Posts Tagged ‘Napa’

Napa at Night… And the Morning After

April 9, 2013

After a great AM and PM of tasting in the Napa Valley last Wednesday, Kara and I checked into our room at the River Terrace Inn along the Napa River.

We had a dinner reservation downtown set for 8:00, and had a little time to kill, so we took a seat at the wine bar in the lounge to have a glass before walking over to the restaurant…


I nice glass of Franciscan Merlot in the lounge. You know that I’m a fan of Franciscan.

After we finished our drink, we headed over to Morimoto Napa to have some Iron Chef quality Japanese food.


This is a super tasty Shochu cocktail. I love Shochu.


Here’s some dope Hamachi Tacos.


A BIG Green Salad


Here’s a little of everything… Wagyu Beef, Soft Shell Crab Roll, Shrimp Tempura Roll, Spicy Tuna, and Spicy Salmon.

After an amazing dinner, we had a quick cocktail at Fagiani’s Bar…


Gin Martini

Before leaving Napa the next morning, we hit up the legendary Napa Valley Biscuits


For a hot cup of coffee…


And a big ol’ plate of Chicken and Waffles.


Thanks for the great time, Napa.  You know we’ll be back soon.

Stay Rad,



Napa in the AM

April 6, 2013

It’s Spring.

One of the many perks about teaching is that Kara and I always get a week off for Spring Break.

One of the many perks about living in the Bay Area is that we are a short drive to some of the greatest wine growing regions in the world.

This past Wednesday, Kara and I decided to drive on up to the Napa Valley to get our taste on.

Now… If you’ve ever been tasting in Napa on the weekends, you know how crowded it can get (both in the tasting rooms, and on the highways). On Saturdays and Sundays, it’s a must to get into Napa by 10:00am (when most wineries open) to beat the rush.


On a lazy Spring Wednesday, it’s really fun to get to Napa early just so you can take your time rolling from one tasting room to the next.

When we first arrived in wine country at 10:00am, we decided to start the day with some sparkles…


Drinking Bubbles at Domaine Chandon

You know that I’m a fan of Domaine Chandon (What? You didn’t? Click here). Their tasting lounge in Yountville is beautiful and relaxing. I decided to do their Classic Tasting to give you the lowdown on their wines that you should be able to find at a wine shop near you…

The Brut Classic is loaded full of lemon and apple fruits. The Blanc de Noirs (the wine that got me into Domaine Chandon) has some good acid with fruits of cherry and red currants. The Rose was my favorite of the flight. Fruit of red apple with a great minerality. The Extra-Dry Riche had some sweetness of honey and peaches, but was balanced out with herbs of eucalyptus and spearmint.

Not a bad start to the day.

Next, we headed over to the iconic Cabernet Sauvignon producer, Silver Oak in Oakville, where Kara and I were treated to a VIP tour and tasting.

When Kara and I first arrived, we were greeted with a taste of the current release of their Alexander Valley Cabernet…


Silver Oak 2008 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

The Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is the “entry level” wine from Silver Oak. It consists of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from various vineyards throughout the appalachian (including their own). The wine is aged on 50% new and 50% once-used American oak for 24 months before bottling. The wine was then bottle-aged for another 15 months before release. It retails for $70.

Color: Dark ruby red.

Nose: Fruits of raspberry and cranberry with hints of buttered toffee and menthol.

Taste: Fruits of cranberry, raspberry, and red currant are rounded out with notes of leather and menthol.

Score: This wine is big and tasty on the palate. It’s an easy 91+ that should get much better with a few years of aging.

While tasting the wine, we got the opportunity to hang out with their library and large format wines in the big glass display case at the front of the winery…


Check out these bottles…


And these ones!

Next, we got a taste of the 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet…


Silver Oak 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet


Oh man!

Whereas the Alexander Valley is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend that could be considered Silver Oak’s ode to Bordeaux. The 2008 edition consists of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. It is aged in 100% new American oak for 24 months before another 20 months of bottle aging. This wine runs for $110.

Color: Darker than the AV Cab, but still in the ruby red category.

Nose: Beautiful nose of blueberry (I’m a sucker for blueberries), raspberry, and boysenberry fruits wrapped up in that sweet American oak.

Taste: Fruits of cranberry, blackberry, and blueberry fruits. This wine has some very nice, soft tannins, and a good acidity. It’s beautiful.

Score: You know… When you talk about a wine that rolls in at $110, the first thing you may wonder is whether or not the wine is worth it. This wine is Shakespearean. It’s got an approachability that will please the masses. It’s got the ageability that will turn on the collectors. It’s got the depth that is thought-provoking enough to excite any wine geek. Is it worth it? Yes… Yes it is. 92

While tasting the Napa Valley Cab, we got a chance to check out more of the winery.

