Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends
Mi Sueño is a Dream
Preisers’ Reserve: One of the best winemakers in Napa is unquestionably Bob Foley. What many do not know is that he produces his own line under his own name. Not surprisingly, these wines are all made with the same elegance and style he imparts to his clients. The 2004 Robert Foley Napa Valley Petite Sirah ($50), with grapes from Spring Mountain and Calistoga, shows wonderful spice and ripe berries surrounding controlled tannins. Dark and sexy in color, order a steak au poivre for two and have a terrific evening.
When we find a sommelier that is not simply schooled in all the minutia of wine, but actually has the time and opportunity to taste what is being produced, we are quite pleased. One of our favorite wine guys is Tim Mosher of Terra Restaurant in Napa, and we often ask him (since he knows our palate) to choose something we have not tasted.
About three years ago Tim pulled out a Mi Sueño Chardonnay which was made and owned by a young winemaker working with Paul Hobbs named Rolando Herrera. Tim predicted a great future, and he was on the money. Today, we can say without hesitation that the Mi Sueño has taken its place as one of the premier wineries in California, and few competitors who offer as many wines can touch their quality.
If the “American Dream” was ever more in play than with Rolando Herrera, we don’t know about it. In fact, Mi Sueño is Spanish for “My Dream,” and the wines represent Rolando’s own realized hopes and dreams that have come to him during his rise from hard working laborer to equally hard working vintner and entrepreneur.
Starting work as a dishwasher at one of the world’s great hotels and restaurants, in a few years Rolando found work as a line cook at another restaurant of note. It was during these early years that he learned to appreciate the magic that is created when beautiful cuisine is paired with exceptional wine. About twenty years ago Rolando accepted a summer job working for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, but not on the wine side. He was hired as a laborer to help build a stone wall around the home of the winery’s owner, who soon offered Rolando a job working harvest under the condition that he would attend school in the morning. From this serendipitous beginning came ten years at Stag’s Leap Cellars, then assistant winemaker at Chateau Potelle, then winemaker at Vine Cliff, and ultimately the last stop before his own business – director of winemaking at Paul Hobbs.
As we briefly examine each wine below, you will note that each of them is delicious. If you read our columns, you know that we rarely find a line of wines so long without a few that don’t impress us. Not so with Mi Sueño and Rolando Herrera. All are excellent.
-2005 Los Carneros Chardonnay ($38): It takes great acidity to balance the full mouthfeel of this wine. Smooth throughout, with hints of apples, oranges, and even some honey, it is no wonder this is the winery’s flagship wine. The touch of butter on the finish is just right to accompany a wide variety of dishes, especially lobster and crab.
-2005 Russian River Ulises Valdez Vineyard Chardonnay ($38): The brilliant golden color is the first characteristic one notices, and the toasty vanilla and white chocolate interwoven with tropical fruit attest to the wonderful barrel program Mi Sueño insists upon. The Ulises is one of the best fusions of Burgundian minerality with California fruit.
-2005 Sonoma Mountain Pugash Vineyard Chardonnay ($45): Grown at 1200 feet from 25 – 30 year old vines, the yields are low and the wine intense. Mountain fruit makes a lush wine which, as it heats up in your mouth, smoothly opens to incredible flavors.
-2005 Russian River Ulises Valdez Vineyard Pinot Noir ($42): Don’t tell us Pinot Noirs have to be light in color and body. This wine sports a dark, rich, ruby appearance, and flavors of black and blue berries tinged with smoke and earth. Some all spice and good minerality lead to an exciting finish. The wine is still young, and the harmony of the components probably will be improved with a couple of year’s aging.
-2004 El Llano ($40): If you don’t like this 80% Cab, 20% Syrah mix, we would be surprised. A simply beautiful combination of earth, spice, and fruit precede a smoky chocolate finish.
-2003 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($60): Elegant, with ripe tannins, and good body, this 2003 Cab shows what a top winemaker can do in those years where Napa weather doesn’t so easily cooperate.
-2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($65): And when good weather (normal in Napa) does pervade the summer, a virtuoso like Rolando can create a complex and intense wine like the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon. Plums, coffee, Kahlua, and dark cherries exist simultaneously in this structured, chewy wine with layers upon layers of fun for the palate. It will last for a long time.
-2003 Syrah ($40): Rose petals and chewy tannins are the initial hallmark of this spicy bottle. But don’t count out the leather and dark fruit, which allow for a pleasing and more masculine finish.
Next time we visit Terra, Tim cannot get away with bringing out a Mi Sueño. That cat is out of the bag.
More from Todd Miller (707-942-5332), the master of the under $25 bottle of wine:
-2004 James Creek Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.99), with such great fruit that Todd bought three tons from the same vineyard and made his own wine.
-2005 St. Amant Barbera ($14.99), which, Todd says, has amazing concentration and extraction, and a more amazing price.
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.