Premiere Napa Valley party at St. Helena's 750 Wines

The Premiere Napa Valley party at St. Helena's 750 Wines, which was held last Thursday afternoon, allowed people to taste wines from many different producers. It was one of several dozen events held in the days before Saturday's barrel tasting and wine auction.

What did our winemakers bring to the table when it came to Premiere Napa Valley’s 2018 events? A taste of their auction lots, for sure, but each vintner also chose a library wine, current vintage or some other special selection to share with the hundreds of trade guests converging on Napa Valley for this signature, multi-day event.

What were our vintners pouring? Here is a sampling:

At Brasswood, wines touched by the magic fairy dust (the words of a local vintner, not mine, but so appropriate) of Philippe Melka were on display, and ADAMVS was a particular stand-out. Denise and Stephen Adams are behind this brand. ADAMVS means “borne from our red earth” in Latin. Not just a clever name, their property has iron-rich red soils. The 2013 Téres Cabernet Sauvignon has Melka and Napa Valley’s signature concentration, but there is an acidic lift that keeps this wine’s brooding dark fruits vibrant and exciting.

At Round Pond

On the upper terrace of Round Pond (a must-visit for the spanning views and wines), on Friday, Schramsberg showed a 1997 Reserve Late Disgorged Sparkling Wine — a wine that would wow the trade crowd at the Premiere auction event the next day. This sparkler unites vibrancy and matured complexity with fresh and dried fruit character, and nutty and toasty deliciousness. Hugh Davies, owner of Schramsberg, also greeted guests with the Davies line of still wines. The J. Davies Estate 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon was a show stopper: a very expressive wine with intense aromatics, concentrated fruits and orange peel and dried violet complexity.

Round Pond Sauvignon Blanc is always a favorite: lots of crisp, refreshing fruit that tastes even better, if that is possible, while taking in Round Pond’s stunning vineyard views from the upstairs terrace.

Barnett Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Spring Mountain District showed a delicious depth of structured dark fruits and characteristic dried herb complexity of this special AVA.

The Sodhani Vineyards’ 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon combined dark berried fruit and oak spice with balancing freshness. This is a winery to watch.

At Nickel & Nickel

At Nickel & Nickel’s Oakville Winegrowers event, dozens of top winemakers and tasting tables were wrapped around the gleaming and expansive tank room with seemingly endless great wines to taste. The Miner 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon by Stacy Vogel had juicy red fruits with deftly integrated oak spice and fresh acidity. This wine is a poster child for seamless winemaking: one of those wines that is so well made that it is hard to pick out particular components; it all just rides a silky wave across your palate in perfect integration.

Oakville Ranch’s 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon also stood out in the crowd of great wines. This wine has it all: deliciously dark fruits, refreshing vibrancy, and layers of complex herb and spice flavors.

The O’Shaughnessy auction lot wine, a Howell Mountain blend of seven grape varieties, was exceptional. While tasting the wine, repeat “customers” kept coming back to taste this wine again (and perhaps again).

The Harlan 2014 showed off its powerful, concentrated fruit, and BOND 2014 Vecina mixed its concentration with an intriguing lift of freshness. Both wines have incredibly smooth textures and long, tasty finishes.

The 2014 Rudd Oakville Estate cabernet sauvignon, made by the ever-dapper Frederick Ammons, was vibrantly fresh with dark fruits and structured tannins.

Oakville Winery’s 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon was full of fresh red fruits and herb complexity – a delicious wine that begged for sauce-slathered barbecued ribs.

At Trefethen

Trefethen Family Vineyards hosted a multi-winery tasting in style, in their beautifully refurbished barn. With a bubbling fountain and bright star lights outdoors, Trefethen shined. Stand-out wines of the tasting included the Alpha Omega 2014 Proprietary Red with rich red and black fruits on a concentrated and silky smooth palate.

The Somerston 2014 Priest Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon had juicy dark fruits with complex, integrated spices.

Silverado Vineyards poured a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon that proved Napa Valley wines are built to age: this wine retains fresh primary fruits with subtle, integrated spice complexity; a wine very much young at heart.

At the CIA, Greystone

At the barrel tasting and trade auction event on Saturday, these wines were particular stand-outs: Schermeister Cellars 2017 Chardonnay Premiere lot from Robert and Laura Schermeister named “Oak Before Smoke.” The wine sees 100 percent new French oak, but you wouldn’t know it, given the masterful use and integration of the oak’s flavors and texture. The grapes were picked on Laura’s birthday, Sept. 28, right before the wildfires swept in and took away their home (along with all of their wedding gifts; they had just gotten married). The lot’s name shows the amazing reserve and determination of this young couple.

Clos du Val 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Full Circle auction lot wine; an aromatic beauty with juicy red and black fruits and tight tannins that will soften with time.

Corison Winery 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Premiere Reserve lot; a blend of the needs-no-introduction Kronos Vineyard and Sunbasket Vineyard; the latter appropriately named for the generous sunshine it receives. Cathy has long been the flag-bearer for wines of balance, and this is a poster wine for the cause.

Rubissow 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Hawkwind lot from Mount Veeder; a dark-fruited, aromatic wine with hints of wild herbs and a brightness on the palate that finishes with generous black fruits and tannic structure.

The Chimney Rock 2016 Cabernet Sauvigon lot, called North to South from the Stags Leap District, blends, for the very first time, wines made from two vineyard sites: Tomahawk (south on the property) and Ganymede (north location) – which are usually made in single vineyard-designated wines. Great nose and deliciously dark fruits come with some generous tannins, that should soften beautifully with time.

The S.R. Tonella Cellars 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon lot was a selected, favorite French oak barrel, Signature Tonella. This wine is beautifully balanced and complex with vibrantly intense dark fruits and integrated citrus-peel and spice complexity. It harmoniously flows across the palate in a delicious wave of flavor.

Catherine Bugue, the Star’s tasting panel columnist, loves writing about — and drinking — wine. She is also the co-founder of the Napa Valley Wine Academy in Napa. You can contact Catherine at catbugue@gmail.com.

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