With a business concept based on friendship and community, McNeese, brain child of Demetria and Richard McNeese are a wine distributor bringing highly allocated, limited production, boutique wines to Florida. And we were delighted to experience their annual portfolio tasting at the glamorous Grand Boheme downtown Orlando courtesy of Mr. Tom Titzer.
It’s a rough job, not to mention the palate fatigue, trying to taste and evaluate 110+ wines, but some one had to do it!! First a quick lesson in geography and terroir.
The epicenter of fine wine production in the US, especially the birthplace of the classic style “Napa Cab”, California’s North Coast AVA includes the counties of Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, Solano, and Marin. Encompassing sixteen sub-AVAs, diurnal temperature variations with vineyards spanning from zero to over 2,000 ft. above sea level, mountain ranges from from Mayacamas in the west to Vaca on the east, diversity of soil types ranging from volcanic, alluvial, maritime, Cabernet Sauvignon is incontestably the king of grapes and very much at home in California.
Cabernet Sauvignon – the noble grape varietal accountable for cultivating some of the world’s greatest red wines. Also the grape that put California on the international map as one of the world’s top wine regions, arguably the state’s single most compelling varietal, capable of becoming powerful, gorgeously rich, and complex wine.
We embellished these wonderful wine maps from Guild of Sommeliers to identify Mcneese portfolio wineries in Napa and Sonoma.
Each grape, not just a grape, a little piece of perfection. Each piece of perfection, vine, terroir, producer has a story to tell, and mind you, all of them are trailblazers in their own right. A daunting dilemma, how can we favor one? Thankfully, the sun-drenched slopes of California has plenty to offer, for every palate and price point.
What do I seek in a wine aside from the obvious structure integrity (fruit, acid, tannin)? I would have to say a wine with an element of surprise, that enraptures to a place in time, evokes cerebral excitement. If you are a wine lover, you understand precisely how countless hours are spent, hurdled around a single bottle, swirling our glasses, identifying the intriguing aromas or seeking a memory that exude our happy spot.
Here we have exemplary examples of fine wine-making that captured our attention in no random order.
Arkenstone – founded in 1988 by proprietors Ron and Susan Krausz, fast forward to 2015 where Jake Krausz, Estate Director proudly showcased his family’s gorgeous Howell Mountain fruit. The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (97% Sauvignon Blanc, 3% Semillon), highly allocated, boasted of ripe tropical fruit, crisp acidity, whispers of sweet flowers with potential for aging.
2012 Obsidian, with only 580 cases produced, also captured our attention – luscious dark fruit, chocolate, purple flowers, savory herbs, and ripe tannins.
Pott Wines: A visionary and highly successful wine maker and consultant Aaron Pott (2012 winemaker of the year by Food & Wine), makes plush wines under his label Pott. We were fortunate enough to taste his second vintage of Viognier 2013 20m3, 2012 Her Majesty’s Secret (Pritchard Hill), 2012 Kalihomanok (Spring Mtn.), 2012 La Carte Territoire (St. Helena), & 2012 Original Gangster (grenache).
Anthem Winery: The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Las Piedras Vineyard, from the highly prized Beckstoffer vineyard in St. Helena full bodied loaded with black fruit and dark coffee with a lingering plush finish, a fantastic purchase at this price point.
Revana: A fashionable favorite, Dr. Revana’s Cabernet from the best blocks of St. Helena always hits the right spot with their elegant cellar worthy wines. The 2012 demonstrated vibrant fruit, cedar, tobacco, and fine tannins synonymous with nuances of classic Napa Cab. The line up also included a taste of their latest ventures Alexana wines from Oregon’s Willamette Valley and Corazon Del Sol, Mendoza Argentina.
Auteur Wines: Sold through an allocated list, specializing in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, sourcing grapes from Anderson Valley, Mendocino, Carneros, and Russian River Valley, Auteur is the passionate product of Kenneth and Laura Juhasz. From the highly prized Savoy Vineyard in Anderson Valley, the 2012 Savoy Pinot Noir (174 cases) has a complex bouquet of cherry, spice, anise, and savory herbs.
In the style of ‘Chablis’ 2013 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, the food-friendly 2012 Durell Vineyard Chardonnay opulent with rich citrus and stone fruit, 2012 Hyde Chardonnay moderately ripe and focused like a grand cru Chablis, Auteur Chardonnays are inspired by the stunning White Burgundies of France.
Kesner Wines: Jason Kesner a proponent of native fermentation, makes a limited stock of high quality chardonnay and pinot noir. Fruit forward yet elegant 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir was brimming with red raspberries and whisper of new oak. Sourced from Idell Vineyard, the 2013 Rockbreak Sonoma Coast Chardonnay with crisp acidity and green orchard fruit is a fine example of how Kesner Chardonnay earned their place on Chef Keller’s French Laundry wine list.
Tor Kenward Family: The exotically perfumed Gernache shines through in Tor Kenward’s 2013 Rock Cuvee Cooper. According to the winery: “The 2013 Hommage Allan is the Hermitage to the 2012 Côte-Rôtie, smoky, silky, sexy Syrah.
Perliss Estate Vineyards: Winemaker Aaron Pott with owners Dr. Herbert Perliss & Anthony Perliss produce Raven’s, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a single estate. With 2012 a near-perfect vintage, Ravens 2012 explodes with juicy black fruit, tobacco, dark chocolate, and lingering finish.
Arbois Praxis: Wallet-friendly wines from the heart of Sonoma County by the charming couple Bill and Susan Arbois.
Another strong showing from Jeff Ames and his family winery Rudius was the 2012 Cabernet. The 2012 Brio from Brand a gorgeous specimen of sexy Napa juice, especially considering it is a second label, sourced from Pritchard Hill. Memento Mori, founded by three wine geeks Adriel Lares, Hayes Drumwright, and Adam Craun produce only one wine, a powerful 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Gandona Winery by the golden trio of Maneul Pires, Philippe Melka, and Jim Barbour consistently produces sensational wines from their mountain fruit in Pritchard Hill.
McNeese portfolio tasting also included Jericho Canyon, Black Dog Cellars, Barbour Vineyards, Perfect Season Wines, Journeyman Wines, Kokomo Wines, Calluna Vineyards, Dunstan Wines, Pip by Dustan, Sanglier Cellars, Regal Wine Imports, Vignette Cellers, Kinsella Estates, Melka Wines, MaCauley Wines, Rossi-Wallace, Sarapo Family Wines, and Tournesol.
Ending on a high note from Ms. Karen McNeill’s Wine Bible, “with a gargantuan appetite for life and a palpable hunger for success, 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.
Thanks to Mcneese Distributors, these highly prized bottles of stunning complexity, deeply concentrated world-class wines, are available in our own back yards in Florida.
Speaking of California, I documented my visit to Napa and Sonama in the following articles: