DAY TRIP – STAG’S LEAP REGION (NAPA)
DAY TRIP – STAG’S LEAP REGION
To try and hit all of the Napa Valley in a single visit is impossible, as is one city for that matter…so how about a district? Well, still impossible, but here and in subsequent posts, we’ll break down key districts into reasonable trips and share different options so you can see what works best for you so you can plan your tastings. With this day trip we’ll show you (some of ) the wineries within Stag’s Leap district that don’t require an appointment and make for a memorable experience. However, even six visits in a day is quite a task, so I would suggest choosing 4 or so based off of our recommendations and your particular preferences. So off we go….
STAG’S LEAP WINE CELLARS – Stag’s Leap is probably the most well known of those on this list and for good reason. Their Cask 23 is a legendary wine (with a legendary price tag) that is not to be missed. But what else is on the tasting menu you ask? I tried a number of excellent wines, both red and white, and think I found something for everyone’s pallet, albeit maybe not their wallet. I started off with Aveta ($26), a unique Sauvignon Blanc which possessed strong grapefruit notes, but was much softer than most, with a nice long finish. Next up was the Arcadia ($65) Chardonnay, a nice Chardonnay with an almost cereal grainy feel to the aroma. Certainly unique in that sense. But we come to Stag’s for the reds and at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars there are some gorgeous ones. I sampled 4 of them, and as I mentioned before…they are not for those “faint of wallet”. FAY ($150) started things off with a scent of caramel corn followed by a more floral and red fruits feel. A nice wine but the finish was a bit short for my liking. Next up was S.L.V. ($175) this had a deeper more earthy aroma, and rich with dark fruits. This wine also rolled over the pallet with a bit more purpose than FAY adding some spice and dusty tannins as well. Following S.L.V. was the “big guy”, Cask 23 ($295) Long a favorite of mine, this is an elegant Cab, with a wide array of aromas which seem to change each time I sample it. Figs, flowers and chocolate this time around, with a hint of tobacco as it coated the pallet. A nice medium finish, which suits this wine perfectly. The last of the Cabs was the relatively inexpensive Artemis ($69) Its aroma reminded me of the experience as a kid of pouring hot water into berry jello packet. This was the only Cab I tasted with any real strong tannins to speak of. All excellent wines and a definite stop on any Stag’s Leap trip.
PINE RIDGE VINEYARDS – Come to Pine Ridge just for the Cabernet’s…they got a lot of them. 7 at last count. I tried 3 this time around, and as usual…all of them were excellent. The Napa Valley ($65) is a nice approachable Cab. Well made and well balanced. Can’t go wrong here if you’re trying to impress the neighbors. The Oakville ($100) is a very nice wine but with some unique flavors including cranberry tartness, herbal qualities and the typical oak influences. With a bit of a battle in the mouth, this is a wine that may not be for everybody. My pick of these 3 however, was the Stag’s Leap ($140). Aromas of dark fruit and earthy tones followed by a huge mouth feel of dark berries and chocolate, delivering what I can only describe as liquid happiness. A generously elegant Cab, this is everything the Stag’s Leap district stands for.
CLOS DU VAL – A quiet (at least when I was there) and friendly tasting room. I truly felt like I was the only one there and that all the attention was on me. Probably cause I was the only one there and they wanted someone to talk to. Seriously, it was a great experience and a great ending stop for my day. And though I was joking about the atmosphere, you can’t fake this kind of friendliness. I felt very welcome.As I stated, it was late when I stopped here, so I only tried 2 wines. The Estate Chardonnay and the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon are both well worth the stop. I will be back soon (earlier in the day) to try the remaining offerings.
SILVERADO VINEYARDS – Silverado was an “all red” stop..some good, some not too bad. I started things off with Fantasia (no longer available), a Cabernet / Sangiovese blend. Slightly dusty on the nose with some unobtrusive tannins. Their Mt George Merlot ($40) was a rare Merlot I can get behind. Nice and full bodied and just plain delicious. Aroma was a bit tame, but the the earthy, spicy taste poured over the pallet. A Merlot for Cabernet drinkers for sure. The Merlot was followed by 3 Cabernets, The Oakville Station ($90) the GEO ($75) and the SOLO ($125). The Oakville was juicy (but not that fruity) with minimal tannins, the GEO was a little over the top for my taste in the tannin department, but the SOLO…yes, the SOLO. My notes say “iron fist/velvet glove”. Subtle yet powerful. This wine possessed a gorgeous aroma of cinnamon and spice and everything nice. A big velvety taste with a long finish. Definitely the champion here.
CLIFF LEDE VINEYARDS – As Robert Parker gave them 97 points on one of their wines, how could I not stop in for a taste? First off, this winery is a little “hipper” than some, so if you’re looking to hold out your pinkie and share some insights with Buffy or Biff, you may want to head on down the road. But if experience is what you desire, stop on in. I tried a wide array of wines here without not one evenclosely resembling the other. The first white was their Sauvignon Blanc ($25). Not very traditional, with strong stone fruits and a minerality about it. The other white was a Pinot Gris (No longer available), exhibiting dryer more straight forward approach. Peaches and hints of tropical fruits on the nose. The flavors literally jump at you, and it ends with a nice lengthy finish.
ODETTE ESTATE – Odette is an interesting story. Its sort of a mini conglomerate of small wineries with Odette, Adaptation, PlumpJack and Cade being represented. On my recent trip I tried 2 from Adaptation and one each from Cade and Odette (why on earth did I miss out on PlumpJack…next time for sure) The Cade Sauvignon Blanc ($32) was a fairly routine Sauv Blanc with nice grassy, grapefruit notes. A nice wine but not necessarily that unique. From Adaptation I tried both a Cabernet and a Petite Syrah. The Cabernet ($54) had a nice berry, earthy tone aroma. The tannins clung to the inside of the mouth like a desperate man hanging on to a cliff and the finish went on for days. The Petite Syrah ($44) was not as overwhelming as some can be and initially I missed that “steamroller” effect. But as I savored the first few sips, it became a much larger wine on the pallet and it’s exceptional balance showed through. Pairing this with a bold meal choice is a can’t miss proposition. Finally, I made my way to the Odette Estate ($126). A rich and elegant Cab with a dose of Merlot and some other varietals (hmm…sounds a bit Bordeauxish) An absolutely gorgeous wine, probably why Parker gave it an unheard of 100 points in 2012