Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends
Rocca on a Rampage
Preisers’ Reserve: When we selected the deep, dark, deliciously luscious 2005 Allora Petite Sirah ($65), we promise we had no knowledge that young, talented Rudy Zuidema was the winemaker. Having recently featured his Ehlers Estate wines, we normally would not mention him again so quickly. However, the Allora Petite Sirah is a small production and sells out quickly, so seeking it out will require expeditious inquiry. A devilishly enticing nose of black currant and hazel nut is followed by layers of intense dark fruit on the palate. Yumm. Allora is the label of relative newcomers Terry and Nancy Klein and their lovely family. We first encountered these St. Helena gems (the family and wine) a few years back, and have always enjoyed them. This Petite is a real standout.
If there is another winery that can claim the recent international and national successes of Napa’s Rocca Family Vineyards, we hope someone will let us know. After being selected by the prestigious California “Vintner’s Club” as one of 12 Cabernet Sauvignons to be judged in Bordeaux by a panel of French experts, Rocca’s 2002 Yountville ($55) was awarded first place, beating out runner up Caymus Special Select ($136).
Some of the other competitors of note in this October event included Ramey’s Jericho Canyon ($90); Wente’s Nth Degree ($50); Robert Craig’s Howell Mountain ($60); ZD’s Reserve ($115); Palmaz’ Gaston ($90); Ridge’s Monte Bello ($120); and Justin’s Isosceles ($85). Of course, what struck us immediately was that the Rocca was the least expensive of the group (Nth Degree excepted), and, but for the Caymus, all the $100 plus wines were far down in the competition.
Rocca has been a winery of choice for us for some time, and we were happy to call Mary Rocca to congratulate her on this significant achievement. We were disappointed to learn that the winning 02 was sold out, though we have already given the currently released 04 high marks. Well guess what? The 04 Yountville ($65) had also been selected by the Vintners Club for a California based tasting in August. And it came in number 1.
Competitors in the August event included runner up 2004 Gargiulo Money Rd. Ranch Oakville ($71); 2003 Shafer Hillside Select ($218 – yes, $218); Ramey Pedrigal ($153) – one of our all time favorites; 2004 Flora Springs Out of Sight ($92); Chappellet Pritchard Hill ($135); 2004 Dominus ($132); and 2004 Ridge Monte Bello ($146). Just as in the Bordeaux judging, the immediate thought goes to the fact the Rocca’s wine is the best priced, and, except for two entries, the $100 plus bottles are gathered at the bottom. Ridge, with a hefty price point for its Monte Bello, must be quite concerned to finish 11th in Bordeaux and last in California.
Only eight years have passed since husband and wife team physician Eric Grigsby and dentist Mary Fran Rocca decided to make wine in the Napa Valley. Understanding that the best fruit makes the best wine, they purchased two of the Valley’s outstanding vineyards – Crossroads (which is on the benchland of the Vaca Mountains near the corner of the Silverado Trail and Yountville Crossroads) and Hearthstone (in the under-rated Coombsville area just east of the town of Napa). While committing to produce a premium product, Mary and Eric also promised to honor the land by farming organically and sustainably in an effort to bring the vines into harmony with the environment.
Quite obviously, Rocca’s game plan has paid off and is now reaping dividends. The winery, with acclaimed winemaker Celia Masyczek at the helm, is producing Reds that are robust with elegance, fruit driven with balance, and (at least for now) more affordably priced than most if their competitors (being defined as those offering like quality wines).
We need not write further about the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, as its accomplishments speak for itself. Also available at present are the:
-2003 Cabernet Sauvignon ($55), with blackberry nuances throughout;
-2003 Syrah ($42), with lots of cherries and smoke; and
-2005 Bad Boy Red ($29), a blend (and spectacular buy) of Bordeaux and Rhone grape varietals (50% Cab, 30% Syrah, 10% Cab Franc, 7% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot).
The Rocca tasting room is in downtown Napa, so it is easily accessible. Mary is usually on premises and always happy to greet her potential customers.
Beer in Napa?
There is an old adage that Napa is built as much on beer as wine. What this really means is that winemakers, vintners, and the public alike are, by the end of the day, often overwhelmed by the tannins in Napa’s superb Reds, and looking for something to drink to mute the effect. While sodas or crisp whites do the trick, for many the answer is a cold beer (or two).
We recently ran across some interesting figures released by beerfacts.net.
-Beer is the world’s best selling adult beverage, outselling wine and spirits in
the U.S. by 7 to 1
-There are more breweries in the U.S. than in any other country
-The day when Americans consume the most beer is the 4th of July
-The first six-pack was produced by Pabst in the 1940’s after the company
conducted studies which found that six cans were the ideal weight for
the average housewife to carry home from the store
Recognizing that in 2007 there is no such thing as an "average" housewife (or house-husband), we leave you for now....
Wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser divide their time between Palm Beach County, Florida and the Napa Valley in California. They publish the world's most comprehensive guide to Napa Valley wineries and restaurants titled, appropriately, The Preiser Key to Napa Valley.