It is spring and time for another trip to Napa Valley to make and taste wine! I don’t intend to give you a detailed report on the trip. I’ll leave out the boring stuff like meetings on a new website, although very interesting, a tour of the wine label printing plant (seeing the many presses brought back fond memories of my many years at the Elkhart Truth newspaper) and meetings on e-commerce services, etc.
I will, over the next few weeks, report on the wineries I visited and the wines I tasted. Perhaps I’ll get time to mention some interesting items about changes in the wine industry that will effect what wines we purchase and drink, especially the cost of wine in the future. For example the cost of Cabernet grapes is now on average about $6,300 per ton in the valley. When I started making Glenwood Cellars Cabernet in 2010 the price was about $2,400 per ton. Prices for a bottle of wine are going to continue to rise.
My trip on Sunday, April 2, 2017, got off to a bad start as my flight was delayed due to air traffic on the west coast. Getting through San Francisco was a real challenge as the traffic was terrible…backed up from the Bay Bridge and traveling about 15 to 20 mph. Seems like it took a long time to get to Napa.
My first full day in Napa was very busy and eventful. Several months ago, after lots of governmental red tape, I received my California Wholesale Wine License, (referred to as a 17/20 License) for my new wine company named Glenwood Cellars Wines, LLC. One of the license requirements was I had to have a place of business in California. Finding a place proved a little more difficult than expected, for one reason or another. After going through a number of options I was able to make a lease with my logistics company, US Wine Transport located in American Canyon, Calif.
Monday I visited my office, met the folks there and hung my license on the wall. I believe that officially means we are open for business. From now on all of our wines will be produced and sold through Glenwood Cellars Wines, LLC. Having this license also gives us some opportunity to sell direct to consumers in some state. Now we have websites, e-commerce companies, mailing lists, etc. to deal with. Thanks to Randy DeBruyn, President of US Wine Transport and Travis Dale in American Canyon, for their much needed assistance.
Robert Sinskey Vineyards
Several years ago I had the good fortune to meet Craig Burns at my friend Herb Krumsick’s annual Real Estate Review and Forecast. Craig is the CEO of Security First Title Company with offices throughout Kansas.
My good fortune continued when I learned that his son, Conner, was Director of Hospitality at Robert Sinskey Vineyards, a fixture in Napa Valley. When Craig learned of my trip to Napa he arranged a winery visit for me headed by his son Conner.
Some history of the winery: In the late seventies Dr. Bob Sinskey started acquiring land for a vineyard which he planned to operate after retirement from medicine. The doors to the winery opened in 1988 and the operation continues to be run by the Sinskey family: Robert Sinskey (Rob), son of the founder, and his wife Maria Helm Sinskey. As an acclaimed chef (graduate of California Culinary Academy and 1996 Food & Wine magazine “Best New Chef”) Maria oversees the winery’s culinary program, authors cookbooks and prepares the exciting menus and pairings for the winery’s wine and food tasting experiences. Often regarded as one of the top wineries in Napa, the vineyard is 100% organic and features its own gardens which supply vegetables and greens to the winery’s kitchen. It is said to be one of the top culinary experiences in Napa Valley and I have to say the food was absolutely fabulous.
The vineyard has four different tasting experiences to choose from:
- Flight of Five − $40.00 per flight. Five wines accompanied by seasonal tastes from the winery kitchen.
- Eat Drink RSV − $70.00 per person. This experience is for up to eight guests seated in the Great Hall or outside on the terrace. Again a flight of RSV wines are paired with seasonal dishes from the winery kitchen.
- Perfect Circle Tour − $95.00 per person. Again this tasting is for up to eight people and includes a tour of the culinary gardens and the 18,000 SF of barrel aging caves. This is followed by a tasting of a variety of wines, all paired with delightful dishes from the winery kitchen.
- Chef’s Table − $175.00 per person. With this tasting there is a tour of the gardens, wine production area, aging caves and a five-course tasting of seasonal dishes from the winery kitchen paired with currently released RSV wines as well as some interesting library wines. This tasting is also for up to eight guests and is by appointment only on Saturday and Sunday beginning at 12:00 p.m.
I was fortunate to enjoy a modified Perfect Circle tasting thanks to Conner. What follows is the menu and wine pairings I experienced. The pumpkin soup and roasted duck were simply outstanding.
It is easy to see why this winery was selected by Food & Wine magazine as one of the best culinary experiences in Napa Valley.
Wines I tasted and my comments:
2013 Pinot Blanc – Los Carneros
Upon arrival at the vineyard they pour the 2013 Pinot Blanc for guests and, depending on your category of tasting, it is served through the tours and with your first course. Pinot Blanc is a white grape used primarily in the production of still, sparkling and sweet dessert wines.
The wine was a delightful afternoon wine. Its aromas and palate flavors were of fresh pears, melon and apricots. The finish had a nice balance between minerals and acidity. The mouth feel and finish were very pleasant and it paired nicely with the 1st course: a tasty pumpkin soup.
2014 Abraxas, Vin de Terroir – Scintilla Sonoma Vineyards, Los Carneros
The 2014 Abraxas is a blend of four different white grapes: 43% Riesling, 17% Pinot Gris, 29% Pinot Blanc and 11% Gewürztraminer. This is a crisp wine with good acidity and aromas of floral tones and almonds on the nose. On the palate the wine is fresh, crisp and offers hints of pears, apples and pineapple. The finish is rich with mineral and is of a good length.
