Generally it takes about a month of hard work to put together my Napa trip itinerary. People are so busy it is often hard to match up schedules and make appointments.
People have asked me, “How was the trip to Napa? Did you get a lot done?” Yes, I accomplished much and it was a good trip. However, on this particular trip two of my good Napa friends, Didier Loustau and Sean Larkin, were out of town, so there wasn’t quite as much socializing as there usually is on my Napa trips. I did have a rather long list of work items to accomplish, such as blending wine with our Sonoma Coast winemaker Kent Humphrey of Eric Kent Wine Cellars and exploring the possibility of crafting a new red wine with winemaker Bruce Devlin of Three Clicks Wines. It was all fun stuff.
I also spent about half of my time while in Napa tasting wines at four different wineries and at Kerrin Laz’s new tasting room. I do these tastings to make new friends and so I can report on new and interesting wineries, winemakers and wines. I report on these wineries so that we’ll all have a broader range of knowledge on wines and their various profiles. I also hope that on your first (or next) trip to Napa you will also want to experience these wineries.
Because I had an early morning flight from O’Hare on Sunday I decided to go to Chicago the afternoon before. I got to Chicago late Saturday afternoon and the first thing that happened is that I discovered I had forgotten my apartment key and can’t get in. Off to the front desk to get their spare key and produce identification (which they keep until I return the key). Sort of a hassle, but everyone was nice about my forgetfulness.
For a quick and early dinner I was off to Morton’s Steakhouse on State, not only for dinner but to meet with Raki Mehra, general manager, about their upcoming wine locker tasting event. For the past several years I have participated in this biannual event. They had asked me to be involved again with the spring tasting and I needed the final details. There is always tough competition from the other distributors, but it is usually a great, fun evening.
I had a 7:20 a.m. American flight to San Francisco and wanted to be there in plenty of time to not have to run to my gate. I am just too old for that anymore. I had my limo service pick me up at 5:00 a.m. and we headed for O’Hare. As luck would have it, traffic was light and we made it in 25 minutes (not the normal 40 to 45 minutes).
It was a good thing I was early. I checked in at the American ticket counter, got my boarding pass and headed for the pre-screened TSA line. I worked my way to the TSA attendant and presented my driver’s license and boarding pass. He checks everything over and starts to hand my items back and suddenly stops and says: “I am sorry sir but these don’t match. Your name is Adolf Carl on your boarding pass and your driver’s license says A. Carl. Sorry, but I cannot let you go forward. Please return to the ticket counter and have them deal with this situation.”
My passport is issued in my full name and that is what American made the ticket out from. Yes…I had not brought along my passport. So back to the ticket counter and a long wait, a lot of red tape and $35 to change the name on my ticket. Then back to the TSA line, this time everything matched and they let me pass. Good thing I had extra time or I might have been one of those people running to the gate. When I reported this incident to Mrs. Tiedemann, she commented: “The apartment key? The passport? What’s next?”
The plane arrived in San Francisco 20 minutes early. I picked up my rental car and headed for Napa and the Hilton Garden Inn. I had just arrived in my room and received a call from friend and winemaker Sean Larkin.
“Hey. You in Napa?” Sean asked me.
“Yes, just got here 10 minutes ago,” I replied.
“I have bad news…Lori Nuss died this morning,” he said.
Lori was a friend and wife of Brian Nuss, owner of Vinoce and Twenty Rows wines and our first winemaker for Glenwood Cellars. Brian made our very first Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
I dropped my bags and headed to the Nuss home to pay my condolences. As I arrived I saw Brian on the sidewalk talking on his phone. I learned later that he was talking with friend Didier Loustau who was in Europe. I spent a good portion of the afternoon with Brian and his family. Lori will be greatly missed by all. She was a kind and gracious lady.
Life isn’t always fair and this definitely was the case here. Lori was a young 59 years old. Just two weeks prior to her death she had been diagnosed with liver cancer. I am sending blessings to her family and friends.
After a sad afternoon I was off to the restaurant Torc for dinner. I have reported on Torc in a prior blog posting. My expectations were high for another great dinner. Perhaps they were too high as it wasn’t the same experience I had the first time I had eaten at Torc. And perhaps it was the somber mood I was in after my afternoon with the Nuss family.
Monday was a busy and exciting day. I was out the door at 9:00 a.m. heading for Punchdown Cellars in Santa Rosa. Punchdown Cellars is a “Custom Crush facility” providing an array of winemaking services to boutique wineries (32 altogether) such as Kent Humphrey’s Eric Kent Wine Cellars. Kent is, as I have mentioned a number of times, our Glenwood Cellars winemaker for the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
I was meeting Kent and his new assistant, Winemaker Hanna Chort, to blend our 2015 Glenwood Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, 2014 Glenwood Cellars Chardonnay and our 2014 Glenwood Cellars Pinot Noir.
Let me explain our process. Some months before the blending time, Kent and I have a discussion about the flavor profile of the wines we are going to produce. Usually we use the prior vintage as a guide. We talk about what components (pre-made wines) are available in the market and finally what quantities we will make (how many cases of each). We establish a timeline for acquiring the wines for blending and when I am able to get to Santa Rosa to do the actual blending of the finished product.
Prior to the final blending Kent will acquire the wine components (barrels of the various varietals we are going to make) from vineyards based on taste and price per gallon. Once the wines are selected Kent will choose one of the best wines of each varietal as base from which we build the final product.
Then we add small portions of the other wines (same wine, different vineyards). We add amounts in percentages of the total. For example, we may end up with 90% of the blend being from one specific vineyard, 3% from another and 7% from a third vineyard. You simply keep trying different mixtures until you get the flavor profile you want. Your winemaker’s experience and expertise plays a big role in the blending process.
After a number of tries on Monday, we produced some blends for each of our varietals that we all liked. Once the blend is made, Kent will produce the quantity necessary to create the desired number of cases of wine. It is then transferred to oak barrels to age. After a certain point the wine is bottled to age further. Throughout the aging process the wine is tasted. We’ll really not know exactly how the wine is going to taste for about six to eight months or more. Stay tuned for the updates. It is a serious time but fun. The difficulty is you only get one chance to get it right.
Monday evening I made calls on the two Yountville restaurants that sell our Tiedemann Signature Series Red Wine on their wine lists. First off I headed to Bistro Jeanty, an excellent French bistro owned and operated by Chef Philippe Jeanty. The restaurant is located at 6510 Washington Street, Yountville. (707-944-0103; http://bistrojeanty.com)
I had a delightful conversation with Chef Philippe and enjoyed some Parfait de Foie Blond (duck foie gras mousse with brioche) and, of course, several glasses of Tiedemann Red wine.
Next, I walked several blocks down Washington to our second Yountville customer Ad Hoc which is part of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. The restaurant is located at 6476 Washington Street, Yountville. (707-944-2487; http://www.thomaskeller.com/ad-hoc)
I had dinner at Ad Hoc and Tom, my server, was great. I had a nice conversation with Ali Van Slyke, dining room manager, about our Tiedemann Signature Series Red wine. We appreciate their support of our wine.
Next week I will tell you about the rest of my week in Napa. As always I appreciate your support of our wine blog and encourage you to share it with family and friends. 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,