On Friday night, we began the weekend with a 2005 Chateau Coutet, Sauternes/Barsac ($20/375ml). The palate was creamy and showed honey, cream and baked apple with a touch of orange peel on the finish. It was nice but not fantastic. Jen prefers them racier.
On Saturday, we headed to Napa for a tasting trip. We no longer take tasting notes on our Napa trips but here are some of our general impressions.
Grgich was our first stop and easily the best tasting of the day. All the Grgich wines have very distinctive flavors. The best wine of the tasting was the Violetta which is their dessert wine. The Violetta is fantastic. It would give some of the better German Riesling dessert wines a run for their money (although it is a blend of several white varietals). While very sweet, it is also intensely flavorful. We bought a bottle and will be reviewing it later.
Our next stop was Raymond. We drink their wines at the Berkeley Rep and are glad the Rep serves them. At most symphonies/operas/plays, the only options are very cheap, very bad wine. While Raymond wines are certainly better than bad, cheap wines, we found them indistinctive. I tasted three different Cabs that were all well-oaked, non-descript and interchangeable. A Merlot Rose was decent enough for us to buy a bottle.
Stop number three was Peju. To be fair, we were in a hurry to get to our appointment at Frog’s Leap, so we might not have given these wines our full attention. We found these wines to be bland except for the Sauvignon Blanc, which was actually quite bad.
We had a blast at Frog’s Leap. We took the tour and our tour was joined by a bachelorette party. There was quite a bit of laughter on the tour and most of the docent’s speech was drowned out. The tour ended with everyone taking one shot at basketball hoop that was about a top of the key shot. My shot bounced off the rim and I think I actually saw look of concern in the docent’s eyes as Jen’s shot flew wide and smashed into the wine barrels. We will take a pass on reviewing the wines – all but one of the wines were served to us at various points on the tour and were simply too cold to taste properly.
Our last stop was Stag’s Leap. The Stag’s Leap Cabs were fine – the Fay and the Cask 23 both showed nice fruit and were pleasant to drink. However, I think they are horribly overpriced. Neither stood up to Grgich’s Cab and for a premium Napa Cab, we’ll take Chateau Montelena’s Estate Cab or a good mountain Cab (Keenan, Guilliams and Howell Mountain come to mind).
After a short nap at our B&B, we went to the Bounty Hunter for dinner. We had the beer can chicken, a half a plate of beef ribs and a 2005 Chateau Caillou Chateauneuf de Pape. The Chateauneuf ($90 restaurant price) was very fruity and perhaps not as funky as you would expect from a Chateauneuf. We both enjoyed it. The food was simply out of this world. The chicken is actually served with the beer can shoved up into it. The skin is very spicy and the chicken is incredibly moist and tender. I didn’t think we’d finish it but we kept picking at it until there was nothing left but a skeleton on the beer can.
We finished our evening at the Bounty Hunter with a glass of Tattinger Brut Cuvee. It was very tasty – like a laser beam of flavor shooting out of the minerality.
We ended the weekend at home on Sunday night with a Billecart Salmon NV Demi Sec ($55). While at the Bounty Hunter on Saturday, Jen clandestinely purchased this Champagne while I was using the restroom. She knows I love Demi Sec Champagne but she also knows I hate forking out that much money for a bottle of wine. This was truly a magnificent Demi Sec – the best we have tasted. I could not believe how much flavor shone through the sweetness. Here are Jen’s tasting notes.
Deep gold color. Sweet but lighter in texture than other sweet bubblies, making for a balanced wine. The palate includes Apricot, Lily Pear, a little bit of fennel and musky spices. Delicious with a bright zesty acidity.