Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends
Wines, Wines Everywhere
FLASH: Because Florida is such a large wine consumer state, it is very important to the California wine industry. The following (good news for all wine lovers and supporters of the free marketplace) is on the Website of the Family Winemakers of California, a well respected industry association that keeps up with wine related legislation:
The Florida Legislature adjourned on May 4 without enacting a direct shipping permit bill. That means Florida consumers will continue to enjoy a wide choice in wine. During the final weeks of the session there was intense political pressure brought by wholesalers to pass a permit bill with a 250,000 gallon production cap. This would have excluded a significant number of wineries throughout the country from shipping directly to Florida consumers. Pro consumer champion, Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, chose to let her bill die rather than risk a fatal amendment.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates alcohol in Florida, followed through on its promise to remove information from its web site about direct shipping. The department had been pushing for legislation to create some regulatory certainty regardless of any discriminatory impact on out-of-state wineries. Adult consumers may order wine without limitation and have it shipped to their residences. Out-of-state wineries are required to pay excise taxes; consumers are required to pay use taxes. No sales may occur in five dry counties in the state.
Preisers’ Reserve: The Crocker Vineyard in St. Helena has been growing Cabernet Sauvignon (among other Bordeaux varieties) for about a hundred and thirty years. In 1997, now celebrated winemaker Pam Starr (she was then not so well known) created a partnership between this historic vineyard and her own highly skilled winemaking knowledge. This has led to the bottling of some phenomenal wines. Our favorite right now is the 2004 Crocker & Starr Stone Place Cabernet Sauvignon ($70), which we tasted in pre release. When describing this gem, we just think “black.” Black berries, black currants, and black color. Add these to the usual old vine characteristics (smooth with approachable tannins, for example), and you have a winner. Not unusual for Pam.
It seems we have been moving from winery to winery at a frenetic pace this summer. As we look at our notes, it is difficult to believe we have been here for only three weeks. But lots of company always means extra tours, and everyone is visiting this year.
Robert Biale: Few wineries continue to make as many wines and still be as impressive as Robert Biale Vineyards, now showing off their new facility off Big Ranch Rd. just north of the town of Napa. Winemaker Al Perry is just one of those people with “the touch.” If you are in Napa, or like our palate enough to order a bottle or two based on it, enjoy any of the following:
-2004 Hill Climber Syrah ($42)
-2004 Zappa Zinfandel Blend ($22)
-2005 Monte Rosso Zinfandel ($45-$50), to be released in the Fall
-2005 Aldo’s Zinfandel ($45), to be released in the Fall
-2005 Party Line Zinfandel ($28)
-2005 Black Chicken Zinfandel ($35)
Parry Cellars: Still the owner of perhaps the smallest vineyard in Napa (about a half acre of rocky soil studded with obsidian in their front yard), Steve and Sue Parry produce (and Andy Schweiger makes) a deeply concentrated wine that never fails to knock the socks off anyone we take up to the property to enjoy the Parrys’ company. The 2003 version is almost gone, but the 2004 is just as good. The price of this bottle has long been under $50, but, in our opinion, it won’t be long before the demand and quality requires an increase. Buying some now is a smart move.
Caldwell Vineyard: Though the Caldwell family has been growing grapes for over a hundred years, John Caldwell himself did not release the first of his three wines until 1998. The Caldwell Silver ($100) is comprised of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, a blend that is becoming more and more popular for good reason. The “Rocket Science” ($40) is a curious mix of all the Bordeaux grapes except Malbec, with the addition of Syrah. And the flagship 2004 Caldwell Gold Cabernet Sauvignon ($150) is only available at the winery and worth a trip to pick some up for a very special occasion. Recently opening a beautifully crafted new tasting room in his two year old cave, a visit here will also allow you to see some of the Valley’s spectacular scenery from the western hills, as well as tour the premises, sip from the barrel, and taste from the bottle. Call for details.
Cloud View Vineyards: Sage Canyon Road is not one of the most traveled roads in Napa - a true pity because almost every winery up the mountain by Lake Berryessa enjoys magnificent vistas and superb terroir. Our most recent trek into the hills took us to Leighton and Linda Taylor’s aptly name Cloud View Vineyards, where we sipped their outstanding 2003 Proprietary Red ($65) while overlooking green vineyards in the Valley below, and being surrounded ourselves by delicate white wisps. It was a perfect location to chat with our knowledgeable hosts and enjoy the bright black and red berries in the front of the wine, and all the chocolate you could want in the finish.
Boyd Family Vineyard: Although better known for selling stellar Oak Knoll grapes than producing great wines, that may soon change if the Boyds produce more bottles like the 2004 Big Ranch Vineyard Oak Knoll District Merlot ($34) - the kind of wine that puts the lie to recent criticism of this varietal. This Merlot, laced with about 12% Cab and a small amount of Malbec, shows nice layers of cherry, and paired quite well with the lamb and mushroom dishes being served when we visited.
If you are discovering a gem or two on your own, don’t hesitate to let us know what you have found. We have learned about great wines from every source imaginable, and other wine lovers are usually the most accurate in what they tell us.
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.