If you haven’t been to Silver Oak in a while, things may look different. They had to rebuild the winery after a fire in 2008, but have done a great job of honoring its history. Here’s the memorabilia room…


They say that this double rainbow over the winery during the rebuild was a signal from late winemaker Justin Meyer that everything was going to be okay.


The Silver Oak Time Capsule


An article referring to the 1972 Silver Oak as overpriced at $6 a bottle.

After looking at some of the history of Silver Oak, we got us a taste of the 2008 Twomey Merlot…


Twomey 2008 Merlot

Twomey is the sister label of Silver Oak. With a slogan like “Life is a Cabernet”, it would be kind of weird to see a Silver Oak Merlot or Pinot Noir. This Twomey Merlot is their ode to the great wines of Pomerol in Bordeaux, France. As such, this wine has been aged on French oak. It costs $50.

Color: Lighter ruby red.

Nose: Blackberry fruit with hints of vanilla and spice.

Taste: Massive blackberry and blueberry fruit, balanced out with a good acidity and herbaceous notes of black tea.

Score: Yes. The Napa Valley Cab is worth it at $110, but the Twomey Merlot at $50 is a steal. 92.

Next, we took a stroll through the winery facilities…


Fermentation Tanks


These are barrels of “Growers Lots”. Winemakers will hold on to wines from individual lots to see how these wines age over the years. This helps them predict how certain blends will age over time.


American Oak Barrels Stacked to the Sky


This year, Silver Oak is experimenting with barrel size. What I wouldn’t give to aid in this research.

We ended the tour with a taste of one of their older vintages, just to see how well these wines do age…


Silver Oak 2002 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $100

Color: Nice and dark.

Nose: Dry herbs, tobacco, and menthol.

Taste: I love the way that wines age over time. I love the transition of bright fruits to herbs. That is just what this wine does. There are still some nice juicy plums on the front palate, but they give way to these tasty, earthy tobacco notes.

Score: Just beautiful. 92+

Here’s the thing I love about Silver Oak. In a world where EVERYBODY knows about your wine… and most folks rave about it, they could probably get away with being all stuffy and pretentious…


They are far from it.

When the folks at Silver Oak talk about their winery and their wine, they light up. There is a strong sense of family among their coworkers. That feeling of family rubbed off on us the moment we walked in the door.

Their goal is to make consistently good wine every single year and to share it with the folks they love.

That means you.


Life is a Cabernet… and some really good Merlot made by a sister label.

Not a bad morning in the Napa Valley.

Not bad at all.

Stay Rad,


Be sure to check back next time to see what happens to Jeff and Kara when they check out more of Napa in the PM.

Have you ever had any wines from Domaine Chandon, Silver Oak, or Twomey? What did you think? Leave a comment and let us know.

Find wine and wine-related products on Amazon.

Napa Fun Time 1.3: Workin’ Our Way Back

October 22, 2012

After a fantastic morning  traveling North to visit Del Dotto and Cornerstone Cellars, we spent the majority of our afternoon in the Napa Valley working our way through the Oak Knoll and Stags Leap districts.

The next stop on our list was Trefethen Family Vineyards


We took the time to smell the poppies…


We tried their very tasty Dry Riesling.


We pondered the blend of grapes in their Quandary White Wine.


We gushed over their Cabernet Franc.


We also enjoyed the decorations.

It’s been said that Trefethen is haunted.

Not being one to tempt the spirits, we drove over to our next stop…


Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. No ghosts here. Just good wine.


At Stag’s Leap, they don’t play. They gave us separate glasses for each of the wines we were about to taste.


They even put wine in the glasses!

While all of the wines were fantastic, we very impressed by the 2009 CASK23 Cabernet Sauvignon…


Fresh from the decanter.

I would have loved to take this one home… and I am still considering buying this one.

Does anyone have two hundred bucks I can borrow?

Stay Rad,


Be sure to check out the next installment of Napa Fun Time, where Jeff and Kara visit some family friends for a guided tour of the world-renowned Stagecoach Vineyard.

Stay rad, Napa… Stay rad.

November 13, 2011

You should know that although Kara and I have only been married for a little over a year, we have been in a relationship for a LONG time.

Yesterday, we took a quick trip up to Napa in celebration of being girlfriend/boyfriend for 9 years.

Here’s what went down (along with some quick tasting notes)…


We started our tasting adventure at Etude Winery in the Carneros region of Napa...

