Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends
Spectacular Wines From Old and New Friends
Preisers’ Reserve: It is hard to miss the beautiful label, with a blue (in color and spirit) coyote howling at three random stars in the sky. And just as hard to miss if you taste the 2004 Anomaly Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($75) being guarded by the lonely canine, is a sexy, soft wine with the aroma of dark cherries, followed by chocolate and sweet cocoa on the mid palate. A creamy finish is supported by firm tannins, making this a wine you can drink now, or in decade or so.
Conceding that life only allows a writing team to pen so many columns, sometimes we can only tell you about certain wines and producers in short fashion. Fortunately, that is often all that is necessary, especially as it relates to the wineries covered today. You have read about them before in this column (and, dare we admit it, elsewhere) so we need not be detailed. Mostly, we are happy to report that the current releases described below are as good as, or better than, ever.
This winery is moving ahead by leaps and bounds, and will soon be open for tastings by appointment. We were fortunate to have sampled their wines this summer, and happily share the information with you.
Of the five wines being produced, we can say that all are good, but, as almost always occurs, we have two favorites that we absolutely recommend. First is the 2006 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($45), an excellent reflection of the characteristics that seem to be popular with Chard drinkers today. It is not overly oaked, but not without the flavors imparted from a judicious use of the wood either. It is not too acidic, but not lacking in freshness. And it is not a simple effort, but rather a layered, serious one.
We were also pleased (since we like the people here) to see the 2003 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon take its place among the Napa Cabs that can support a charge of $100 and still sell. Only 459 cases were produced by Palmaz this year, so you may want to find some of this wine with well integrated tannins, depth, and flavors of chocolate, blueberry, and black cherry. A 14% addition of Cabernet Franc (the 2002 had only 2%) seems to have helped this wine realize its potential.
We also tip our hats to the Palmaz family for making two other varietals that are not often found in Napa. The 2006 Riesling ($45) is dry, filling in the mid palate, crisp, and very sippable. We would enjoy it with many traditional cold appetizers and salads. On the other side of the meal, one might try the 2004 Florencia Muscat Cannelli ($32 for 375 ml.), which is fermented with a specialty yeast to enhance the aromas and rich mouth feel that are unique to this grape variety. 5.0% residual sugar accents the ripe pear flavors and supple textures.
Ramey Wine Cellars:
What else can you say about a winemaker who is recognized by most to be one of the world’s best, or about his wines that continue to be some of the standard setters for those made in California? The Answer: Not much. David Ramey continues to expand not only the beauty of his wines (his new winery will soon be open), but of some dozen other wineries for which he regularly consults.
As is our usual practice once a summer, we spent an educational and entertaining morning with him at one of his legendary tasting opportunities where he opens all he makes for review. As is our further practice when we are faced with thirteen spectacular glasses of quality, we were in no hurry. Before we begin to tell you more about the wines, just know that all are highly recommended (with some rivaling the best being produced). We have covered this ground in previous columns, so primarily we will update the current vintage and alert you to new bottlings.
David makes six, three of them Appellation Designations ($38), and three single vineyards designates ($60, except the Ritchie, which is $65). The Appellation wines are made substantially in the same manner as each other, as are the single vineyards. The differences in taste and structure are primarily the result of the place of origin of the vines.
We always look for the Appellation wines on wine lists since you can find them for a reasonable amount for a restaurant ($50 - $75). It is hard to say which one we like better (it changes every year), but probably our favorite this summer is the Sonoma Coast, with the Russian River and Carneros fighting it out for second.
There is no doubt that we believe the Ritchie single vineyard to be one of the greats, yet it is only slightly ahead of the Hudson, which is only slightly ahead of the Hyde. For us these are all special wines that we keep on hand for special times.
As befits a man with an agile and innovative mind, David is forever, it seems, changing the locations where he buys his fruit for his reds. Nothing wrong with this, of course - it just makes it hard for wine writers and wine lovers to keep up.
The 2005 Ramey Claret Napa Valley ($38) is one of the best buy’s anywhere, and, again, gives you an opportunity to drink an affordable premium wine at a restaurant. At $50, the 2005 Napa Valley Cab, with its soft tannins and chewy texture, is well worth seeking out. We are sorry to see the Ramey contract with Jericho Canyon end after the 2005 harvest, as we have always enjoyed the wine from this vineyard. The 2004 price point is $110. Perhaps the Ramey Cab that best joins quality and price is the full bodied and elegant 2005 Larkmead Napa Valley ($80). And for those who want to spend their money on the best, it would have been the 2004 Pedregal Vineyard Oakville ($140), but it is sold out. We have written before that this ranks as one of the best Cabernet Sauvignons we have had the good fortune to taste. If you are interested in the 2005, call the winery and see what you can do.
This was the second year David produced a Syrah. Available now is the 2005 Sonoma Coast ($55), with characteristic spice, dark berries, and smoky qualities. Not yet released is the 2005 Rodgers Creek Vineyard ($65), which, in a word, is even better.
There comes a time when saying more is overkill. We’re there.
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.