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Wine Hotline Hits the Road: Napa



Outside of a few small areas in Bordeaux, Napa is making the greatest cabernet sauvignon on the planet. We recently visited some of the greatest wineries in the country. For more info on some of our favorite wines from the region, check out the current edition of The Wine Hotline. We snapped these pics on our journey down Route 29 and the Silverado Trail.


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What’s Happening in Napa?


Napa is world renown for Cabernet. And there is no shortage of great ones, but there are also a lot of great Cab Franc’s, Zin’s, Syrah’s and Petit Sirah’s at really great prices. The 2008 vintage in Napa (and Sonoma) is looking stellar.

The current buzz is geared around the 2007 vintage because many 07’s are hitting our stores now. On a recent trip, many winemakers and winery staff said, if you didn’t make a good 2007, you should find another job. And even more good news: 2008 has the potential to eclipse the great 2007 vintage.

After bud break in 2008 in the Napa Valley there was a heavy frost that helped reduce yields up to 30% in some places. Lower yielding vines produce higher quality clusters and a better final product. Great producers will actually drop grape clusters weeks before the harvest ensuring a higher quality final product.  Of all the 2008s I tried from barrel, most were absolutely outstanding.

The best of the best 2008 samples were from Quintessa and Realm. Save up for the Quintessa.  It’s two years from hitting our shelves, but the current vintage 2006 Quintessa was a favorite as well, and now available. Realm is a small producer (with big ratings) that has a loyal mailing-list following. A long wait and some good luck may get you on it. 

Quintessa, Rutherford, CA

Another very special Napa winery is Kapcsandy. This amazing single vineyard in Yountville is producing some great Bordeaux styled blends.  The 2007 Cabernet received 100 points from Robert Parker.  The 2008s are tasting great as well.  Kapcsandy is currently determining who their Chicagoland distributor is going to be.  Hopefully we will see them again soon.

Pride and Robert Keenan on Spring Mountain are also great visits. These wineries both produce top Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  Spring Mountain, as you can see, is scenic.  It is a part of the Mayacamas mountain range on the west side on the Napa Valley.  Pride is actually on the Napa and Sonoma county line.  Because of that, they have two separate winemaking facilities.  











Robert Keenan, Spring Mountain












 Pride Mountain Vineyards























Pride Mountain Vineyards




























Outpost, Howell Mountain



Back in the valley, Shafer is always a favorite winery to visit.  The 2007 Merlot was ripe, balanced and well worth the tariff.  The 2005 Hillside Select was like liquid velvet.  It’s one of the best wines produced in Napa.





















Tanner Shafer






In my next blog, more Napa and some highlights from Sonoma  

New Years Goals and a Great Napa Cab


What are your wine goals for this new year?  Try a First Growth?  Spend less on wine?  Mine include experimenting more with food and wine pairing and keep fining those underpriced, hidden gems.  

One gem I’ve recently found was while I was visiting Carter Cellars in Napa.  I was fortunate enough to meet the winemaker and was able to taste through a few of his other projects.  We tasted the Carter line-up which is fairly high end, running from $60 to $125.  Most of the wines are single vineyard designated as well.  Next we tasted the 2007 Tamber Bey Cabernet, a single vineyard Cabernet from Yountville.  I figured this costs around $100.  Not even close.  It is very underpriced at $32.99, and it is very high in quality.  This shows a lot of 2007 Napa fruit, but it is well structured and balanced.  It is everything I look for in a Napa Cab and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.  I can’t think of any single vineyard Napa Cabs even close to $33.  Give your favorite Binny’s a call for availability.

Napa/Sonoma Crush ’10: 2008 Vintage Report


   Napa is home to about 450 different labels with bottle prices ranging from $10 to $800. The climate in Napa is fairly consistent. It varies much less than wine growing regions in Europe. Although, for the 2010 vintage, most producers are one month behind in their harvest due to record cold weather. Looking “ahead” to the the releases of the 2008 vintage, it is stellar for big Napa reds.

   In April of 2008 in Napa, there was a cool spell that caused frost after bud break. This damaged 20 to 30 percent of the newly formed clusters around Napa. Many great producers actually drop clusters in order to ensure the best quality grapes are produced by the vine. With nature taking care of dropping fruit for winemakers, low yields equals better wine.

