petit verdot

Clos du Val, Napa Valley

by Stevie on April 11, 2012

the Three Graces

the Three Graces

We’ve been to Clos du Val in Napa Valley many times over the years and always had fun. Most recently we had a lovely wine tasting and picnic event with some marvelous fellow bloggers from the Bay Area and Sacramento. Actually, Hegui selected this place for our picnic as we have such fond memories.

The facility is gorgeous Napa. A huge ivy covered building surrounded by vineyards with the romantic mountain range in the background boasting stunning rocky escarpments. This visit I had time to really look at the display vineyard in front where they demonstrate numerous styles of vine training: spur, head, cane and cordon spur all with various spacing. It was quite interesting though I wonder how one actually decides which training style works for their vineyard? With so many options available, it must be an art.

Inside the tasting room is spacious and elegant. We had called ahead so had a large table in the adjoining “Pinot Room,” at least I think that’s what our charming host, Linden, called the place.

The winery has what for Napa is a long and prestigious history. Founded in 1970 by John Portet, they had a bottle of their 1972 cabernet sauvignon (their first wine ever released) selected for what became that famous Paris Tasting in 1976. The web site is splashy and to me at least seemed a bit over-the-top with the various oversized fonts, blinking images and statements with all the intense bullet points. Certainly it doesn’t reflect how I feel about Clos du Val, which is more elegant and almost homey. That is if my family lived in an opulent mansion in wine country. Here’s an example of what I mean from their “vision” page:

It has been said that we at Clos Du Val ‘march to the beat of our own drum’, and if our founding principles of individuality, independence and expressionism are a bad thing, we respectfully disagree.

To someone like me visiting this winery, who is not an expert on cabernet of any stripe, identifying the “individuality, independence and expressionism” is tough, as the place seems like grand old-school Napa to my naïve eyes. But ultimately I have to agree with them, that’s not “a bad thing.”

a lovely garden wraps around the trellis demonstration at Clos du Val

a lovely garden wraps around the trellis demonstration at Clos du Val

Clos du Val trellis demonstration

Clos du Val trellis demonstration guide

the grand vine-covered tasting room

the grand vine-covered tasting room

We tried two tastings, a mix of reds and whites and another red-only reserve tasting. Overall the group really liked these wines. I bought a couple bottles and even impulsively joined their club when Linden gave me a discount and waived all of our tasting fees. Since I liked the wines, it seemed to make sense at the time.

another group of three graces

another group of three graces

2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley: Very pale yellow with a citrusy nose, esp. grapefruit. It was crisp, had good body and as expected lovely citrus and even some tropical flavors.

2009 Reserve Chardonnay: A transparent golden color with green apple leading to lovely yellow fruit and mineral notes with a good finish.

2009 Pinot Noir, Carneros: Ruby red with rich spices leading to red fruit, loam and minerals, well balanced with good body and finish. This is quite different from the Russian River Valley, but delightful just the same.

2008 Reserve Pinot Noir, Carneros: This one spent 14 months in oak. Also ruby with vanilla, spice, red fruit. This is smooth, with medium body and a long finish. If I understand correctly, this wine is not made every year.

2009 Merlot, Napa Valley: Black color with rich red fruit, good body and finish, everyone enjoyed it.

2008 Three Graces: A Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (90%), Merlot (6%) and the rest split between petit verdot and cabernet franc. Linden claimed that it is his favorite in the line-up. These three daughters of Zeus are sort of the mascots for the winery and appear on all their labels. They’re supposed to represent independence of mind, body and spirit.

The wine itself was a dark red with a rich nose of red stone fruit, tobacco, forest floor, and toffee. It had ample fruit and exciting spicy notes on the good finish. Only 10 barrels were produced.

2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District: This is 94% cab with the rest, merlot. This was my favorite. An almost black color with lots of dark fruit, vanilla and spice with supple tannins and bursting with flavor on the long finish, it doesn’t get any better than this.

