Thursday, February 21, 2008

2005 Chateau Boswell Chardonnay

Yes, I know. Another white wine. New job, new zip code... new taste in wine? Not really. I still like the reds. I got this for my wife for St. Valentine's day. Every time we go to napa, we drive by Boswell, since we really like the building. We've never made an appointment to go visit it, however, so we had never actually tasted the wines.

As I was shopping for gifts on the 13th, I wandered into the Oakville Grocery and discovered their wine sale. The 2005 Chateau Boswell Chardonnay was $72 but was on sale for 40% off. And it had a picture of the winery on the label.

This is my new favorite Chardonnay. Aside from the price, this wine was perfect. It was everything I want in a white wine. It had definite notes of pear and buttery-oak, but nothing was over powering. It did not taste like Welche's white grape juice--if it had I probably would have returned it. This wine was a very pleasant and bright wine, but subtle. It was not a sweet wine, but it was drinkable by both Sara and I. It is rare that we finish a bottle of anything these days, but we killed this one.

I should mention we had this with a Cassoulet that Sara made out of lentils, beans from Rancho Gordo and mild Italian sausage. You may not think it would be a white-wine dish, but it worked out surprisingly well.

Friday, February 15, 2008

napa trip report, part two

After St. Clement, we drove all the way to the north end of the valley and had lunch in Calistoga. Calistoga, at night at least, is a bit of a party town. We stopped at The Calistoga Inn and Brewery for lunch. We sat in the bar and watched the Washington-Stanford basketball game while we ate.

The food exceeded my expectations. I had the brunch special which was scrambled eggs with artichoke hearts, peppers, a crab cake and some toast. Crab cakes are sort of like Meatloaf in that they can be used as a gauge by which to judge a restaurant. This was a good crab cake. The rest of the family ordered various things that all looked pretty good as well, mostly in the sandwhich department. Because we had already hit to wineries (and it was just about Noon now), I had coffee instead of beer. Sara had a beer (a wheat of some sort) and she liked it quite a bit.

After lunch, on the advice of the nice woman at St. Clement, we went to Dutch Henry. Neither Sara's dad nor I had heard of this place, so it was with a bit of hesitation we approached the winery. It certainly was not the most grandiose structure in Napa but this is the sort of winery one hopes to find on such expidetions. The tasting was held in the cold amongst the barrels of wine. The guys doing the tasting were also the guys involved in the actual wine making. For $10 we got to taste a range of seven or eight wines (some on the list, a zinfandel they opened even though it wasn't on the list). It was completely unpretentious and every wine was a strong example of it's varietal. One stand out was the Pinot Noir, since neither of us generally like Pinot's but this one was quite enjoyable and drinkable. Sara's dad is always trying to find something to drink with Salmon he catches. The other varietals, the cab, the zin and the blends were all very strong. You can only get them from the winery, but joining their club just might be worth it.

Dutch Henry was the last place we stopped in Napa. We drove back down to the bottom of the valley, cut over to Sonoma, drove through downtown Sonoma but it was raining too hard to really get out and do anything. After a quick jaunt around Sonoma, we headed back south, across the Golden Gate bridge, through the traffic in San Francisco and through the high-winds on 280 to finally arrive back home in Palo Alto.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

deal alert: oakville grocery in palo alto

The Oakville Grocery in Palo Alto is closing. Currently their entire selection of wines is 30% or 40% off. They have many heavy hitters including the Chester-Kidder and other Napa Valley wines. There are some great deals, so stop in and get them while you can.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

napa trip report, part one

Last Saturday Sara, her parents and I visited Napa Valley. It was a grey, overcast day. The hills around the bay area were covered in fog and we encountered rain off and on all day. Everyone we met kept apologizing for the weather, but then we explained we were Seattle natives and this was actually better weather than what was happening up there. Which seemed to satisfy them.

From Palo Alto it took us less than two hours to get to the City of Napa. We didn't actually stop in the city, but instead drove straight on up the valley to PlumpJack. PlumpJack was our favorite winery last time we visited, so we figured we would introduce Sara's parents to the area by starting there. It was about 10:30 in the morning and the place was fairly crowded. We were able to park in the parking lot without issue. They were tasting two wines, their two newly released wines: the 2005 PlumpJack Reserve Chardonnay and 2005 PlumpJack Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The cost was $15. Last time we visited it was $10 and we tasted three wines, but this time we got to keep the glass.

The Chardonnay was decent. I'm not a fan of Chardonnay in general, but this one was nice letting the flavor of the grapes come through. A little oak, a little butter, but nothing gross and white-grape-juice tasting. The Cabernet was great, but literally this was the first day it was released, so it was young and tannic. I suspect it will settle down and be just as good as the 2004--if not better. I am not well trained enough to tell.

Since it is so close to PlumpJack, Silver Oak was our next planned stop. However it was incredibly crowded with people parking on the road up to half a mile (or more) away. There was a big white tent in the lot and winery workers directing traffic. We decided their wine couldn't possibly be that good and instead returned to highway 29 and continued north up the Valley.

Eventually we got to St. Clement and I suggested we stop there, as they make great wines. Sara's father and I opted for their "all reds" tasting. For $15 we tasted five or six wines. I wish I had kept notes so I could discuss each of them, but the general gist of it was the 2005 St. Clement Oroppas was a star and the 2002 St. Clement Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon was a frickin' rock-god. The entire line of reds was enjoyable with each one displaying distinct character and excellent wine making. It was certainly worth the $15. The staff was also very friendly and personable, and the winery is in a great old house on a hill with a nice view of the surrounding area.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

2004 Mith

For Sara's birthday, we went to Rosso and Bianco for dinner and I brought along a bottle of the 2004 Mith. The Mith was an extremely limited (less than 100 cases made) and incredibly difficult to get Longshadows wine. I tried very hard to get more, but I was only able to scrape up three when it was released.

The Mith is made by Tom Glase (previously a wine maker at L'Ecole). Now I've never been all that impressed by L'Ecole's cheaper offerings, and I've always thought their higher-end offerings were over priced (meaning I'm just not enough into their style of wines to pay that much for them--YMMV).

However, the Mith is easily the best Longshadows wine I have tasted to date.

The Mith is made using only the highest quality Eastern Washington grapes and it is made in old French Oak, meaning the oak can't cover any defects in the wine. This is a well made wine, pure and simple. It was a smooth, velvety, lucious wine that evoked all the best flavors of California and Washington. I'd pay more for this than the Silver Oak I discussed yesterday. It was just an amazing wine.

Searching the internet shows there is a 2005 Mith about. I've probably missed out, but if you can find some, get it. Even if you don't want it, I'll buy it from you. :)

Monday, February 4, 2008

2003 Silver Oak Alexander Valley

We didn't actually visit Silver Oak on the recent Napa Trip (which I will post about soon), but we did decide to pick up a bottle at the store and have it with dinner. Sara's Dad had never had Silver Oak and we all agreed he should try it at least once.

I was disappointed. The '01 and '02 Alexander Valley were both really wonderful wines. I think this is a case of the vintage just not being as good for the region as previous vintages. It was obviously a quality wine; it just did not blow me away the same way previous vintages did. It was still classic Silver Oak--oaky, smooth, supple. Good fruit, good finish. It is everything one has come to expect from California Cabernet. If you are going to drink it, at $50 the Alexander Valley is still a way better deal than the $100 Napa Valley. If you are laying them down in a collection and building a vertical as an investment, I think the Napa Valley bottles are still a decent investment.