Up bright and early, we headed to our first stop at Beaucanon Estate. The de Coninck family has a long winemaking history in Bordeaux, they own the St Émilion Grand Cru Classé estate Château Canon. In essence, Beaucanon is the family’s Napa outpost located in the southwestern part of Napa Valley. Every time I taste their wines I’m impressed – dollar for dollar the Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon are best-in-class. We enjoyed a sunny stroll through their vineyards, tasted some wines in their garden with proprietor Louis de Coninck, it was an excellent way to start our day!
Then it was a short drive to Monticello Vineyards which is located in Napa Valley’s Oak Knoll District, a family owned winery since its inception. Founder Jay Corley and his two sons were on hand to greet and take us through their wines. In the 1960’s Jay lived in Virginia and became fascinated with Thomas Jefferson and his passion for wine, so when Jay had the chance to purchase some vineyards in Napa Valley, he jumped at the opportunity and built a replica of Thomas Jefferson’s house in Charlottesville, Virginia, aka., Monticello. Under the shade of umbrellas, the Corley family explained their farming and winemaking philosophies and the style they strive to achieve in their wines. To cap the visit, Jay Corley donned a colonial style coat and a powdered wig to take some pictures with the team!
It was then off to lunch with two of our most important winery partners – Rutherford Ranch Winery and Arroyo Secco Vineyards. These folks are the teams behind the Muirwood and Dominican Oaks brands, two of our top selling customer favorites. The team took us through their newest releases, including Cuboid out of a box, which was fun! They provided an incredible lineup of food; succulent heirloom tomatoes and local burrata cheese, deviled eggs, grilled steak and chicken, all were all delicious.
The rest of the afternoon was packed with visits to some of the most elite wineries in Napa Valley. These intensely passionate producers are protective of every cluster, every grape, from budding to bottling. Nothing but perfection is allowed in these wineries. The production areas are impeccably clean, fermentation tanks are custom-made for specific blocks in the vineyard, and they have sorting tables that require up to 20 people to separate every grape and remove every stem jack painstakingly by hand.
A stop to see Lou and Louis Kapcsándy was first on the list. Lou took our team through the vineyards while explaining his winemaking philosophy – Lou is a firm believer that if you don’t get outstanding grapes, you can’t make top quality wine. He poured his rosé first for us, then the Endre (his second label) and then the Grand Vin 2009. The Endre Cabernet was superb – something that you can drink now while the Grand Vin ages (although it’s super tasty now too!). The winery was immaculate, Lou is a perfectionist and it shows in his wines.
Next, the group split into two, with one headed to ROY Estate and the other headed to Blankiet Estate – since I had tasted the ROY wines on Monday, I elected to be on the bus to Blankiet. I have been a huge fan of Claude Blanket’s wines for years, even before I started with Total Wine & More I was purchasing his wines off his mailing list. Nestled on the western hills of the town of Yountville. Right behind Dominus Winery, owners Claude and Catherine greeted us, sharing the story of how they started Blankiet. They took us to the top of the hill behind the winery to show us how differing soils, sun exposure and canopy management are important for each site and grape variety. Back down at the winery in the fermentation room, we tasted through their three wines, the Prince of Hearts, Rive Droite (Right Bank) and Paradise Hills Proprietary Red. The 2006 Paradise Hills Proprietary Red was stunning, featuring rich notes of forest floor, well integrated oak flavors/aromas and dark cherries and espresso aromas – you can drink the Proprietary Red now or age it for at least 20 years more. What amazing people and amazing wine, Claude and Catherine were truly gracious hosts, I can’t wait for my next trip back here.
The last stop of the day (which last year featured the most amazing lunch we had the entire trip) was down to Coombsville with Larry and Mary Anne Tsai – proprietors of Moone Tsai. They greeted us with a glass of Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and some delicious hors d’ oeuvres – Niman Ranch bacon fritters, soufflé Gruyère cheese puffs, and grilled Point Reyes oysters with sweet Thai flavors. Those Gruyère cheese puffs were perfectly paired with the Chardonnay. After a quick tour of the caves we sat down for dinner where each course paired with one of Moone Tsai’s wines – their Napa Valley Chardonnay, Howell Mountain Red, Napa Valley Cabernet and Cor Leonis Cabernet were all served. The boneless sterling short ribs with buttermilk mashed potatoes were delicious, and a perfect pairing with the Napa Valley Cabernet. Larry and Marry Anne Tsai were tremendous hosts as always and provided the best meal of the week so far – Thank you, Mary Ann and Larry!
Well, that was another memorable day in wine country, and another amazing lineup of producers!