Etude 2009 Carneros Estate Chardonnay: Pear with floral notes  Nice acidity and minerality.  Good stuff.  88+

Etude 2008 Carneros Pinot Noir: Fennel and cherry.  Good spice and oak.  89

Etude 2008 Deer Camp Pinot Noir: Lots of Earthy blueberry fruit with hints of cola.  The goods.  90

Etude 2007 GBR Estate: A dope blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Malbec.  There is this beautiful berry pie nose to this wine.  Lots of plum and black olive (a characteristic that I am learning is quite common to Merlot)  Did I mention that this wine was dope?  91

Etude 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Berry and cherry nose.  Dark fruit on the palate with powdery tannins.  Amazacool!  92

Etude Heirloom Pinot Noir: Though we had reached the end of our flight, our server hooked us up with a quick splash of their Heirloom Vineyard Pinot.  I forgot to write down the vintage year, but I am sure you could look up the current vintage on Etude’s Website.  This single-vineyard Pinot Noir had a good berry nose.  It was very juicy on the palate with leathery and peppery tannins.  DeeeeeeeeeLish!  92+


Next we headed down the street to Bouchaine... Another Carneros winery, specializing in all things Pinot.

Bouchaine 2010 Rockin’ H Vineyard Rose of Syrah: Lots of strawberry and minerality.  87

Bouchaine 2010 Las Brisas Riesling: With about 1.5% residual sugar, this would be considered an off-dry Riesling.  There is a nice, dancing acidity.  It’s just a little too sweet for my liking.  86+

Bouchaine 2010 Las Brisas Pinot Blanc: Pinot Blanc is, in fact, a red-skinned grape that is used to make white wine.  Consider it a cross between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir.  It has a very floral nose.  There are hints of juicy red fruit on the palate.  87

Bouchaine 2009 Rockin’ H Vineyard  Pinot Noir: Cola.  Eucalyptus.  Mineral stone.  Red apple.  Very cool.  90+

Bouchaine 2009 Gee Vineyard Pinot Noir: The Gee Vineyard is one of just a few places that dry farm their Pinot Noir.  The result is a highly concentrated, tannic, and ageable Pinot.  Cranberry and red apple dominate this wine.  Cool, as well.  90+


After our morning in the Carneros region, we headed up highway 29 towards Yountville to get some bubbles at Domaine Chandon.

Domaine Chandon Reserve Chardonnay Brut: Yeast and butter for days.  I haven’t described many sparkling wines as having butter characteristics, and yet… butter is what I’m getting.  90-

Domaine Chandon Reserve Pinot Noir Brut: Our server informed me that the Reserve Pinot is his go-to wine.  I can see why.  It is nice and nutty.  90

Domaine Chandon Reserve Pinot Noir Rose: Good black cherry fruit.  Velvety mouthfeel.  Very nice.  89


A bit further North, we found ourselves at Turnbull Wine Cellars in Oakville.

Turnbull 2010 Viognier: Coconut and papaya transitions to cheese.  It was okay.  86+

Turnbull 2007 Fortuna Merlot: Juicy red apple, black olive (there it is again), and black tea.  89

Turnbull 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Good body and fruit of raspberry and blackberry.  Dry tannins.  Good stuff.  89

Turnbull 2007 Cabernet Franc: Blueberry and bike tires.  Very nice.  89+

Turnbull 2008 Syrah: Inky blueberry fruit.  88+

Turnbull 2007 Oakville Merlot: Cranberry and sun-dried tomato fruit.  Fun and thought-provoking.  90

Turnbull 2009 Old Bull Red Wine: Mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a good table wine.  I’d tell you more about it, but the only note that I wrote was the score.  Take this 88 for what it is, and move on.  I have.


Once we got back to the car, we decided to dive into a seaweed salad from CostCo. This thing was F-ing delicious! 97 points!


Next, we hopped over to Franciscan Estate to get our Cabernet and Giant Pumpkin on.

Franciscan 2010 Sauvignon Blanc: Guava.  Papaya.  Green apple.  It is what it is.  86+

Franciscan 2009 Chardonnay: This chard spends 7 months on french oak.  Lots of cream… and apple… and cheese.  This is a crowd pleaser.  89+

Franciscan 2007 Merlot: With 14 months on french oak, this Merlot has a BIG blackberry nose.  The palate is loaded with black olive (again) and green pepper.  89

Franciscan 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon: 20 months on french oak for this bad boy.  Dried plums.  Cola.  Tobacco.  89

Franciscan 2007 Magnificat: Dark in color.  Boysenberry and oak.  Fun, lingering tannins.  Dope.  90

Franciscan 2007 Port: Cedar box.  Chocolate.  Grape.  Shoe leather.  As I read through my notes, I realize that I did not give this one a score.  Just trust me that is was okay, but I’ve had better.