2007 Clos du Val Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon

2007 Clos du Val Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon

2000 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: 88% cab, the rest, merlot and is it cabernet franc? This one was offered to get a sense of how the wines age. It was black in color. The nose had green bell pepper, dirt and tobacco, spice and perhaps that V-8 juice quality that I sometimes detect. This led to red fruit, full body with supple texture and a long finish.

1997 Cabernet Sauvignon: this is 100% cab. Red to black in color, Hegui thought that it smelled of “dirty socks.” Certainly it did have that green pepper and earth nose. The fruit’s still detectable with a good finish. The wine had an interesting mineral/metallic flavor we enjoyed.

{ 3 comments }

We were originally turned onto Robert Young by our good friend, Ben. We went for a wine country excursion there about six or seven years ago. He recommended them as it was our first trip ever to Healdsburg and Anderson Valley and we didn’t know what to expect. Robert Young really made an impression. Sadly, we hadn’t the chance to return until the past couple months when our great friends, Karen and Veronica, visited from Reno. We had three days of Sonoma wine country, so we mixed it up with the Russian River Valley, Healdsburg area and Anderson Valley. Naturally I suggested Robert Young.

welcome to Robert Young Estate Winery

welcome to Robert Young Estate Winery

The first thing that I always notice on the curvy ride to this fine winery is its sheer beauty. I know that I’m frequently telling our readers about the loveliness of wine country, but here it isn’t hyperbole. The views of the valley, the hillside and the charming Young home are post-card perfect. Our pictures don’t do the place justice at all.

Alexander Valley view

Alexander Valley view

the Young home with some gardens

the Young home with some gardens

The Youngs still own the winery and surrounding property. It has been in the family for five generations and has seen a number of changes: they used to produce cattle, grow wheat and even prunes before Robert Young was persuaded to plant grapes in the early sixties. It is the classic California story.
Best known for cabernet sauvignon and Bordeaux style blends, they also have a number of enchanting chardonnays—can you believe I’m even writing that?!?

The tasting room is tiny and pleasantly intimate. Since we were in a group of four, we shared the regular and the small lot tastings between us. Pat Warren, the current winemaker, Kevin Warren’s wife, was our tasting room guide. She’s a real fan and her enthusiasm was contagious.

some grapes on the vine at Robert Young

some grapes on the vine at Robert Young

I’ll list the chards first followed by the reds:

2008 Alexander Valley Chardonnay: A transparent golden yellow with a lovely creamy texture that bordered on buttery but wasn’t quite there. Lots of yellow fruit.

2009 Alexander Valley Chardonnay: A pale transparent yellow with really nice tropical fruit and green apple notes.

2009 Area 27 Chardonnay: A pale transparent yellow with a green grape nose, this was crisp, fresh and full of delightful fruit.

2009 Barrel Select Chardonnay: More richly colored than the Area 27 with ultraripe apricot and peach, and some vanilla, this was rich and creamy with a long finish.

Robert Young merlot

Robert Young merlot

Robert Young winery interior

Robert Young winery interior


2007 Alexander Valley Merlot: Red to purple with highlights of scorched earth and overripe tomatoes, it had medium body, refined tannins and a somewhat bitter finish.

2008 Alexander Valley Merlot: Deep red with a subtle nose, it had medium body, refined tannins.

2008 Alexander Valley Petit Verdot: This 100% Petit Verdot was a purple to black with a caramel nose, chewy tannins and a long finish. This had all the stuffing!

2008 Big Block Cabernet Franc: A dark red to purple with an exciting smoky aromatic nose full of red berries, plum with rich tannins and a good finish.

2006 Scion Cabernet Sauvignon: This is a blend of 80% cab, 10% merlot, 7% cab franc and the rest, petit verdot. Purple black in color with a V8-juice nose we detected rich fruit, mineral with a long finish. This is good drinks.

