owner/winemaker at Failla, a real treat that gave us great background on the wines we love so much. The Failla Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($50, wine club price $45) remains one of the best examples of California Chardonnay we have ever had. It has all we love about both varietal and style, the lush apple, pear and lemon fruit flavors, toasty oak and creaminess but all held in exquisite balance with perfect tension between all of the components.
Similarly, the Failla Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($55, wine club price $49.50) is just a joy. The grapes come from Ehren’s estate vineyard located on his home property on a ridge high above the Russian River Valley. The wine consistently shows mild earthiness on the nose surrounded by notes of ripe Bing cherry. The palate is sleek and silky loaded with ripe cherry flavors leading to a lengthy finish. If your gathering might be a bit smaller at Thanksgiving this year, it would be an amazing wine and near perfect pairing to serve that day.
We are currently out of Ehren’s Day Zinfandel ($40, wine club price $36) but it should arrive in November. We were fortunate to try the new vintage while at the winery. Like all of the Failla wines the Day shows that extraordinary balance that create harmonious wines that are wonderful to drink. Ripe raspberry flavors dominate the palate with just a hint of pepper on the finish. The wine will be a great heartwarming wine during the cold days of winter.
Finally, the Failla Hudson Vineyard Syrah ($60, wine club price $53) is a newer wine for Failla and another delicious bottling, it should also arrive later this year. Subtle meatiness, dried herbs and dark cherry aromas lead to a palate with great depth and length through the finish with alternating flavors of savoriness and opulent fruit.
Pride Mountain Vineyards was another of our stops and as always, their location high in the Mayacamas Mountains on the Napa/Sonoma County Line not only stuns with the setting and views but produces extraordinary fruit. We had the chance to try the 2019 Pride Cabernet Franc ($135, wine club price $121.50) which was helpful since our allocation this year was only 6 bottles as well as a magnum and a 3L. This is always, year in and year out our favorite wine from Pride. Their approach to Cabernet Franc is to always let the unique varietal character shine through but also to blend in a small amount of either Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon to gently fill out the back palate and lengthen the finish on the wine. The dusty tannins “Franc” is known for comes out on the nose and the palate is loaded with blue fruit flavors before the tannins reemerge on the finish, it is truly an extraordinary wine making it great for a special occasion intimate dinner or as a gift for your favorite wine enthusiast.
Black Stallion Winery also hosted us for a tasting at their stunning facility south of Yountville. The tasting was truly extraordinary that included many varietals spanning style and price points. We will be bringing back in the shop in the next couple of weeks their Carneros Pinot Noir ($25, wine club price $22.50) which we found to be an amazing value. The wine is ripe, juicy and easy drinking and loaded with the light body and sleek texture we love about the varietal. If you are hosting a larger crowd over the holidays, it will delight your guests and is priced to do just that.
Our entire trip was one of the best to wine country and will be tough to match when we next return. We will try though; it is just one of the most special spots in all of the wine world. You should go, and when you do visit your favorites and also save some time to just go someplace new and unpredictable, it is the best way to create your own wine country memories.