CIA at Copia in Napa

Brandon and I stopped by the grand opening of the CIA at Copia in Napa to check out its new home.  The space is absolutely stunning and there are so many exciting things on the horizon (think daily cooking classes, dining at their upcoming restaurants, a fantastic culinary store, etc.).  Here are some pictures from our visit:

 

Culinary art…this giant fork is made up of 1000’s of standard size forks!

 

Food and wine-inspired art can be found throughout The CIA at Copia

 

Beautiful cookware from the 1800’s on display
Dedication to Robert Mondavi
The Restaurant at CIA
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Tasting with Crocker & Starr Wines

I have taken part in a lot of virtual wine tastings but rarely am I ever as captivated as I was during our tasting with Crocker & Starr‘s winemaker Pam Starr.  She graciously hosted a group of bloggers and shared four of her new releases with us.  Her deep knowledge of winemaking and passion for wine were not only were evident throughout our conversation but also shine through in her wines.

Crocker & Starr, a partnership between Pam Starr and Charlie Crocker, was established in St. Helena in 1997.  For the last 20 years, they have made wines that showcase the terroir of Napa Valley.  They farm sustainably and/or organically and avoid relying on winemaking additions and heavy-handed new oak.  The result is beautifully balanced wines that truly showcase the grape.

Pam Starr & Charlie Crocker

I loved learning from and tasting with Pam…her energy and passion are contagious.  If you find yourself in St. Helena, they offer a variety of unique and personal tasting experiences (which I personally need to check out soon!).  You may even be lucky enough to run into Pam while you are there!

Here are my notes from the wines we tasted together:

The Crocker & Starr Lineup

2015 Crocker & Starr Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley ($34)

Aromas of guava, citrus, and pear lead into a creamy palate that showcases bright acidity entwined with tastes of lemon, lime, melon, and peach.  Refreshing and delicious!

2014 Crocker & Starr Cabernet Franc ($80)

On the nose, there are intense aromas of dark fruit with subtle notes of coffee and violets.  The palate offers rich flavors of black currents, coffee, black pepper, and vanilla.  While powerful in flavor, this wine is still refined and balanced.  It will only improve with a few years in the cellar.

2014 Crocker & Starr Casali 7th Edition ($80)

This blend of 92% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot begins with aromas of black plum and sweet oak.  The palate is flavored with rich tastes of blackberries, violets, vanilla, and anise.  A definite crowd pleaser!

2014 Crocker & Starr Cabernet Sauvignon Stone Place ($120)

Crocker & Starr’s Stone Place Cabernet opens with aromas of black fruit, sweet tobacco, and vanilla.  Bold flavors of blackberries, dark chocolate, coffee, and vanilla are met with subtle streaks of acidity.  Silky tannins and pure fruit make this the stand out of the tasting!

*Media samples

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MC4 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

I was incredibly excited about the opportunity to taste MC4 Cabernet Sauvignon for the first time.  This ultra-small production winery produces Napa Valley Cabernet from a one-acre vineyard located in St. Helena.  The vineyard is farmed organically and sits on a picturesque hillside on the west side of the valley.

Martin & Croshaw Vineyard in St. Helena (courtesy of MC4 Wine)
Martin & Croshaw Vineyard in St. Helena (courtesy of MC4 Wine)

MC4 adheres to a minimalist winemaking philosophy.  The wine is fermented with native yeasts and made without the use of new oak.  These philosophies and techniques are somewhat rare in Napa so the wine really shines among the over-manipulated Cabernets that seem to flood the marketplace.

MC4 Cabernet Sauvignon
MC4 Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2013 vintage of MC4 Cabernet is just a baby but already showing tons of potential.  After decanting, the wine offers beautiful aromatics of blackberry, red cassis, and black pepper.  The palate is smooth with lavish tastes of cherry, violets, plum, and black pepper along with nuances of oak.  This is a well-balanced Cabernet that truly highlights the beautiful fruit and terroir of the vineyard.  A Napa Cabernet worthy of a spot in your cellar!  ($68, 14.5% alcohol, 96 cases produced)

*Media Sample

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Sandlands 2010 Mataro

I have been enjoying wine from Turley for years so when I heard about their winemaker Tegan Passalacqua’s personal project called Sandlands Vineyards, I had to try it.  From what I can gather, Tegan and his wife Olivia created Sandlands to highlight forgotten California varieties that they think are well-deserving of more attention. Currently, they produce interesting wines such as Matero, Trousseau Noir, and Chenin Blanc from different vineyards throughout California.  I had the chance to try Sandlands 2010 Mataro last week and it was outstanding.

