Recently at a Winemaker Symposium hosted by Terlato Wines, I had the immense pleasure of tasting some delicious juice with the delightful Women Wine Makers of Chimney Rock, Markham Vineyards, and Rutherford Hill Winery at the Epicurean Hotel, Tampa .
Quoting Ms. Karen MacNeil from her comprehensive wine book The Wine Bible: California is a wine’s camelot – a place of awesome beauty and high ideals; a wine region where the realm of possibility knows no bounds. More than 90% of the wine made in the US is made in California. California’s winemakers are among the most innovative in the world making world class wines.
The 2012 vintage was unanimously deemed “Classic” and “Perfect” growing season and harvest. Textbook conditions saw near-ideal spring bud break, steady flowering, even fruit set, and a lengthy stretch of warm days and cool and often foggy nights during the long summer months. Late and light rains held off until Napa Valley’s treasured wine grapes found optimal ripeness, bringing exceptional quality to the crush pad and into the cellar.
Check out the trailer to Vintage: Napa Valley 2012, a six-part series airing nationally on public TV in the US. This series takes viewers behind-the-scenes at three Napa Valley wineries during the 2012 harvest season.
Most of us are intimately familiar with Chimney Rock, from the acclaimed Stags Leap District of Napa Valley, home to some of the world’s most elegant and revered Cabernet Sauvignon. Seduced by Cabernet Sauvignon, Chimney Rock’s winemaker, Ms. Elizabeth Vianna‘s wine philosophy in her own words: “Because i am at Chimney Rock, a great estate within a sub appellation, all of our red fruit is from Stag Leaps. My philosophy is that wine should be about the time and place, so every time you taste a bottle of Chimney Rock, I want that bottle to trasnport you unmistakably to Stags Leap, probably guess the correct vintage too as I don’t try to mask the vintage it is. Every vintage should not be the same and tell of that time and place. That is my goal, to be pure of the fruit using and be an interpreter and not outshine the beautiful fruit we have:”.
Hear, hear!! I couldn’t agree with Ms. Vianna more….
Tasting Notes: Indelibly memorable to Napa Valley winemakers, the 2011 vintage was one of the coolest vintages of the decade. With a wet spring, and a rainy harvest season – all the tricks had to be pulled to produce wines of quality from aggressive cover crops, to dramatic leaf-pulling to achieve full ripening. The secret in this vintage was being Estate Grown.
Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011: Deep red in color, the 2011 Cabernet shows cherry, cassis as well as whispers of sage, floral, and wet gravel. On the palate soft and shy with a tannin backbone reminiscent of Bordeaux reds.
Chimney Rock Elevage, 2011: Deep red with a purple hue, the 2011 Elevage showcases blackberry and huckleberry fruits with mocha, sage, and tea leaf on the nose. The palate is rich with silky tanins, balanced structure, and lengthy supple finish.
Ms. Vianna’s wines are seductive; where Oak is a great tool that supports wine like spices in the kitchen but doesn’t over power the wines. As a matter of style, she exclusively uses French Oak, since it is really suited to the tannins and structure of the wines she is trying to create.
To reserve a tour or tasting, please click HERE.
The Markham winery, originally established by Jean Laurent, dates back to 1879 – making it the fourth-oldest continuously operated winery in Napa County. The winemaker, Ms. Kimberlee Nicholls often heard espousing, “I’m a better cook than a winemaker,” the winemaker Ms. Kimberlee Nicholls thoroughly enjoys throwing small dinner parties for family and friends. Those intimate gatherings make wine inspiration and food memories come to life for her.
It’s Ms. Nicholl’s innovation and willingness to constantly improve in the vineyard and in the cellar which ensure that your next bottle of Markham will match perfectly with whatever she is – or you are – cooking. A great food wine, the soft and sexy Merlot is her personal favorite grape.
Markham Merlot, 2012: A true Napa Valley blend of vineyards – Merlot from Oak Knoll gives sour cherry character while the Yountville components provide the classic Bing cherry aromas and flavors. Dark ruby in color with aromas of black pepper and tobacco with a cherry cola core, the 2012 Merlot shows vanilla, roasted nut, and caramel oak flavors complimenting the beautiful rich cherry fruit.
Markham Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011: Dark garnet in color with aromas of violets, vanilla, and red fruit, the 2011 Cabernet expresses dark chocolate and berry jam punctuated with graham cracker toast and hints of menthol.
For tours and tastings, visit Markham Vineyards website – HERE.
Nestled high in the Eastern Hills, Rutherford Hill Winery commands a spectacular view overlooking Napa Valley and features one of Napa’s most extensive cave systems. Founded in 1972, it was among the first to pioneer Napa’s premier varietal – Merlot. Today, Rutherford Hill continues its tradition of crafting wines with great complexity and character with 100 percent Napa Valley fruit.
Winemaker Ms. Marisa Taylor unfortunately caught the flu on the tour and had to cut short her trip. Hopefully she is all recovered and back to doing what she does best…..Ms. Taylor was making her own wine by the age of 25, using Pinot Noir from Carneros. She graduated from the University of California in Davis, first with a B.S. in Chemistry and then an M.S. in Food Science-Enology. A self-described “lab rat,” Marisa continues to have a passion for the analytical detail needed for monitoring yeast cultures, barrels, fermentation, blending and ultimately, bottling.
Rutherford Hill Chardonnay 2012: Light straw in color, this wine offers a bright aroma of lemon, honey and vanilla with hint of orange blossom. The full-bodied flavor is layered with crisp citrus, vanilla bean and flinty mineral accents, for striking balance and structure.
Rutherford Hill Barrel Select Red Blend 2010: This wine is ruby red color with a lively aroma of blackcurrant, blueberry and aniseed. Concentrated flavors of plum, blackberry and dark cherry lead to velvety, round tannins and a bright, long finish.
Rutherford Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2011: This ripe, sleek, elegant wine offers a fruit-forward aroma with bright flavors of dark cherry, plum and cassis. The lush texture and velvety tannins combine for a pleasant, persistent finish.
For tours and tastings, please click HERE.
Vintage: Napa Valley 2012 is Coming to Your Local Public Television Station – Click HERE for previews.
Special mention to Ms. Kinkade, Director of PR Terlato Wines International for orchestrating this enriching event.
Until next time, have a delicious day!!