   In tasting the same wines from 07 and 08 from a particular producer, the 2008 vintage has always outperformed the 2007. We all know how good 2007 was as a vintage in Napa by looking at the ratings and tasting notes. 2008 as a whole (Bordeaux varietals especially) are richer, bigger and more complex. It’s hard to believe, but every 2008 I’ve had from Napa has been great.

   Kapcsandy is a great little producer making Bordeaux-styled wines from their single vineyard in Yountville. Lou Kapcsandy’s mission statement is to make wine that outperforms the first growths from Bordeaux. He sure has them licked as far as pricing goes, but how about the wines? We have a couple of the 07’s, and the 2008’s I tasted are beyond belief.  The 2009 Rose, 2007 Endre and 2007 Estate Cuvee are available at select Binny’s locations.

2009 Rose – 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and the rest Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. This is stainless steel fermented and is made by using the Saignée or bleeding method. It is also aged on its lees for 9 months, giving it a richer flavor. Producers in Bordeaux do make rosé; unfortunately, it is hard to find. This blend has a ripe, mineral driven nose, showing tart strawberry, citrus and toasty flavors. Big for a rosé in the mouth, it has bright acidity, but it is rounded out due to the lees aging. This will be poured for Thanksgiving in my home. It is wonderful and unique wine from Napa.

2007 Endre – 48% Merlot 40% Cab Sauv and the rest Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. For a second label, this is extremely solid. Vintners making Bordeaux-styled blends would be happy with this as their first label. Nose of warm Earth, cassis, dark chocolate, black cherry and fresh flowers. In the mouth, firm tannins, very ripe, but balanced acidity and Earthy tones. Beautiful effort.

2008 Endre – This wine is an indication how good 2008 is going to be in Napa. The nose shows deeper, richer and riper flavors than the ’07 Endre. In the mouth, bigger and more fruit, with beautiful, underlying Earthiness. Cannot wait until this is released!

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Vin – This is my second time having this wine; the first after the 100 point Parker rating was released. This wine is extremely special, and more than anything, it needs time. It shows deep coffee and mocha flavors in the nose, which also shows cedar, cassis, blackberry and warm Earth. In the mouth, perfectly balanced, with toasted wood flavors and a caressing finish. What a bottle. It’s pretty darn hard to come by, too.

2007 Estate Cuvee – 46% each Cab Sauv and Merlot, the rest Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. Even though it’s around $140 per bottle, this wine has value. It’s better than the big name Bordeaux-styled Napa blends. Nose of ripe cassis, cocoa, dusty, woody aromas and dried herbs. In the mouth, beautiful texture, ripe and berry flavors with a super long finish. It’s a great bottle.

2008 Estate Cuvee – How could they get it better than the ’07? Lower yields played a big part. The 08’s richness, power and finesse make this THE best blend I’ve ever had. This, to me, was the wine of the day. Can’t wait to get my hands on some!

   Below are some other high-end Napa wines I got the chance to taste:

2007 Joseph Phelps Insignia – Shut down at the moment. The nose isn’t showing much. However, the texture is silky and despite not showing much fruit, this will be a good bottle in several years. Binny’s just received this, get it while you can.

2007 Lail “Blueprint” Cabernet Sauvignon – Another “value” Cabernet of 07. This has 25% Merlot as well. Big nose of tart blueberry, cassis, licorice and vanilla. In the mouth, big, fruit forward, nice tannins with a super long finish. IMO, this and the 2007 Lewelling are at the top for ’07 Napa Cabs under $50.

2007 Lail Cabernet J. Daniel Cuvee – Big, mineral driven and herbaceous nose with cassis, vanilla, licorice, blackberry and black cherry. In the mouth, rich, mouthcoating tannins, stony minerality and nice ripe ’07 fruit. Solid wine, here.

2007 Plumpjack Cabernet Sauvignon – Herbaceous and powerful nose of cassis, sour blackberries and wet stone. Firm and tannic in the mouth. Fairly disjointed at the moment. This needs a long decanting if drunk within the next few years.

2007 Larkmead Cabernet Sauvignon - All estate grown fruit near Calistoga. Super-ripe nose showing cassis, sweet cherries, blackberry liqueur and vanilla. In the mouth, ripe and velvety. Tannins are present, but not astringent. Another great ’07 Napa Cab!

2007 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill – This has a nose of scorched Earth, coffee, mocha, sweet blueberries, cassis and dark cherries. Full bodied, with very ripe and dark fruits, along with toasty wood and vanilla flavors on the palate. This is a standout Cabernet.


Please contact your favorite Binny’s location for availability of the underlined wines above.