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London Wine Fair: Napa Valley

Written by JW. Posted in California

Napa’s close to my heart, where my wine bug began after visiting in the late 1980s, so it was good to see the Napa Valley Vintners Association back at the London Wine Fair last week. Heitz’s Trailside Cabernet ’05 immediately reminded me what’s exciting about the valley and of the fact that the old ones are often still the best. In this respect too there were good benchmark Napa Cabs from Grgich Hills, Chateau Montelena [actually tasted courtesy of Bancroft Wines], Silverado Vineyards, Cain and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.

Amongst the other varietals Saintsbury was a winner amongst the handful of Pinot Noir on offer, Shafer’s Merlot impressed and Chateau Montelena the pick of what were actually a pretty lean set of Chardonnays. There was one Zinfandel, made by Hendry, which was very good and is really worth seeking out. I’d not come across Hendry before and I was interested to learn that this property, down in the south-western end of the valley above Carneros, has been in the same family ownership since 1939. In a region that’s corporate valley as much as it is Napa Valley, Hendry looks reassuringly artisanal. Check it out – The following wines are listed by score in descending order.

Napa Valley Chardonnay:

Chateau Montelena, Napa Valley Chardonnay 2009

Pale straw; some spicy Chardonnay; quite fresh; almost Chablis like; depth here. On the lean side. Expect it to fill out. 88+/100

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Arcadia Vineyard Napa Valley Chardonnay 2008

Pale straw; cream and melon; fresh; some citrus; little neutral and lean. Should fill out. 88/100

Heitz Cellars, Napa Valley Chardonnay, 2008

Pale straw; spicy, lean style; bit neutral; elegant I guess. Goodish length and life. 87/100

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Karia Napa Valley Chardonnay 2008

Straw; some butter and cream; melon; nice crisp entry; some citrus notes; elegant 87/100

Carneros Pinot Noir:

Saintsbury Pinot Noir Carneros 2008

Earthy red; soft easy ripe and full beetrooty Pinot Noir; good structure; never disappoints; good density. Attractive 90/100

Kent Rasumssen, Pinot Noir, Carneros 2007

Nice cabbagy Pinot; some strawberry; attractive; soft and ripe; quite full; strawberry flavours on the palate with some earth. Good effort 89/100

Cuvasion, Pinot Noir Carneros 2008

Lighter red; less deep; slightly jammier, riper style of Pinot; some rich fruit here; ripe style; strawberries and red fruits, less blue fruits; sweetish style of forward, jammy Pinot. Not quite me. 86-87/100

Napa Valley Merlot:

Shafer, Merlot, Napa Valley 2007

Mid red; dense centre; inky, some spice; dense and concentrated feel on the nose; deeply flavoured palate with good grip and intensity 90+/100

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Merlot 2006, Napa Valley

Mid red; some cream; red fruits; lacks a bit of concentration; elegant 86?/100

Napa Valley Cabernet or blends:

Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon, Trailside Vineyard, Napa Valley 2005

Deep and inky looking; methol, gum and dust; attractive and typically minty Cab; dense palate, good intensity; very good effort. Nice length, depth and grip. 91+/100

Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Mid depth; darkish core; earthy look; some menthol and pine; quite dense; blackcurrants; grip and density on the palate; pure, dry and chewy finish. Long term. 91+/100

Grigich Hills, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2006

Mid depth; dark core; earthy, chalky note; crushed rocks; less lifted on the nose than Heitz Trailside. Blackcurrants on the palate, some olive and iodine; density and pretty hefty tannins; olives; extracted but well done; some length. 90+/100

Silverado Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2007

Deep and arterial; rich cassis and blackcurrant; some earth and olive [strong]; minty; almost earthy edge; some coconut oak; quite big and ripe on the palate; olives; tapenade. Ripe dense and strong. Big of alcohol on the finish. 90/100

Cain Five, Napa Valley, California 2006

Nice leaf and lift; some tobacco and Cabernet notes; quite chewy palate, some density; deepish. Very good. 89/100

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Artemis Cabernet blend, Napa Valley 2007

Mid depth; good nose; blackcurrant, some olives; ripe; chew and depth here; nicely structured; quite warm and spicy palate with good grip and balance. 89+/100

Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Mid depth; earthy purple red; slightly stalky, blackcurrant, brambly fruit; soft; quite dense and brambly fruit on the palate; grippy finish with chewy tannins. Needs a bit of time. 88+/100

Cliff Lede, Stag’s Leap District, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007

Dark and deep; quite polished nose with some US oak; soft and almost rich Zin like palate; ripe fruits, cassis; blackcurrants and dust. Attractive. 88+/100

Conn Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2006

Deep and dark; some blackcurrant, some chalk and wet rock; leaf and cassis too; nice balance on the palate between the chew and the density. Good 88+/100

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, California 2007

Mid red; some depth; black centre; some spices, hint of menthol; cassis and blackcurrant; structured palate with some density; mid weight. Pretty good. 88/100

Monticello, Jefferson Cuvee, Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, California 2007

Black red; very jammy and ripe red fruit style; some leaf and herbs. 88/100

Hendry, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2006

Some leaf and blackcurrant on the nose; quite warm; chewy and dense palate; pretty tannic but ripe. Lacks a bit of finesse but lots of dense fruit and tannin. 87/100

Cakebread Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2007

Deep and quite dense; ripe blackcurrants; big and quite alcoholic in feel; bit loose and blousy; lacks grip to me. Feels a bit jammy. 86?/100

Napa Zinfandel

Hendry Zinfandel Block 7-22 Napa Valley 2007

Mid red; good depth; fine Zin nose; quite restrained; some violet perfume; pretty dense palate; briary, brambly notes; good chew and density on the finish. Excellent effort. 15.1% 90+/100

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