Tasting Notes, 2011: Quintessa Winery, Rutherford, Napa Valley

Quintessa features a unique and creative set-up for wine-making: The grapes are sorted and destemmed at roof level, then gravity-fed into the winery via the skylights. The custom-made conduit, pictured above, funnels the grapes from the skylights into the fermentation tanks below (click the photo for higher resolution).

I scheduled a wine-tasting session at Quintessa last week, and if there’s one thing that I appreciate about Quintessa’s format, it’s the rare opportunity to taste a three-year vertical of premium Napa Cabernet. At the moment, Quintessa is pouring its 2005, 2006 and 2007 vintages, and I carefully evaluated all three wines side-by-side. My conclusion: The 2007 Quintessa offers lush red fruit on the palate, with elements of cherry and ripe raspberry (extremely approachable for a current release); the 2006 Quintessa remains the most emblematic of the Rutherford appellation, with its long, dry, dusty finish; and the 2005 Quintessa, despite [… read more …]

Napa Wine Label Quiz: How Many Snippets Can You Identify?

The idea for this wine quiz struck me as I was rummaging through my wine locker today. I have a modest amount of wine in storage, but when as many boxes are crammed into one space as possible, there’s limited room to maneuver, especially towards the back of the locker. In many cases, I could only see the very bottom portion of many of my wine labels (being that the bottles themselves are stored upside down). And so, in that same spirit, I’ve compiled 25 label snippets below, each one representing a Napa Valley winery. For many of the people who work here in the wine industry — as I once did — this quiz will probably be a breeze. I’d expect many of my Napa friends to score 20 or better, and a good local sommelier would likely miss only one or two at the most.

If you […

Napa's Top 25 Wine Tours

Outside Quixote (left) and outside Schramsberg (right).

These types of lists are always debatable — if not questionable — because you have to wonder about the author’s credentials. Who really comes up with these lists, and much do they know about anything? It’s a fair question. Lots of travel writers have come to the Napa Valley and covered the wine scene, and there are plenty of opinions about all kinds of wineries.

My own perspective is uniquely local. I’ve lived in Napa for over 10 years and have spent most of that time as a professional chef (at the moment, I work as a chef-instructor at a local cooking school). Over the years, I have taken breaks from restaurant life to work as a wine educator. I spent a year at Grgich Hills pouring wine, and I spent three years at Nickel & Nickel hosting tours and tastings.

[…