Sandlands 2010 Mataro
Sandlands 2010 Mataro

Sandlands 2010 Mataro is 100% Mataro (Mourvedre for those of you wondering) sourced from two vineyards, one in Contra Costa County and the other in Amador County.  The wine is fermented whole-cluster with indigenous yeasts and bottled unfined and unfiltered.  At 13.6% alcohol, it retails for $33.

Sandlands Mataro opens with aromas of dark fruit, graphite, and spice.  The wine is well-structured and incredibly balanced.  There are bright layers of dark fruit and earth along with some interesting floral notes that seem to evolve with time.  Alive and inspired, this wine will reach its stride with a few more years in the bottle!

After tasting the Mataro, I am going to make it my mission to try the rest of the Sandlands portfolio. Definitely a brand to keep on your radar!

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Incredible Rhones from Kale Wines

This past week, I attended Rhone Rangers at the Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles.  As I made my way through the winery booths, I stopped to taste at Kale Wines out of Napa; a winery that was totally new to me.  Kale Wines is the personal project of winemaker Kale Anderson, Director of Winemaking for Pahlmeyer.  The small production winery features well-made, terroir-driven wines. I tried their 2013 Napa Valley Rosé and their 2010 Alder Springs Vineyard Syrah.  Both wines are outstanding and ended up being among the best wines at the event.

Beautiful wines from Kale
Beautiful wines from Kale

Kale Wines 2013 Napa Valley Rosé

Bright, red fruit abounds in this crisp, refreshing wine.  There are also tastes of white pepper and hints of citrus.  The lengthy finish allows nuances of minerals to shine through.  A seriously good Rosé! ($22)

Kale Wines 2010 Adler Springs Vineyard Spirit Rock Syrah

This cool climate, Mendocino County Syrah is outstanding.  Soft notes of blackberries and blueberries are coupled with earthy undertones.  At second sip, I noticed a subtle spiciness.  Great flavors yet restrained and elegant.  With bright acidity, this wine should improve a bit with a couple of years.  ($45)

 

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2012 Caymus 40th Anniversary Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

A couple of weeks ago, a group of wine bloggers and wine lovers got together on Twitter to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Caymus Vineyards Cabernet with Total Wine and More.  Caymus Vineyards began in 1971 when Charles Wagner and his wife Lorna Belle Glos Wagner asked their son, Chuck Wagner, if he wanted to join them in starting a winery.  The Wagner family decided in advance to sell their Napa Valley property if Chuck refused their offer, which he instead accepted.  This was the start of Caymus Vineyards, which is still 100% owned by the Wagner Family.

The Wagners produced their first Cabernet in 1972, so the 2012 vintage celebrates the 40th anniversary of this iconic Cabernet.   I joined in on the Twitter tasting, uncorked a bottle of 2012 Caymus 40th Anniversary Cabernet, and fired up a grill full of steaks!

2012 Caymus 40th Anniversary Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
2012 Caymus 40th Anniversary Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Tasting Notes

2012 Caymus 40th Anniversary Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is deep reddish-purple in color.  Rich aromas leap out of the glass and include notes of cassis, blackberries, anise, and warm spices.  On the palate, there are intense flavors of black fruit, oak, dark chocolate, herbs, and spices.  The wine also has ripe yet smooth tannins and soft acidity.  I think fans of big California Cabernet will enjoy this vintage of Caymus.  This wine is still a baby; if you can wait a few years, you will be rewarded!

14.6% alcohol.  Retails for $60/bottle.  For more info, vist Caymus Vineyards.

*Media Sample

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Charles Krug Winery BrandLive Virtual Tasting!

A couple of weeks ago, I joined in on a BrandLive virtual tasting hosted by Charles Krug Winery.  The tasting featured 4 new releases from the winery – the 2013 Limited Release Estate Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 Napa Valley Merlot, 2011 Family Reserve ‘Generations’, and 2011 Family Reserve ‘Howell Mountain’ Cabernet Sauvignon.

Charles Krug Wine

The red releases mark a pretty cool milestone for the winery,  as 2011 is Charles Krug’s 150th vintage as well as the inaugural vintage of their Family Reserve ‘Howell Mountain’ Cabernet.   We were also lucky enough to be joined by Peter Mondavi Jr.  and had the opportunity to ask him questions through the interactive BrandLive platform.

