Monday, July 28, 2008
Napa Valley Dinner - July 21
Sometimes less is more, especially for the serious wine taster. You've probably attended those “mega-tastings”, often held in an arena or open field. There might be several hundred wines on display for you to enjoy!
Yes, those events are fun and a little decadent, but for an evening that’s more memorable and educational, I would prefer just to focus on seven or eight wines, especially over an evening of great food and conversation with the winemakers themselves.
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar invited me to meet for of Napa’s true star winemakers and each took a turn describing some of the special bottles they brought, and some of their philosophies about their craft.
The special guests on July 21 included Cathy Corison from Corison Winery, Kristin Belair, of Honig Vineyard and Winery, Tony Coltrin of Oberon Wines and John Terlato from Bannockburg, Illinois based Terlato Wine Group.
This post could turn into a list of what was tasted and assorted tasting notes. I am trying to get into the habit of taking more detailed notes, but honestly, most attendees focused on the captivating stories the winemakers made.
We began the evening with a private tasting with the four guests. Mr. Terlato shared some touching stories about growing up in Chicago, where his grandparents owned a bottler. He discussed his purchase of Rutherford Hill Winery in 1996, along with working day to day with his brother Bill.
Ms. Corison placed us right in her vineyard as she described her Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, produced from thirty five year old wines (very rare for Cabernet), yielding only 1.5 tons per acre. I understood her description of what it means to farm organically much more than anything I have read in a wine book or magazine.
Mr. Coltrin spoke about Folio Wine Partners, founded by Michael Mondavi in 2004 and his thirty year career working with the Mondavi family. He shared nothing but praise for patriarch Robert, who passed away in May.
And Ms. Belair shared the challenges of both running a winery and raising a teenage daughter. Her focused, down to earth personality definitely extends to her wines, especially her Sauvignon Blanc. She pays a great deal of attention to a wine's texture, which is something that I can really feel when I am tasting an exceptional bottle. I enjoyed talking music with her (she's a big Coldplay fan) and learning about the difficulties some women still have getting recognition in the wine industry.
Special thanks to Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar for putting together such an impressive panel and dinner. Please look for an interview with their Director of Wine, Marian Jansen op de Haar, later this week.