Our last winery of the day was Louis M. Martini in St. Helena.

Louis M. Martini 2009 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon: This Cabernet was dry and fruity.  Loads of cranberry.  89

Louis M. Martini 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Big, dark plum and soft, round tannins.  This wine drinking great right now.  90+

Louis M. Martini 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Raisin and prunes, with a hint of dried cherries and tobacco.  88+

Now that we were done with the day’s tasting, we headed over to check in at The Napa Inn bed and breakfast.  Sure enough, once we got settled, look what they offered us in the lounge…


Port and Sherry. So good, it's scary.

For dinner, we headed over to Tyler Florence’s Rotiserrie and Wine in downtown Napa…


To drink, we got a bottle of Spellbound Petite Sirah.


Kara ordered some deviled eggs. Considering my history with eggs, these things looked pretty good.


I got some dope grilled artichokes. Dope!

For the main course, I got a rotisserie chicken... Duh!


Kara got some gnocchi. I got kinda jealous.

After dinner, Kara and I took our wine out to the patio of Rotisserie and Wine. The restaurant provided us with a beautiful view of the river walk... That, and blankets.

So, there you go.

Kara and I have been taking trips to Napa for a while now, and I do have to say that this was one of the best trips we’ve had there.

Stay Rad, Napa.


A fistful of wine. A mouthful of garlic.

August 1, 2011

This past Friday, Kara and I took a quick drive down to Gilroy to see what was going on at the Garlic Festival…

Apparently, a lot.  Check it out…

THE Gilroy Garlic on Fire!

A garlic calamari cooking demo w/ Angelo Sosa.

Up close and personal at Gourmet Alley.

Listening to okay music at an amazing amphitheater.

If you don’t know, Gilroy gets HOT in the summer.  Luckily, the Garlic Festival hosts a wine tent complete with water misters…

The wine tent. Don't mind if I do.

While chillin’ under the tent, I made sure to taste some of what the Santa Clara Valley has to offer.  Here’s the breakdown…

Sarah’s Vineyard 2008 Roussanne: Though with a bit more oak that I would have expected, the crisp acidity made this white the perfect starter to a hot day of wine tasting.

Creekview Vineyards 2008 VCR Merlot: A juicy cherry with wood.  Not bad, but not great.

Martin Ranch Winery 2006 JD Hurley Cabernet Sauvignon: Good red fruit with backbone.  A bit of black olive on the finish.  Very nice.

Satori Cellars 2007 Ha-Ha Petite Sirah: Inky red fruit and chocolate.  Okay.

Fortino Almond Champagne: This is the signature wine of the Santa Clara Valley.  There are quite a few wineries that make something like this.  Though artificial tasting, the almond flavor really rounds out this nice sparkling wine.

During the festival, I did take some time to enjoy the food… I mean… You’ve got to!

The garlic sausage sandwich was off the hook!  When they say garlic, they mean garlic.  Imagine a sausage just loaded with garlic inside of the meat.  Now let’s saute that sausage in a pan with garlic.  Put it on some garlic bread.  Now top it with 4 cloves of chopped and sautéed garlic.  Tasty, but man… My mouth was coated in garlicky goodness for the rest of the day.  Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

When we got home, I opened up the wine fridge and pulled out this sucker…

Hess Collection 2005 19 Block Cuvee

Here’s the deal…

In 2008, Kara and I took a day trip up to Napa.  We used to make it a habit to stop by the Napa-Sonoma Wine Country Visitors Center just off of highway 29 coming into the Napa Valley.  It’s the perfect spot to stretch your legs just before you make your way to the wineries.  They have a small area for wine tasting, and will give you coupons and recommendations for some of the wineries in the area.

“Have you been to the Hess Collection?” the server asked us.


“Well you MUST go!”

So we did.

Hess is just a bit off of the beaten path, at the top of Mount Veeder.  Once you get there, you’ll be glad you took the trip.

Not only does Hess specialize in making tasty Bordeaux-style wines, but the tasting room is also home to an amazing art gallery.  I will never forget the room that looks like it’s full of giant pieces of dog poop.  I would have taken a picture, but they wont let you… It’s an art gallery thing.

The tasting itself was very nice.  We were just about ready to leave, when our server said to us, “You cannot leave here without trying the 19 Block Cuvee.”

So we did.

And it was good.

So we bought a bottle.

