Day seven, Visiting Napa
Many people that I meet think visiting Napa wineries is the coolest part of my job. I am not going to lie to you, they are right. But I am not talking about VIP tours of the Napa wineries you know by heart, I am talking about the wineries that we sell that do not have the big, fancy tasting rooms and hospitality directors.
My first visit of the day was to Benessere Vineyards on the north side of St. Helena. Remember this name, you are going to see their wines real soon. I met my old friend Andy Grindley and we talked, caught up on old times and he showed me around the winery. Leo, the cellar manager, was filtering the 05 Pinot Grigio for bottling so we stopped and talked about some really geeky, technical stuff. Shortly after we finished annoying Leo, who had a lot of work to do and answering my questions was not on the “to do” list, the GM and winemaker Chris Dearden arrived. We walked the vineyard and tasted a bunch of smaller projects he has in barrel, including the new 2004 Trainwreck Petite Sirah. The 03, which you all know was pretty good, is mouthwash compared to the 04. We also tasted a number of little cult Cabs that Chris makes at the winery. If you don’t know this name now you will in the very near future.
I left Chris and Andy and headed for my next appointment, a new winery called Hill Family Estates. I have tasted their wines and this was really a handshake visit to make sure they liked me and I liked them. Owner Doug Hill is a third generation north coast farmer who made the transition from tree fruits to grapes. The grow and manage several acres of vineyards, son Ryan is pushing the family into production. I tasted a Chardonnay they were working on but to be honest, Doug was interviewing me to see if we were going to fit together. They produce about 2000 cases a year, this is going to be a good partnership.
After leaving Doug Hill I traversed Oak Knoll to visit David Bader of Phoenix Vineyards. The vineyard is a little hard to find and it is hardly a showcase winery, but David’s friendly, down to earth and no nonsense nature appeal to me. His vineyard is so steep I would hate to work harvest for the guy and I bet he has great calf muscles. David and I tasted a few wines he has lingering he would like to move out then we tasted some new wines ready to be bottled. David knows that Cab and Merlot guys are a dime a dozen so his emphasis is on Sangiovese. The 04 and 05 in barrel are wines that will make a lot of fans.
After I left Phoenix it was time to check in with the troops back home, my family that is, not my stores, and tell everyone good night. Those of you who travel must know the pain of hearing your small ones say, “I miss you daddy, when are you coming home?” Tomorrow is the last day then I finally leave on Saturday.
Dinner at Mustards. Solid fare, well done. Steelhead are running now. Grilled and presented on a bed of chantrelle mushrooms it was a good compliment to half bottle of Pinot Noir.