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The Sunday After (The Napa Valley Vintners Auction--2006)
Preisers’ Reserve: You just never know when or where you might find a wine worthy of special note. Last week we were in Bluffton, South Carolina (a fast growing area just off Hilton Head Island) to review the accommodations and dining at the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, a new Auberge du Soleil property. As we finished checking in the concierge invited us to a wine tasting on the veranda overlooking the majestic May River. We didn’t expect to see anyone we knew, much less any Napa vintners, but there stood Diana Schweiger Isdahl and her husband Andy, representing, of course, the excellent Schweiger Family wines. Diana’s brother (also Andy) is the winemaker, and he keeps making better and better wines. On this day Diana was showcasing the 2002 Schweiger Merlot ($38), which is aged for almost two years in mostly French Oak, and well represents how deep and complex this varietal can be when the grapes and wine making are first rate. Berries and cherries on the nose are complimented by like fruit kissed by cedar and nuts on the palate. You can lay this one down for a long time, or enjoy it as early as this evening.
The Sunday After
One of the wonderful things about attending the Napa Valley Vintners Auction weekend was the opportunity to visit some outstanding wineries on the “Sunday after.” These businesses not only open their doors for Auction participants and special customers, but it is frequently the proprietors themselves that meet, greet, and usually pour some of their best wines. We salute some those who added to a unique weekend by allowing us to sample their wares. Sunday was indeed the finale to a quite remarkable weekend.
Perhaps the vintner who offered the most notable experience of the day was Delia Viader, crafter of some of the most recognized and sought after Reds in Napa. On this Sunday Delia was clearly in her element as lovers of her wines crowded the hill top property to taste all she offers. And that is hardly an exaggeration on this occasion. We began with a stunning vertical covering 1989 – 2003 of her signature “Viader,” which blends Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in varying percentages. We don’t report anything new by telling you all these wines are superb and exhibited the elegant style and bold fruit for which Viader is lauded. The only problem was that you had to be a fast taster to get through these samplings in time to do anything else that day.
Delia also makes a Petite Verdot (with touches of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc) called “V.” It is deep purple in color with tannins that are not for the squeamish, and well reflects the power of the varietal. We sampled a vertical from 1998 - 03.
Also available was the 2003 DARE Cabernet Franc, which is a 100% varietal, ages on the lees for six months, and shows wonderful red plums and East Indian tastes. Finally, Delia showed off her newest creation, the 2003 DARE Tempranillo, which is 80% Tempranillo and 20% Cabernet Franc. We have written positively in the past about Viader’s delving into the most prominent Spanish grape.
Showing the class of this operation, the Davies Family offered brunch prepared by some of the Valley’s most up scale restaurants. Of course, the acclaimed Schramsberg Sparklers were being poured (we loved that we were met at the entry by CFO Fred Zammataro), and all are perfect compliments to omelets, pastries, fruits, and meats – oh, let’s face it, to almost any dish you can name. We were also treated to the 2003 J. Davies Diamond Mt. District Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($70), which exhibited a toasty oak body laced with the flavors of blackberry and licorice.
Tim and Sharon Crull invited the crowd to their hillside tasting room, where Tim also conducted tours through the impressive property. Discussing the industry with this couple is always a treat, as is drinking their wines. We loved the surprisingly low priced/low production 2005 Chardonnay ($25), which is aged sur lees and undergoes no malolactic fermentation. Also making an impression was the 2003 Napa Valley Zinfandel ($25), which is well balanced and “kicked up a notch” by the addition of 7% Petite Sirah. Finally, the 2002 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($48), which benefits from aging for 31 months in 100% French Oak barrels, is a deep and layered wine worth ordering.
One of Heidi Peterson Barrett’s beauties, we are happy to have been around to purchase the first release a few years ago, and are diligently keeping up our inventory year to year. These wines are just that good. Scotti Stark and Tom Garrett hosted this Sunday, and we sampled the 2002 ($90) and the soon to be released 2003 ($95). In the former we found smooth tannins with chocolate and cherry flavors throughout. Not to be outshone, the 2003 was thick and luscious, showing off a ripe black cherry and cassis nose.Both wines are layered and complex, with long finishes. Are they worth the price? Believe it.
When we pulled in to this new (for us) winery up Deer Park Rd., we were met by Debbie Broman, herself, who soon introduced us to husband/winemaker Bob Broman and the rest of the extended wine family. With all the food we had consumed at Schramsberg earlier in the day, it was hard to believe that we could still not resist the superb spread being offered here. However, the Broman wines wanted food, and we were ready to comply. Three bottles caught our particular interest:
-2001 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($48), which exhibited some toast on the nose, a black currant body, and nicely integrated tannins. It is quite approachable right now.
-2001 Napa Valley Syrah ($30), with cedar on the nose, and a combination of spices throughout.
-2004 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($16), one of those that just hits the spot on a warm day. The bright fruit and rounded finish (even with no oak) were enticing.
TIME SENSITIVE WINE POTPOURRI
A great new idea is a great new idea: We love new ideas. How about this one? An on line Site (they call it a “marketplace”) that connects wine lovers directly to the wineries. Well, check out RadCru.com, which is neither a seller nor a cellar, but at 12:01 a.m. lists one wine from a boutique producer. Each day RadCru and a winery partner will feature one select offering, often times a small batch boutique wine that is hard to find. You then have 24 hours (unless the inventory sells out quicker) to make a purchase. Once a wine is sold it is shipped direct to the consumer from the winery. We looked at the Site to see whether the wines were indeed worthy, and today’s is the excellent 2002 Cornerstone Cabernet Sauvignon selling for $60. The retail is usually $75. You can do the math.
You can make your own wine, and at a reasonable cost: Since 1992, Judd's Hill MicroCrush has been making fine handcrafted and personally created custom wines for customers interested in feeling the pride of owning their own label. If you are not familiar with this winery, we can tell you that not only do they make an outstanding product at a quite reasonable cost, but the entire family is delightful and worth knowing. They are now taking reservations for their custom winemaking service during the upcoming 2006 harvest.Space is limited, so you will want to contact them soon. For more information, visit the winery’s new website at www.napamicrocrush.com, or call 866-438-5833.
Along with his wife Sara, Monty publishes a weekly wine column and restaurant review column for the Boca Raton News and the Delray Beach News. They judge the annual Hilton Head Winefest and Monty is the founder of the Hilton Head chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food. They also contribute to the Hilton Head Monthly and Boca Magazines.