Robert Young Scion

Robert Young Scion

2007 Scion Cabernet Sauvignon: Red to purple with lots of ripe red fruit, chewy tannins, this was delish.

2008 Bob’s Burn Pile Cabernet Sauvignon: 100% cab, this was a dark red to purple with eucalyptus, V8, vanilla, clove on the nose with great fruit, smooth rich supple tannins and a long finish. Mmmm.

So that’s it for our wine country excursions in 2011. It’s been a great year for us, and we hope for you, too. Can’t wait to see where we’ll visit in 2012. Happy New Year!!!

winery humor

winery humor

{ 2 comments }

welcome to Hanna Winery and Vineyards

welcome to Hanna Winery and Vineyards

Founded by Dr. Elias S. Hanna, a cardiologist, in the 1970’s, Hanna is truly a magnificent wine country experience. Located in Alexander Valley quite near the charming town of Healdsburg, this place has everything: stunning views, great wine, marvelous hospitality and that wow-factor which all combine for an amazing experience.

see the gentle vine-covered  slopes at Hanna Winery and Vineyards

see the gentle vine-covered slopes at Hanna Winery and Vineyards

more steeply terraced vineyard at Hanna

more steeply terraced vineyard at Hanna

is this a Sound-of-Music moment or what

is this a Sound-of-Music moment or what?

We on the weirdcombos tasting crew have been fans for ages. We first tasted at Hanna about a half-decade ago on a Healdsburg visit ending with a fabo meal at Cyrus. We were thrilled to be back recently. And if anything, Hanna has gotten even better in the interim, if that’s even possible.

The first thing that anyone ever notices at Hanna is the breathtaking hills and views of the valley. They are truly picture perfect. We visited on a gorgeously sunny day that wasn’t too hot—always a perfect mix. Inside, the tasting room is spacious with lovely high ceilings. There’s a bit of that wineries-like-shopping-malls thing going on here but I sort of liked it. The delightful Carol assisted us with our tasting. Since we were a group of four, we tried both Flagship and Reserve wines while sharing. As per our usual, we skipped the whites, which now I regret after reading that the current Hanna President, Christine Hanna, has spent a large part of her career developing and promoting their sauvignon blanc. Oh well, maybe Santa Claus will think of me and forward a bottle or two.

Hanna tasting room

Hanna tasting room

gorgeous view from the picnic area

gorgeous view from the picnic area

cheery flowers

cheery flowers

perhaps if those agave do well, then Hanna can branch out into tequila

perhaps if those agave do well, then Hanna can branch out into tequila

Hanna tasting room interior

Hanna tasting room interior

2009 Pinot Noir: rusty red in color with lots of cherry on the nose, leading to more luscious sour cherry fruit, black tea with medium body. Good.

Two Ranch Red: I’m not certain but believe this blend that Carol characterized as having everything but “the kitchen sink” might be non-vintage. It does have a wild mix of grapes, apparently the leftovers from the Reserve wines. Per their site, it includes: zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, syrah, petit sirah, pinot noir and malbec. That’s nuts! We all enjoyed the wine.

A brownish red color with a beautiful toasty nose of red fruit and toffee, led to a powerful tasting red fruit rich wine with a pleasant peppery and mineral finish. Yum.

2007 Bismark Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon: An opaque purple to black, we all loved this wine. Tobacco notes led to lovely blackberry, refined tannins and a silken texture.

2007 Hanna Bismark Mountain Titan

2007 Hanna Bismark Mountain Titan

2007 Petit Sirah: This one wasn’t on our tasting menu, but since it was open already, Carol gracefully offered it us. Opaque red to purple with lovely sour metallic and minerally nose, we detected rich red fruit, vanilla, smoke and a hint of pepper with supple tannins.

2006 Bismark Mountain Syrah: Opaque purple with a hint of green pepper, red and blue stone fruit, leather, shoe polish and mineral with supple tannins and a good finish.

2006 Bismark Mountain Cabernet Franc: A deep rusty red, full of red cherry and other jammy berries and pepper, this tasted almost fizzy.