I’m not sure how much we paid for it in 2008, but the current release lists for $36 on the Hess website… So we’ll assume that’s what we paid.  At the time, that was the most we had ever paid for a wine.

So we held onto it… until this last Friday.  That’s over 3 years, if you’re counting.

So let’s talk about it…

One of my fears was that the older cork would crumble if I used a regular screw pull, so I used the Ah So to open this bottle.

The cork in the Ah So.

Next I decanted the wine for a quick 20 minutes…

Decanting on the kitchen cart.

I noticed quite a bit of sediment left in the bottle…

See! If you trusted me, I wouldn't have to show you this.

And now…

The Hess Collection 2005 19 Block Cuvee!

Artsy, but not fartsy.

The 19 Block Cuvee is named after the 19 selected blocks of grapes at the Hess Mount Veeder estate which make up this wine.  It’s made from 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, 9% Malbec, 5% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Vedot.

Color: Deep purple.  Inky.  Almost black.

Nose: Black cherry.  Anise.  Mint.  Wood.  Plum.

Taste: I’m really glad that we opened this wine up on a whim, because it tasted like this wine has reached its peak.  This wine is all about mouthfeel and subtlety.  It’s got these smoothed out tannins that I would not have gotten if I’d have opened it 3 years ago.  It is silky, with hints of lacquered wood.  The fruit has nearly dropped out completely from this wine, but there is a bit of dried cherry skin and chocolate on the finish.

Score: This was an interesting experience.  This wine was very refined.  I felt important while drinking it.  The one thing I felt the 19 Block missed was some sort of creaminess to round it out.  I’m giving it a 90+, but I’m sure it would have been amazing with some vanilla ice cream.

One does have to wonder…

Would my tasting notes be different if I hadn’t eaten a grip of garlic earlier that day?

The world may never know.

Stay Rad,


When the wife’s away, I drink her wine. Go Giants!

July 15, 2011


Tonight, my wife went out to dinner with a few of her sorority friends from San Jose State.  I was invited, but it just seems more like a “girls night” type of thing.  I decided to skip it.

Tomorrow, she’s going to Napa with some other friends.  Again… it’s a girl thing, so I’m out.  Don’t trip, though.  Come Sunday, Kara and I will be heading up to Healdsburg for a few days in celebration of our first wedding anniversary.  Believe me… I will have my wine time.  I will have my food time.  I will have my Kara time.

There are three things I must do when Kara is away.

1)  I must eat greasy food.

2)  I must watch tv that she rather would not.

3)  I must open up her wine and have a taste.

So, earlier I made myself a greasy plate of red, white, and blue potato hash (She took the camera with her, so you’ll have to trust that it looked delicious).  Right now, I’m watching the Giants beating the Padres 2 to 0.  And here’s the wine…

Redtree 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. When the wife takes the camera, I steal pictures from the interweb.

Kara decided to pick up the Redtree 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon at the BevMo 5 Cent Sale.  Cecchetti Wine Company, the producer of this California red wine, gives a suggested retail price of $8 a bottle.  BevMo is selling it for $10 during the 5 Cent Sale.  My guess is that you would normally be able to get the wine for 6 or 7 bucks (Let’s all check after the sale is over).

Wilfred Wong (the resident wine taster for BevMo) gave the 08 vintage of this wine 88 points.  The Wine Enthusiast gives the current vintage an 85, calling it “A great wine to buy by the case for a house red.”  The wine maker pitches this screw-top cab as being both fruit-forward and food-friendly (They are also, apparently, fans of alliteration).

On the real, though… We both know you’re reading this to know how I feel about it…

Color:  Rose bush red.  It is light in color.  I can see my fingers through the wine.

Nose:  Chalk dust (I do love chalk!), orange peel, cocoa, and a little bit of tomato.  Not bad at all.

Taste:  There is some fruit at the beginning, but not what you’d expect.  It tastes a little like a cranberry, orange, and lime zest cocktail.  There is some nice acidity that would go nice with pasta, pizza, and pistachios (I can do it too, Redtree).  The only drawback with this wine is that it is extremely thin.  There is not much of a backbone at all.  I would drink it now if I were to buy it again…  I mean… If Kara buys it again.

Score:  83.  Pitched as a value red table wine, I can’t see the value in spending any more that $6 a bottle for it.  I’ve paid less for better (L’Authentique anyone?).  Again… It’s not bad.  It just ain’t that great either.

Well, look what happened…

I start writing, and the Giants extend their lead to 4 – 1.  I should do this more often.

Did I mention that the wife will be away tomorrow?

Stay Rad,


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