Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cellarmistress Does The Napa Valley Film Festival -Part Three: Tasting Napa

The final part of the blogger tasting took place on the Saturday evening of the Inaugural Napa Valley Film Festival. Samples of the four wines were sent to us by the individual wineries. As much as I had enjoyed the three previous installments of the live blogging, I felt a bit disconnected from this particular session. Perhaps it was because there was a lot of silent time between tasting and the live feed we were following. Quite a bit of shuffling when it came to the order in which we were going to sample these wines also. Not enough time for much Q & A either so my questions went unanswered. Considering how busy the festival was and how anything can go wrong at any given time, I still think they did a great job with what they had to work with. We did try some really nice wines on this installment and I am here to share those with you.

The first of these wines was the 2009 Saintsbury Lee Vineyard Pinot Noir. Saintsbury Vineyard is located in my favorite area of Napa, Los Carneros. Carneros is the scenic (almost majestic as far as I'm concerned) area in the southern end of Napa as you drive in from the bay area. The rolling hills sweep you away. It is just beautiful! (Note to self: pull over sometime if you can and take photos!) Because of its proximity to the San Pablo Bay, it is an ideal area to grow Pinot Noir grapes and thus the only area in the Napa Valley that produces Pinot Noir. Saintsbury has been around for a very long time, and Pinot Noir is their specialty. They produce many. The 2009 Lee Vineyard is a new release (or at least I think it is...I couldn't get my question answered!) and it is young. I think I would've enjoyed it more had I opened it a year from now. It was very tight with dark cherries, cedar and almost a flinty minerality. A lot darker in color than some of the Carneros Pinot Noir I've experienced in the past. But, hey, I am a novice when it comes to Carneros Pinot Noir and I am willing to learn. Bring it on! $45.

Next we did the 2007 Pine Ridge Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon. Pine Ridge Vineyards is one of those wineries whose wines you sometimes see at wine shops around the country but did you know they make a lot of unique, single vineyard wines? This one was huge and powerful with loads of plum, chocolate, coffee, caramel and toasty vanilla on the finish. This wine has a firm tannin backbone making the capacity for aging into the 15-20 year mark. I don't have that much willpower!! This wine contains all five Bordeaux varietals in it: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. It's gooood!!! Veteran winemaker, Michael Beaulac made wines for Markham Vineyards and St. Supery before landing here. www.pineridgewinery $80.

And now for my two favorites of the evening, offerings from Swanson Vineyards, located in Rutherford. I first learned of Swanson Vineyards after seeing my friend Rudy McClain's acclaimed film, "Merlove" several years ago. ("Merlove" is a film about Merlot and its unfortunate demise...) Swanson Vineyards' winemaker, Chris Phelps, was interviewed in the film... (On a side note, Rudy says I am the "Mayor of Merlove" on Foursquare because everywhere I go, I meet someone who was in the film! Ha!) I was super excited when I found out Chris was going to be joining us on the feed but alas, he did not...Bummer...Anyhow, the two offerings were the 2009 Swanson Vineyards Pinot Grigio and the 2007 Swanson Vineyards Oakville Merlot. When they came on, the hashtag they used was their Twitter handle, OhHelloSwanson! I thought that was hilarious but really for this winery it is completely appropriate! One sip of these wines is enough to make you say, "Oh Hello Swanson!!! Where have you been all my life???" The Merlot will make a believer out of the non-believers. People who stopped drinking Merlot because of the movie "Sideways" don't realize what they are missing out on. This wine is a full berry explosion with smooth chocolate and a little bit of anise thrown in the mix. It's heavenly! $38. The Pinot Grigio is lemony, refreshing and commands a lot of salty snacks. $21. Love these wines and recommend them wholeheartedly!

Next time you are visiting Napa Valley, please consider visiting these three wineries. All three offer an insider's look into something unique and special.

Now that this is all over I am going through some withdrawal symptoms but at the same time, I am looking forward to next year's Napa Valley Film Festival and also looking forward to attending the festivities in real life after my move out there! Cheers!

"You Saw It Here First"...This post was created solely for "Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk" by Grace Hoffman. Grace is an Italian-born, American-bred wine blogger/educator with an all-consuming passion for wine and all it encompasses.


  1. Hey there, just found you. My friend and I are military wives and we wrote a Spanish cookbook, we chronicled it on my blog about my family's life in Spain, called Spain Is My Happy Place. Our cookbook is called The Drinking Girls' Guide to Spanish Food and now that we are starting our 2nd, we decided to start our blog, will be adding you to our blog roll! Cheers, Ashleigh & Tiffani, The Drinking Girls

  2. Great reporting on the wine tasting event. I love Swanson Vineyards and would always come back to try out their Merlot.