The Carneros Wine Alliance held their annual Spring Barrel Tasting on Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Below are my tasting highlights from the event, and just before that is a brief history of the region, written by Catherine Bugue, Director of Education at the Napa Valley Wine Academy.
I’m tellin’ ya, folks. I’m a big Carneros Chardonnay and Pinot fan and this year didn’t disappoint. The 2013s and the 2014s showed very well–the 2013s were especially juicy and delicious, while the 2014s were a bit more austere, and gave a stellar performance. The 2015 barrel samples were fun. They were barrel samples, ya know? And for those interested, we do dive deep into Carneros in our American Wine Studies course (did you know that the Carneros AVA lies within both Napa and Sonoma AVAs?) Okay. On with it! – Jonathan Cristaldi
CARNEROS: A BRIEF HISTORY
In 1840, Jacob Lease and Nicholas Higuera were granted Napa Carneros land by General Vallejo. Seeing dollar signs, they sold off divisions of the property. Lease, however, planted the first vineyards on his remaining 18,000 acres at Rancho Huichica.In
In 1848 Higuera sold land to Nathan Coombs who went on to establish the town of Napa.
In the 1850s, Lease sold William Winter much of his land, and by the 1870s, the Winter Winery was established. This would become the Talcoa Vineyards in 1881, owned by James Simonton, who was the first vintner to experiment with phylloxera-resistant rootstock.
Just before Repeal, John Garetto bought what is now Bouchaine Vineyards, and in the 1930s Andre Tchelistcheff and Louis Martini took an interest in the area. Garetto would later sell to the Beringer Brothers who used the winery for 30 years.
Louis Martini proved to be ahead of his times, and in 1942, bought 200 acres and experimented with cool-weather varietals–but Bouchaine Vineyards is the oldest continually operating winery in Carneros. Vines were first planted here in the mid-1800s by Boone (also known as Boon) Fly. Sound like a good name for a restaurant, doesn’t it? – Catherine Bugue
TASTING NOTES BY JONATHAN CRISTALDI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, NAPAVALLEYWINEACADEMY.COM
Tart red cherry fruit and quite refreshing. Pretty integrated cedar notes.
Swan Clone. Deeply concentrated core of dark fruit and fresh green snap pea character; good grip. The 2015 really shows the brightness of that vegetal character but really pleasant and integrated.
Just tasty with wild strawberry and red berry notes and pleasant finish.
Beautiful citrus fruit gives way to some riper, tropical fruit flavors, grand mineral thread; lofty spicy notes and good integrated oak character.
Really stellar sweet and ripe juicy red berry and strawberry fruit and a dazzling acidity and minerality.
Back to that tart cherry and dense cherry core that just lingers and lingers. Juicy too, with ripe plum, some citrus blossoms and earth.
Starmont barrel samples. The middle one was super juicy with cinnamon spice and red berry bramble.
Ripe wild strawberry and black cherry and rhubarb; super silky with ethereal floral notes that persist and persist.
Vineyards were planted in 1973, fruit was sold to Chandon, but now Mumm. All Hungarian oak yields to a chewy and masculine Pinot.
Super tart and mineral driven with citrus notes and a lengthy toasty finish.
This barrel sample, from Anaba, is representative of a new style, given the hiring of two new winemakers (Ross Cobb (COBB Wines and Hirsch Vineyards) and Katy Wilson (La Rue Wines). Previuos vintages saw Pinots that boasted deep dark fruit and dense toasty flavors. New style is very floral and very fruit driven with pretty acid–picking is a bit earlier too.
Anabda is getting a label upgrade too.
Gorgeous and plush, plum and bramble, floral and iron-like mineral notes, along with a savory, meaty and tobacco spice character.
This vineyard is directly across from Boon Fly Cafe in Carneros. Super tart citrus fruit, white floral aromas, and a leesy, baking spice quality, with rich and concentrated fruit and a long finish.
Wild blueberries and blackberry and black cherry bramble.
First Garnet-produced single vineyard Pinot from the ranch. One True Vine and Mondavi and Saintsbury have produced Pinot from Stanly Ranch, which is right at corner of 121 and 29 right behind Starmont. Dried cherry and strawberry and rhubarb. Very plush and richly flavored.
Fresh baked citrus fruit and pear flavors, along with sweet oak spice and more of that round, rich, baked-fruit on the palate, with a long toasty finish.
Juicy and shows lovely dark red cherry and black raspberry fruit and earthy and loft herbaceous notes.
Eric Johansen, formerly the Buena Vista production site winemaker, churns out this Pinot rich with raspberry and cherry flavors, toasty oak; very soft mouthfeel but good acid for sure. Pretty purple floral notes on the finish.
Real nice concentration of dark cherry and bramble; cedar and smoke; generous mouthfeel; burnt orange peel and an impressive mineral thread.
Really bright red berry fruit and subtle earthy herbaceous notes and great texture. Gritty with very good acidity.
Very spicy and dirty, nice sun-scorched strawberry fruit, smoky.
Yum. Earthy, salty, rich cherry and wild strawberry, savory spice, tobacco and a final yum.
Jonathan Cristaldi is the Editor-in-Chief of NapaValleyWineAcademy.com. Prior to joining the academy, he was the Deputy Editor of two of the largest wine and spirits trade publications in the U.S.: Tasting Panel Magazine and The SOMM Journal. In addition to his work with the Academy, he remains a Contributing Editor to those print publications, and regularly contributes to Vivino.com, Liquor.com and First We Feast. Cristaldi’s work has also appeared in Los Angeles Magazine, Liquid LA, Thrillist, Tasting Table, Time Out LA and Psychology Today. In 2009, living in New York City, he founded TheNobleRot.com. The club’s activities were featured in The New York Times, Vanity Fair and The Wall Street Journal. Cristaldi has appeared on the Cooking Channel and HGTV. He was also named a “Wine Prophet” by Time Out New York. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is enrolled in the WSET Diploma studies program.
Catherine Bugue is the Director of Education for Napa Valley Wine Academy. Finding herself grinning from ear to ear cleaning out wine tanks as she volunteered at wineries back East, Catherine packed up and left New York City for Napa ten years ago. She worked at Cain Vineyard & Winery on Spring Mountain before melding her prior publishing career with her love of wine at Karen MacNeil & Company. Catherine co-authored an edition of the Wine Lovers Calendar with Ms. MacNeil whose book, The Wine Bible, is one of the best-selling wine books in the U.S. Catherine earned her WSET Diploma in 2010. She sits on the Napa Valley Vintners and St Helena Star Tasting Panel and is a wine columnist for the Napa Valley Register and the St Helena Star. Catherine has taught individual wine classes at Napa Valley College, JV Wine & Spirits, and with Napa Valley Wine Academy. Previously, she handled international wine accounts for Balzac Communications & Marketing, having promoted such regions as Navarra, Rueda, Collio, Franciacorta and Chianti Classico. Catherine also travels each year with the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux U.S. Tour and every other year she visits her in-laws in France, taking that opportunity to discover some of the country’s diverse wine roads.
Jonathan Cristaldi is a WSET Certified Instructor with The Napa Valley Wine Academy. He is also the Deputy Editor of the SOMM Journal and Tasting Panel Magazine and a contributing editor to FirstWeFeast.com. His work has appeared in Los Angeles Magazine, Liquor.com, Thrillist and Time Out LA. Personal tweets come from @NobleRotNYC.