The tasting was a great experience and the wines were really well-made.  Here are my tasting notes from the event:

Charles Krug 2013 Limited Release Estate Sauvignon Blanc

Beautifully aromatic with notes of tropical fruit and peach.  The palate offers a creamy texture with tastes of citrus and peach.  Noticeable acidity helps keep this wine alive and refreshing…a great wine for warm weather! (13.6% alcohol, $35)

Charles Krug 2011 Napa Valley Merlot

Pleasant aromas of dark fruit with herbal undertones.  The palate features dark berries, tobacco, and dark chocolate entwined with hints of oak.  There is also a bit of a lift from the acid that takes the flavors in the wine to another level.  California Merlot is generally not my thing but this bottle was pretty easy to sip! (14% alcohol, $25)

Charles Krug 2011 Family Reserve ‘Generations’ 

Opening with layered aromas of earth, dark fruit, cocoa, and minerals.  The palate is nicely structured yet not overbearing with tastes of cassis and blackberry.  There are also hints of bell pepper, minerals, and oak. Complex and balanced…a really nice wine! (13.9% alcohol, $50)

Charles Krug 2011 Family Reserve ‘Howell Mountain’ Cabernet Sauvignon

This Cabernet begins with enticing aromas of dark fruit, oak, and spice.  Soft flavors of dark cherry and blackberry meet your palate along with dark chocolate, herbs, and spice  Surprisingly balanced and graceful for a Napa Cabernet.  Would love to be able to taste how this evolves over time! (13.7% alcohol, $75)

*Media Samples

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Matthiasson 2009 Napa Valley Red Wine

If you pay attention to the new(ish) wave of California winemakers who are making honest, unmanipulated wines, then you have probably heard of Matthiasson.  The small, family-run winery has been highlighted numerous times over past the few years and their wines seem to be showing up on tons of highly esteemed lists (their 2010 Red Hen Napa Valley Merlot made the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Wines of 2013).  That being said, I had to uncork a bottle of their 2009 Napa Valley Red Wine to taste for myself what Matthiasson is producing.

Matthiasson 2009 Napa Valley Red
Matthiasson 2009 Napa Valley Red Wine

Technical Stuff

A Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.  Aged in 50% new French oak and 50% neutral barrels.  Unfined and unfiltered with 13.9% alcohol.  Retails for around $75/bottle.

Tasting Notes

Aromas of dark cherries, blackberries, and green herbs.  The lush palate showcases notes of cherries and dark cocoa with hints of earth, black tea, and cedar.  Even with the rich flavors, the wine is still bright and balanced.  A fantastic blend that is well worth the splurge!

www.matthiasson.com

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#WITS2013 Wrap Up!

Last night, I had the chance to participate in a live Twitter tasting taking place around the Wine Industry Technology Symposium held in Napa Valley.  We (meaning a massive group of wine lovers across the country!) had the chance to taste three California wines from Wente, Garnet Vineyards, and Renwood Winery.  Check out my tasting notes below!

#WITS2013 Lineup!
#WITS2013 Lineup!

Wente 2012 Morning Fog Chardonnay

Green apples, hints of citrus, and noticeable acidity…traditional style of Chardonnay (minus the mega-oak) with a nice QPR! ($15, 13.5% alcohol)

Garnet Vineyards 2011 Pinot Noir Monterey County

Lots of cherry, smoke, and spice…definitely easy to sip.  Hard to find many California Pinots this tasty for under $20!  ($15, 13.5% alcohol)

Renwood Winery 2010 Premier Old Vine Zinfandel Amador County

BIG wine (15.5% alcohol) with loads of ripe black fruit and pepper.  Begs for ribs or a steak! ($20)

*Media Samples

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Mini-Review – Ballentine Vineyards 2010 Napa Valley Petite Sirah

Ballentine Vineyards is a family-run winery with roots in Napa Valley dating back to 1906.  I received a bottle of their 2010 Petite Sirah in the mail a couple of weeks ago and was definitely surprised with the depth of flavor in each sip!

Ballentine

Tasting Notes

This Petite Sirah opens with enticing aromas of dark berries and spice.  The palate has layers of rich flavors that aren’t too overburdened with alcohol.  There are delicious notes of toffee, blackberry, boysenberry, dark chocolate, and spice.  A wine that should definitely be on the radar of any Petite Sirah lover!   (B+, $28, 14.3% alcohol)

*Media Sample

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