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Verite, Amateur Gastronomer, Cabs, Rutherford Facts, & The End of the Year
AmateurGastronomer.com is one of the Websites that reprints a number of our columns. That is good news to us (as well as an honor) as we enjoy reading this online wine, food, and culture “magazine” that features gastronomic adventures from around the world. Readers can discover new and exciting bottles of wine, learn about the latest trends in dining, find unique gadgets for the home chef, or go on a virtual vacation. Today, for example, featured articles include wine festivals in Chateaunuef-du-Pape, dining in Las Vegas, the Temecula wine country, a magic egg shaper, and wine reviews on some lesser known varietals. The Site is lots of fun, educational, and well conceived by sommelier and writer Robin Alix Austin.
If you write a column reflecting your decision to offer your own opinions, rather than simply be a reporter and chronicle a matter so as to garner the subject’s favor, then you place yourself out there for comment. And don’t you know that we receive far more responses when we make a mistake than we do for almost universally appreciated columns, and even more responses than that if our readers think we made an error.
A couple of weeks ago we listed Cabernet Sauvignons we recommended for $65.00 or under. We are honored to say (because it is only by feedback that we get an idea of who and how many are reading) that we received scores of emails letting us know how many wines in this category we should have included, but didn’t. None of the communications were unpleasant in any way, we hasten to say, but all were quick to point out what they believed we missed (we didn’t receive too many comments from the wineries we included, by comparison).
So we confess – we did make a mistake in that column. We should have made it clear that we were only including wines that we had actually tasted between about July 1st and October 15th when we were in Napa. We don’t write about particular wines we have not sampled ourselves, and we wanted to only recommend what was, and is, available.
With that said, there are a number of wineries we did not mention that we know produce terrific Cabs under $65.00, or at least always have during the more than 15 years we have been doing this professionally. Most also offer superior wines at a greater price. These include, but are certainly not limited to, Baldacci, Chappellet, Gustavo Thrace, Honig, Joseph Phelps, Rombauer, Sol Rouge, Truchard, and probably some others we have still missed. We hope you find lots of them.
Last June, famed American wine entrepreneur Jess Jackson, along with Vigneron Pierre Seillan and his wife Margaret, hosted a 10 year celebration in honor of their fantastic Sonoma joint venture, Verite wines. Of the many similar events we have attended, this one might well have topped the list as to the overall elegance of the property and the quality of the wines, food, and music. It was a marvelous afternoon.
As the music put the crowd in the right frame of mind, the wines were uncorked and the food uncovered in the barrel room. As you probably know, this wine is expensive and should be accompanied by the best of cuisine. It was. Rarely have we tasted filets so perfectly prepared or had so many wonderful cheese selections from around the world. The finest restaurants in Napa, New Orleans, or New York could not have done better.
Of course the stars of the day were the many vintages of the Verite line, including the Robert Parker awarded 100 point 2007 La Joie. Barrel samples were also on the menu.
But it did not seem to matter what one tasted if ratings are important to you. Almost every wine offered had scores in the mid to high 90s – an amazing achievement. And although we are not overly enamored by specific scores at any time, we can confirm the brilliance of these wines and recommend that when your situation permits, you should try some.
Each Verite wine ages for 14 – 16 (depending on vintage) months in new French oak. The vintners’ and winemakers’ desires here are that the wood be a soothing influence, not a distinctive flavor element. As Seillan says, “Oak in wine should be like a ghost in a Chateau; you sense its presence, but you don’t actually recognize it.” For us, the concentration and flavors of the fruit certainly needed the wood in order to put the wines into the close to perfect level of balance they show.
Interestingly, all the wines are blends. The La Muse (Inspiration) is mostly Merlot and mirrors the styles of Pomerol. The La Joie (Joy) emphasizes Cabernet Sauvignon over Merlot much like one sees in a Pauillac. And the Le Desir (Desire) relies on Cabernet Franc, as they do in Saint Emilion. In some cases these blends are enhanced by the use of Malbec and/or Petit Verdot.
It would be difficult to describe all the wines tasted as there were too many vintages, but one that will remain in our memory probably forever is the 2004 Le Desir, comprised of 49% Merlot, 47% Cab Franc, and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. Robert Parker gave it “only” a 94, while Steve Tanzer awarded a 96. To us it was almost perfection: Powerful, yet with the sweetness of California fruit. Flavors and nuances of licorice, incense, plum, and spices swept over the front palate and rested in the back, where chocolate, wood, and dust completed the taste.
Before we leave you for the holidays, we thought you might just like some fun statistics about the Rutherford district supplied by the Rutherford Dust Society, which is Napa Valley’s best organized appellation group.
Total Acres: 6,840
Total Acres Planted to Vine: 3,518
71% is Cabernet Sauvignon (2,484 acres)
Sauvignon Blanc is planted on 305 acres
Merlot is planted on 295 acres
Chardonnay is planted on 105 acres
Cabernet Franc is planted on 70 acres
There are 231 acres of other varietals
There are 77 property owners
There are 48 wineries
The oldest winery still in operation is Beaulieu Vineyard (1900).
“And a Partridge in a Pear Tree”
That’s about it for this year. Check back in 2011 when we return, and, in the meantime, have a great holiday, whatever you are celebrating, and an even better new year.
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.