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A dozen wines tasted and reviewed at St. Helena’s Louis M. Martini Winery

A dozen wines tasted and reviewed at St. Helena’s Louis M. Martini Winery

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In my first weeks as a Napa Valley resident, I went to a local art exhibit to get out and about. I ended up in a conversation with a group of elderly ladies working the show, and exclaimed, “I’m in love.” The ladies’ eyes gleamed as they leaned in closer for more details. I almost felt guilty by their disappointment when I revealed, “with the Napa Valley.” But it’s a thing — feeling a palatable connection with a place, its people, and wines.

When you fall for a region and do not live in that region, you compensate by searching for the wines on your local retail store shelves and on restaurant wine lists. If you are lucky, you can pluck one from your own cellar at will.

The magic of Auction Napa Valley is in its ability to create, time and again, a welcoming mecca for the region’s wine lovers to taste seemingly innumerable wines, meet the winemakers, and devour foods from the area’s top restaurants — an immersion over a number of idyllic days under the Napa Valley sun with vineyards splayed out in every direction.

The fact that the proceeds of such an event are given to local charities by the Napa Valley Vintners makes it immeasurably sweeter.

Those who made the journey to Auction Napa Valley 2019 were spoiled with hundreds of wine choices. Here are some highlights from Friday’s barrel auction, where both barrel samples and bottled wines were poured across two large tented lawns and two cooled barrel rooms on the newly renovated Louis Martini estate:

Star winemaker Aaron Pott was front and center at the Blackbird Vineyard 2017 Barrel Lot, greeting and talking with guests as this aromatically intense wine was poured. Juicy, with red and black fruits layered with spice complexity, this is a delicious example of what Napa Valley has to offer.

Gallo Signature Series 2017 Barrel Lot held a rich core of black fruits wrapped in toast and baking spices. Gina Gallo held sway over the rush of guests eager to meet and talk with her. As a local Napan, Gina mentioned her appreciation for all the work that it takes to pull off Auction Napa Valley, and the incredible good that it does for the community in which she lives.

Lang & Reed 2017 Chenin Blanc provided a refreshing respite from the warm California sun shining across the Louis Martini grounds. Red apple and Asian pear fruits are delivered on a crisply fresh yet beautifully round palate. As a brand that locals seek out for their juicy, balanced structures, owners John and Tracey Skupny were both on hand to talk to guests.

Coquerel Wines served up a 2017 Verdejo – the star grape from Rueda, Spain, that is uncommon in Napa Valley. Winemaker Christine Barbe welcomed guests to taste its stone fruited herbal complexity.

Truchard’s 2017 Roussanne is a crisp, mineral-toasty, Asian pear-fruited wine; a tasty version from a top grape (Roussanne) of the Rhone Valley.

Tres Sabores 2018 Ingrid & Julia Rosé made from estate Zinfandel and Petite Sirah is a dry, Provençal-style wine offering the taster a splash of red fruit flavor and mineral freshness … yes, that was me, back for seconds.

Oakville Ranch 2017 Barrel Lot was full of intense black fruits with violet aromatics on a concentrated body balanced by a refreshing lift of acidity. Rich and powerful, this is another delicious example of Napa Valley’s finest.

Jessup Cellars 2018 Barrel Lot from the Chiles Valley proved why this lesser-discussed appellation of Napa Valley needs to be in more conversations. Dark black fruits, vibrantly pronounced aromas with a core of black fruits and a hint of floral lift.

Ziata 2017 Sauvignon Blanc has generous citrus fruits: lemon, lime, pink grapefruit with a fresh zing of acidity that made it pair famously with numerous dishes on offer: baby scallops; Ahi poke, and salmon (just to name a few).

Starmont 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir was poured by winemaker Jeff Crawford, who explained that this rosé was not made by pulling wine from a fermenting red wine tank (saignée method), but crafted as a rosé from the outset, with the red grapes being pressed and fermented as a pink wine. The fresh strawberry, watermelon and cherry flavors were perfect for an afternoon sip in the sun. This wine was heaven with Market Restaurant’s very adult truffle and mushroom macaroni & cheese.

Louis Martini’s 2017 Barrel Lot was a show of beautiful balance — something the winery does with ease: melding rich, deeply aromatic fruit with exciting freshness on the palate, making it hard not to take repeat sips.

Shafer Vineyard’s 2017 Barrel Lot had incredibly fresh, vibrant red fruits (raspberry, red currant) that enticed the palate. Shafer is always a top draw at Auction, and the 2017 proved why.

These are only some of the reasons to love Napa Valley, we hope you’ll join us for a future Auction Napa Valley.

Catherine Bugue is the St. Helena Star’s tasting panel writer and is the co-founder of the Napa Valley Wine Academy in Napa.

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