2013 Pinot Noir – Los Carneros, Napa Valley
This wine had a good nose with hints of cherries and fruit. On the palate it showed a variety of dark fruit and had a nice, balanced finish of good length. Of the two Pinot Noirs I tasted, this wine was my favorite.
2012 Pinot Noir – Capa Vineyards, Los Carneros, Napa Valley
I felt the wine was tight and needed time to open. There was mild berry fruit on the palate and the finish was of medium length.
2012 Merlot – Los Carneros, Napa Valley
This 2012 had the nose of a merlot with soft, red berry fruit. The mildness of the fruit on the palate was fine and the balanced tannins and acidity created an enjoyable finish.
2012 POV – Los Carneros, Napa Valley
The nose opened after a few minutes in the glass and offered hints of red fruit and a touch of cacao. On the palate the wine provided flavors of ripened fruit and hints of oak. The mild tannins and a good mouth feel provided a pleasant finish. It paired, as did the Merlot, nicely with the roast duck dish.
In addition to the wines offered with the tasting menu I was able to taste several other RSV wines, which was a pleasure.
2011 Marcien Red Wine
This blended Bordeaux-style red was an exciting wine…one of my favorites of the day. The nose was a little tight but eventually showed aromas of red fruit and spice. The wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. On the palate the wine offered a complexity of flavors including fruit, various spices and cacao. The finish was big and long with just the right amount of tannins. It was chewy and coated the inside of your mouth…a fun wine to drink.
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon – SLD Estate, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley
The nose on this 2011 Cabernet was tight as it is still a young wine. As it opened in the glass its aromas were hints of berry fruit, spices and some floral scents. The palate offered fruit, leather and a little hint of oak while the finish, still tight, was a good balance of tannins, acidity and lasted a reasonable length of time. This wine needs another 24 months of aging to start to show its potential.
2013 Orgia – An Enlightened Wine, Los Carnaros
This wine is made from Pinot Gris grapes and is copper in color. The aromas of the nose are oranges, honey and the palate offers hints of apples and orange fruit with a little acidity on a medium length finish. This was a fun wine to drink.
Chef Maria Sinskey says of this wine: “Orgia’s brilliant core of mouth-watering acidity and lip-smacking texture sends Orgia into the ‘one of a kind’ arena to make an awesome partner to seafood, rich meats and fragrant vegetables. It has a particular affinity for saffron and tomato.”
A Few Other Things
This winery tasting and tour was great fun, very informative and enjoyable. Spending time with the RSV team was informative and a pleasure from the winery cave tours with Lane Neblett. Lane is a Culinary Institute graduate and her knowledge of the winery was very helpful as she led me on my winery tour. The opportunity to see RSV’s private wine cellar stocked with every vintage the winery has ever made was a special treat.
A conversation with long time winemaker Jeff Viring was enjoyable and very enlightening. I wish we would have had more time together. I can think of many more questions I should have asked.
Finally I want to thank Conner Burns for taking time out of a busy schedule to spend time with me and talk shop about topics including Direct-to-Consumer sales, folks we both know in the Valley and the history of Robert Sinskey Vineyards.
It was a great experience and one I recommend on your next trip to Napa Valley.
To make a tasting reservation go to the winery’s website, click on “visit” and click on “reservations.” The rest is easy.
2015 Adler’s Blend Red Wine
I reported on the blending of this wine in Part Two of my article on my 2016 Napa Trip here. Adler’s Blend is a wine I am making that is named after grandson Adler Bear Carris, a great and very strong seven-year-old who is battling cancer.
The first thing on Tuesday morning I headed to Ballentine Vineyards and Winery in St. Helena to meet with our Adler’s Blend winemaker and good friend Bruce Devlin.
This was my first opportunity to taste the wine since blending. It has been in oak barrels at the winery since last April 2016. As I have mentioned before the wine is a blend of:
- 50% Zinfandel
- 30% Petite Sirah
- 20% Lagrein
All of these grapes were grown in the Ballentine Vineyards and crushed and made into wine in the Ballentine Winery.
The wine is developing nicely. It needs just a little tweaking on the nose and the finish yet, which Bruce will take care of shortly. I am not going to tell you any more about the taste of the wine now. Other than this is a “big wine” with a great mouth feel. Stay tuned for our release of this wine coming in July or August 2017.
After the tasting on Tuesday I met with Travis Pollard, vice president of sales and marketing at Paragon Label, and our customer service person Johni Flores.
The decision we needed to make was what shape of bottle to use for Adler’s Blend, a straight bottle or tapered one. I wanted to make this decision based on which style of bottle the label fit the best on and looked the best on a shelf. Travis made a copy of our proposed label and taped it to a couple sample bottles. The bottles were put on a shelf with other bottles to see which stood out the best. The straight bottle showed the best so it was an easy decision.
Labels will be proofed and go to press soon. We hope to bottle Adler’s Blend on April 26th or in early May.
A good part of the week was spent on administrative items, such as the development of a website for Glenwood Cellars Wines. The website would be used to sell our wines direct to consumers across the country.
Sounds easy right? Not so. Due to tighter regulations on wine sales we may need to change licenses from our current 17/20 Wholesale to a Type Two Winery License. This means we start all over with the licensing process. Decisions, decisions…
I have more stories to share from my Napa adventure…stay tuned next week for the next installment!
As always I appreciate your support of our wine blog and encourage you to share it with family and friends. If you are reading this blog for the first time please consider subscribing while you are on the website. This way you’ll get our reviews and articles in your email. If you care to share your comments on this blog posting or other topics please do so in the comments section below.
Until next week,