2007 Bismark Mountain Titan: This is a blend of malbec 29%, petit verdot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. I loved it. Carol called it “our Bordeaux.”

An opaque black, it had a beautiful smell with hints of menthol. This wine was very rich with wonderful tannins, lots of blue fruit and a bit of a chalky drying finish which suggested that it could benefit from more time in cellar.

2007 Bismark Mountain Zinfandel: Rusty red with the aroma of red berries, this was full of red fruit, vanilla with that lovely and long peppery finish that one expects in a zin.

Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc: So I was mistaken above, we did try some Hanna sauvignon blanc, the sweet version. A cloudy pale orange color with a nose of over-ripe peaches, nectarines and jammy guava paste, it was only mildly sweet, full of yellow stone fruits and a hint of fig paste with a good finish.

So that’s it. If you have only one place to visit in Alexander Valley, then Hanna should be at the top of your list.

these vineyards almost look like the makings of an abstract painting

these vineyards almost look like the makings of an abstract painting

{ 5 comments }

welcome to Denner

welcome to Denner


Denner, like Booker, Caliza, Brian Benson and a few others, has been in the spotlight lately. As a result, it was a must-see while we visited Paso Robles last month, though since everyone else had the same idea, they were nearly tapped out of wine to try. Boo-hoo!

The Denner vineyards were planted in 1999. They’ve an excellent map and description of the property, grape varieties, etc. here. According to their site, about 45 of the 108 total planted acres ends up in Denner Estate wines. They sell the rest to other “ultra-premium producers” in the area, like Linne Calodo and JUSTIN. They’ve a whole range of Rhône and Bordeaux whites and reds on the vine.

The Denner winery, completed in 2005, is gorgeous. Apparently it uses gravity flow along the hillside to process grapes, and is one of the few in California that does. Visually stunning, too, it made our visit that much more enjoyable.

scenic view from the Denner winery

scenic view from the Denner winery

some of the Denner Vineyards

some of the Denner Vineyards

Denner tasting room interior

Denner tasting room interior


another view of the Denner tasting room

another view of the Denner tasting room

2008 Denner Mother of Exiles

2008 Denner Mother of Exiles

The tasting room is large and expansive. The staff was quite friendly and almost apologetic, for there were only two wines left to try:

2010 Viognier: This was a very pale clear yellow with lots of tropical fruit aromas, complex and full bodied, it opens up dramatically with lots of mineral, yellow fruit, peach and slight pepper notes. This was excellent.

2008 Mother of Exiles: The 2008 is the first release of this Bordeaux style blend of cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and cabernet franc. An opaque deep purple red, it had a striking nose, rich velvety mouth-feel chock full of red fruit with medium body and a long finish. Good if not extraordinary.

I am a bit vexed about not being able to taste the syrah, so I’m flirting with joining their wine club to lay my hands on some. What do you think?

{ 5 comments }

Rutherford Hill, Napa County

by Stevie on August 23, 2010

welcome to Rutherford Hill

Hegui was familiar with Rutherford Hill from a wine tasting excursion there several years ago with some friends with whom we’ve now lost touch. I was visiting people in New York, so missed out on this delightful wine experience. On our recent trip to Napa, we had just finished a lovely picnic lunch at Pride Mountain Vineyards with our friends, C and E. We wanted a go at one more place, so there we are.

This winery is hidden off the main part of Silverado Trail on, appropriately enough, Rutherford Hill Road. Surrounded by flower gardens, rolling hills and stunning views of the Napa Valley floor, this is the last stop after the world-renowned Auberge du Soleil, the very luxurious Napa Valley hotel and resort.

Rutherford Hill tasting room entrance

echinacea flowering at Rutherford Hill

a beautiful view of Napa Valley from Rutherford Hill

Unlike at Pride and Stag’s Leap, where the vineyards are more-or-less contiguous, Rutherford Hill has vineyard parcels scattered throughout Napa County. As a result, they can produce interesting blends from the sometimes very different parcels. Our tasting-room hostess, Betty, told us that because of the wide ranging parcels, wine blends with the same grape varieties can all taste quite differently. That makes sense.

