Monday, May 3, 2010

Off the Beaten Path in Napa

On Saturday, Jenny, Jim, Sarah and I drove up from San Francisco to Napa for a very memorable day of wine tasting and eating, with a focus on the smaller, off the beaten path boutique estates. 

We started out with a private appointment at Keever Vineyards.  Keever is a small, family-owned vineyard (only about 6 acres of vines) up on the hillside near Yountville.  Ashley Keever and her dog, Bones, showed us around the estate.  We started by tasting the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc ($28), which was quite nice and had a little more complexity than typical Sauvignon Blancs.  We then tried the 2007 Syrah ($45), the only non-estate grown grapes.  I actually haven't had very much Napa syrah, so it was nice to compare it with the Santa Barbara Syrah that we usually have.  To me, it was a little more refined than the usual Syrah, with a nice and soft mouthfeel and lingering finish.  We finished with the 2007 Napa Cabernet ($90), which was beautiful and refined.  Ashley took us through the area where they process the grapes, the tanks where they ferment the grapes and through their caves. 
View at Keever overlooking the valley
Bones, one of our Keever tour guides
Tank room at Keever
Inside the Keever Caves.  I think this is their entire Sauvignon Blanc production
All their wines are aged in new barrels purchased every year
Next, we had made an impromptu stop at Whitehall Lane Winery, where we tasted a variety of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and dessert white.  We also tried a very nice 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon library wine that they were nice enough to let us taste.  Their wines were relatively reasonably priced.
We then made our way all the way up the mountains past St. Helena for our 1:30pm appointment at Pride Mountain. We started by having a little picnic with some delicious Molinari sandwiches and a bottle of 2000 Lynch-Bages Pauillac, which made for a very nice pairing (though understandably, Pride wasn't exactly happy about us opening a bottle of non-Pride wine at their vineyards).  After lunch, we were taken on a tour of Pride Mountain.  What is really cool about Pride Mountain is that most of the pours actually takes place in different parts of their cave.  We tried a really elegant and unusually complex Viognier ($42), Chardonnay ($37), lovely Merlot ($56), and several excellent Cabernet Sauvignons ($66+).  We got lucky and took our tour with a member of Pride Mountains reserve list and were able to do several barrel tastings of not yet released wines including a reserve cabernet and syrah.  I would definitely go back to Pride Mountain; the setting is very unique and there is a nice variety of excellent wine at various price points.  We even saw Will Ferrell stop in for a tasting as we were wrapping up.
 Pride Mountain View

 Molinari Sandwich
Cave at Pride, much bigger than Keever.  Barrels are stained red from barrel tastings
 Most of the tastings at Pride were set up like this; at little stations inside the cave
Our last private appointment of the day was with Alicia at Merus Vineyards, a very exclusive operation hidden in the hills around St. Helena.  They specialize in small production, highly rated Cabernet Sauvignons, several of which have been rated above 95 points by Wine Spectator.  We tried a Cabernet Sauvignon by their second label, 2005 Altus ($75), which was quite nice (a few of us picked up a bottle).  We next tried their 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (a library wine) and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, which were both amazing.  At over $130 + for a bottle, they are definitely meant for cellaring and saving for special occasions.  The tasting salon and caves were very cool; very modern with funky, interesting design.  Since we were clearly enjoying ourselves very much, Alicia sent us over to 750 Wines, a small gallery-like wine shop in St. Helena.
Barn at Merus
Merus' library
Merus' cave
Merus' tasting salon
750 Wines was really cool; the owners, Monica and David Stevens poured us several interesting wines from small producers that I had never tried.  We tried a 08 Morlet Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($75), 08 Zacherle sparkling Syrah Rose ($35), 09 Lorenza Rose ($20), 07 Bevan Cellars Oakville Merlot ($70), MacPhail Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($50) and H.L. Cabernet Sauvignon ($150).  Although some of the wines we tasted were a little over our usual budget, we still really enjoyed the trying them out.  We'll definitely visit Monica and David again the next time we are back in Napa.

We finished up with dinner at Redd in Yountville (we were a little tardy).  Some of the dishes we tried included the oysters, lamb loin and loin, duck confit, and cheese plate.  While everything was excellent, I thought some of the sauces were a touch rich.  I would perhaps give it another try, although there are so many great restaurants in the the area.  All in all, it was another perfect day in the valley.  Thanks to Jenny for driving!!

Redd Restaurant
6480 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599-1294
(707) 944-2222

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