While Premiere Napa Valley (PNV) is an event focused on trade and media, there are always phenomenal wines shared throughout the valley worth tasting and relating to the world. This year, I was able to squeeze in a couple of my favorite tastings because, let’s face it, there are a large number of tastings occurring almost simultaneously and it is simply impossible to make it to all.
In addition to wineries proudly pouring their PNV Lot wines, the high energy of the week is peppered in with other non-Premiere-related tastings. Such is the case of Scale Wine Group, a Napa-based wine collective dedicated to promote their growing number of partners.
Starting with the Scale Wine Group Tasting, there was, aside from the high energy and buzzing room, a number of producers worth following.
If you’re a fan of sparkling wine, Champagne in particular, Champagne Jean Pierre Launois is an exciting and highly relevant producer dedicated to preserving three generations of champagne producers, located in the Grand Cru village of Le Mesnil sur Oger in the heart of the Côte des Blancs.
A winery that I have followed and enjoyed business and personally is On Q Wines, headed by founder and tireless promoter Steve Brady. The lineup includes one of the tastiest chardonnays I’ve tasted in a while, muscle, stamina, honey and citrus acidity converge on every sip.
The red wines are also showstoppers. Both Cadence and Appassionata deliver power, structure and a mythical deiivery in hands of renowned winemaker Maayan Koschitzky. Speaking about Maayan, at a tasting held at 750 Wines in Saint Helena where several winemakers shared their various projects, Maayan and vineyard manager star-to-watch Miguel Luna debuted their La Pele Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Napa Valley. This project, launched last year, was an immediate sensation amongst wine connoisseurs and sold out their whole first Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon release.
Also at the 750 Wines gathering, a rocking and memorable Onward Peschon Cabernet Sauvignon by gifted winemaker Francois Peschon stood up with a complex and generous orchestra with notes of dark and red fruit, espresso, tension and delicious long finish.
Jill Matthiasson shared some their current Matthiasson lineup, which always delivers an adventure. Their Ribolla Gialla with some skin contact was a star amongst the red-wine-dominated landscape. With intensity, tannic structure and citrus pith notes, it sure made its presence known.
When one reflects about Napa Valley Cabernet Franc, you cannot match the finesse, structure and intensity of Detert, first introduced to me by Master Sommelier and Compline Napa Co founder Matt Stamp at a To Kalon seminar. The secret is a combination of the perfect vineyard site tucked deep in the To Kalon vineyard and precise winemaking by Tom Garret. Although quite limited, always grab a bottle when destiny puts it in front of you.
Cristina and Lee Hudson opened their recently opened winery in Carneros and shared their PNV Lot 158 Chardonnay “Laughing Land,” a combination of two vineyard sites from their estate that was singing with marzipan, green apple and lemon zest notes — and a big personality like Lee. Also at their tasting, were the wines from Aubert, Arrieta and Kongsgaard, incredible producers that have sourced Hudson fruit for a number of years.
To button up the rounds of tastings, we had to pay a visit to Philippe Melka and his Atelier Melka Showoff, a room packed with incredible wine on any direction. The Melka Sauvignon Blanc is worth walking to the end of the world for. An Sauvignon Blanc like no other except, of course, with a comparison to the late Didier Dagueneau, a producer from the Loire. A wine served at cellar temperature and out of a decanter, it prances in the palate like a Clydesdale show horse with elegance and mouth-watering richness where stone fruit and citrus dance.
Other highlights from this tasting included the Bulgheroni Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2016 with a peculiar crushed violet, crushed granite and powerful confluence of texture. As well, Shirley Roy’s Roy Estate from Soda Canyon, with an always delivering Proprietary Red Blend, and the Raymond Wines, were other stand-outs.
Whether you are an avid wine enthusiast, novice or just curious, events like this always remind us of the diversity and bounty that the wine world presents. Keep on exploring and finding wines that inspire you and create memories.