Now this is a great idea!  I just heard about Napa Valley Designated Drivers.  They will provide you with a designated driver for your own or rental car so that your entire group can do a few hours of wine tasting safely.  It looks like they charge about $50 an hour which is less expensive than hiring a car and driver, taxi, and much less expensive than a DUI.

I’ve never used this service nor do I know anyone who has, but they have good feedback on Facebook and Yelp.

On Wednesday, Sasha and I headed up Spring Mountain for their second annual Spring Fling, a chance to taste some great wines from the Spring Mountain District as well as try some yummy nibbles from Napa Valley restaurants and caterers.

The wines were great.  As is my habit at this type of event, I didn’t do complete tasting notes, but I did jot down the names of wines that I feel are worth remembering — wines that are worth balancing a wine glass and an appetizer, and then trying to pull out a pen and scratch paper in order to remember the highlights.  While all the wines I list are recommended, the number of asterisks indicate the relative strength of my recommendation.

  • 2008 Fantesca Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ** – Sonoma Coast??  Not Spring Mountain, but a nicely done Chardonnay, exhibiting little oak and malo and a refreshing steely character.
  • 2007 Sherwin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – big, bold, and layers of fruit.  It’s rich but perhaps a little too rich?
  • 2008 Paloma Merlot ** – I liked the restraint on this wine. While still offering enjoyment now, this is a Merlot that will age nicely
  • 2008 Pride Cabernet Franc * – Pride still does wine that is proud of its ripeness, but they kept their foot off the throttle enough on this one to bring out the charms of Cab Franc.  I tried a couple of other Cab Francs at this tasting and they were overdone.  Not so with Pride.
  • 2007 Andesite Mervignon **** – Holy Cow!  Where did this wine come from?  I’d never heard of this extremely small production blend of Merlot and Cab Sauv with a bit of Cab Franc thrown in but this was the wine of the tasting.  So subtle, so light on its feet, and yet so interesting.  The next day I ordered six bottles of this $48 wine.

Match Vineyards is not yet a member of Spring Mountain District association but I’m thinking we should join.  Baconbrook should fit right in.

in his own non-traditional way.

Match Vineyards will be there too!  We’ll be sampling and auctioning off 10 cases of 2009 Butterdragon Hill at the Auction Napa Valley Barrel Auction on June 3rd.


A documentary made by Joe Wagner (Caymus), