February 2013 “Best of the Best” Wines
In my last post, I profiled our favorites among the 22 wineries we visited earlier this month. This wine tasting round-up was equally as challenging to create because there were 125 to consider! I was not able to take extensive notes on each glass, but I did a daily retrospective to pick out those that were drinking best and whittled my list to 27.
One of the benefits of visiting Napa Valley in February is that many wineries typically release new vintages in the winter. Several were pouring 2005 and 2009+ Cabernets and it was lovely to be able to compare the two after a bit of time in the bottle. If there’s one thing I took away from this trip, it’s that I’m a sucker for 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.
On this visit, we really tried for at least a 50/50 split of new and old favorite wineries to allow for more exploration and discovery. I’ve noted that when I do find something I like, I tend to drink a lot of it – so, I’m looking forward to adding several new finds to my repertoire. Cheers!
February 2013 “Best of the Best” Wines
- ZD Reserve Chardonnay, Carneros (2010) – We drank this alongside the standard Chardonnay and liked the character and body the reserve added.
- Elizabeth Spencer ExS Block 7 Chardonnay (2009) – We liked this so much that we grabbed a bottle to take to dinner to pair with oysters.
- Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay (2010)
- Laird Cold Creek Ranch Chardonnay (2009) – If you like Rombauer’s style, this Chardonnay also will appeal to you. It’s nearly as robust, but with a more approachable oaky, buttery style.
- Joseph Phelps Spring Valley Vineyard Viognier (2011) – Viognier has always been a favorite varietal of mine.
- Kelly Fleming Sauvignon Blanc (2011) – I really can’t say enough about this winery. The bottom line is, if you haven’t been there yet, you need to get there. Or, at least try their wines!
- Laird Cold Creek Ranch Pinot Grigio (2011) – From this whites list, I could say that this Pinot Grigio is perhaps in my top two. I remember trying this before and loving it just as much. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s not a very common varietal in Napa Valley and I appreciate something “different,” but it’s also made very well.
- Freestone Pinot Noir (2010) – Longtime Joseph Phelps drinkers, we have recently been introduced to their sister wineries, Freestone and Fog Dog. Subtle smoke – very delicious.
- Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Pinot Noir (2009) – We are usually not Pinot Noir drinkers but this one has appealed to us for some time. It’s definitely suitable for Cab lovers (and is almost so full bodied that we can’t believe it’s actually a Pinot Noir). This was one of the wines we hand-selected to serve at our wedding in 2011.
- Laird Ghost Ranch Pinot Noir (2011) – Another sexy, smoky, sultry wine. Laird proved to be quite impressive to me on this trip.
- Lamborn Family Vineyards Zinfandel (2009) – Several bottes of this now line our cellar. We came to this Howell Mountain family home expecting big, hearty Cabs. We certainly loved those, but we were especially smitten with this Zinfandel. It’s not so common to grow Zin on such coveted property, but their efforts are certainly worth it.
- Caymus Zinfandel (2009) – Their Zin is a winery-exclusive; I love the spice on their wines and this one is consistently great.
- Laird Suscol Ranch Merlot (2008)
- Shafer Merlot (2010) – Merlot is my second-favorite red varietal next to Cabernet and this wine is one of the reasons why.
- Allora Cielo Super Tuscan (2007) – A Super Tuscan in Napa Valley? I was just as surprised to see this on the list during our first-ever tasting at Allora. In addition to this, they offered an interesting Petite Sirah.
- James Cole Malbec (2009) – Coincidentally, we were at two tastings during which a fellow guest asked, “Where in Napa Valley can we taste a Malbec?” We sent them to James Cole because it is one of those few spots you can find a terrific one.
- Corison Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (2000) – I tend to drink wine very young but this one was still drinking as if it was 10 years younger, and I loved it.
- Charles Krug Vintage Cabernet Sauvignon (2009) – One of two 100% Cabs tasted at Krug from the lengthy tasting list.
- Charles Krug X Clones Cabernet Sauvignon (2009)
- James Cole Umbral Cabernet Sauvignon (2009) – Another 100% beauty.
- Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (2005) – We had fun tasting this against the 2009, as well as their Napa cabs, but I liked the subtle age on this one.
- O’Shaughnessy Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon (2009) – We tasted this alongside their Howell Mountain Estate cab and preferred this wine, though both were great.
- Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon (2010) – As I suggested with the Zinfandel, Caymus is just one of those reliable wineries you can trust to deliver consistent, complex wines year after year. I have a sweet spot for Special Selection.
- Alpha Omega Stagecoach Cabernet Sauvignon (2011) – This may have been a barrel sample poured from a decanter but stood out as my top choice from their growing list of single-vineyard cabs.
- Revana Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – This was the second time we tasted the 2009 (and against the 2006) and truly enjoyed it. It’s also the last vintage made by Heidi Barrett. I’ll be very curious to try the 2010.
- Pine Ridge Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon (2009)
- Larkmead Firebelle (2010) – The wine that made us fall in love with all things Larkmead. If you can’t get this, their Red Wine is a great alterative.
- Buccella Katrina Eileen Cuvee (2010) – We were treated to a unique opportunity to taste an amazing line-up of Buccella wine. More to come on this, but I LOVED the Katrina Eileen, which just so happens to be named after the owners’ school-aged daughter. What a lucky girl! (One of my 100% Cabernets.)
- Kelly Fleming Big Pour (2009) – This is my favorite of Kelly Fleming’s wines. Their label features a new photograph each vintage, which makes it even more fun to collect.
- Joseph Phelps Insignia (2009) – My “end of the world” wine pick from December 2012.
The good news is that some of these wines are typically available at larger (and some small, local) shops. If not, you can order them directly from the wineries, in most cases.