On the day we were there (a Saturday) the tasting room was crowded. Apparently, the winery offers tours of the facility. We didn’t plan ahead for this so weren’t able to do that. They produce a large variety of wines at various price points that range from the value $18 to $22 level all the way to their super trophy Bordeaux blend, EPISODE, at $150 a bottle. They do offer case discounts for at least some of the wines and should you be a club member, tasting fees and further discounts are available.

contemplating the wine list at Rutherford Hill

I shared the $30 “Reserve Tasting” with Hegui. Callie had the standard $15 tasting. Hegui was so enchanted by these wines that he encouraged me to join the club (which I did). Now I’m in four clubs and on the buying list for Williams-Selyem. I’m gonna have to re-visit these and perhaps take some of my own advice about wine clubs sometime soon! At any rate, we had a lot of fun here. The wines that we tasted for the most part were full of pleasure, and we look forward to a return visit for the tour and more tasting. Here are our notes:

2005 Syrah: This had a transparent red color with medium body. The attack and middle were fine but it finished with a sour note that we didn’t really enjoy. There was cherry fruit. It was just okay.

2007 Malbec: We didn’t like this one much, finding it a bit unbalanced.

2006 Angels’ Peak: This is a blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. This dark red beauty was medium to full bodied with raspberry, cherry and minerally, earthy notes with a delightful flinty almost bitter finish. Hegui thought it offered a characteristic Rutherford nose. We really liked this wine.

2006 Devils’ Peak: This wine was 66% Cabernet Franc, 23% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the rest, Malbec. This wine was also a delightful dark red. We noted butterscotch and tobacco notes on the nose. Though not quite as round as Angels’ Peak, nevertheless, it was smooth with an impressively long finish that opened up in your mouth like a flower in bloom seen in one of those high-speed scientific films. Wonderful! There were distinct vanilla notes at the end. What a wine!

Rutherford Hill trophy wine EPISODE

Rutherford Hill trophy wine EPISODE

2007 Winemaker’s Blend: This is 44% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, and the rest, Petit Verdot. This was a transparent dark red color. On the nose, we detected chocolate, thyme and rosemary. It had mellow, almost over-ripe flavors of cherry and red fruits with mineral and vanilla. This was very balanced and quite good.

2006 Luke Donald Claret: There’s a story about the name for this wine that escapes me now. It’s a blend of 44% Merlot, 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and the rest, Petit Verdot (the flier says 11% PV but I think that they must mean 1% and it’s a typo.) This wine was a transparent red with crème brulée and some smoky sweetness on the nose. Hegui said while tasting this gem, “It feels like you can drink this like you’re drinking water,” it’s that refreshing and good. It seemed very Bordeaux-ish, if that’s a word: full bodied, round, lush and supple with a good finish. Though packed with fruit, it had an almost metallic attack and pepper on the end.

2005 Reserve Merlot: This wine is 91% Merlot and the rest, Cabernet Sauvignon. This was a rusty red color with a complex nose of mulberry, cranberry, cherry, garrigue and earth. It was full bodied with lots of red fruit and a wonderful finish. I liked this a lot.

2006 EPISODE: This is Rutherford Hill’s flagship wine, a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot and the rest, Petit Verdot. This is not a “Meritage” as the winery does not participate in the Meritage Association. But that’s the idea behind this exclusive bottling. Betty used one of those little aerator devices to serve this wine, saying that it needs to breath to be properly appreciated at this young age. The wine was a dark purple with a nose of scorched earth. This had red and blue fruit, mineral and earth. Wow! It was very smooth with a long, lingering finish. Delish!

We loved Rutherford Hill. Let us know what you think.

Rutherford Hill steel fermentation vats as seen from the tasting room

Related Posts with Thumbnails

{ 0 comments }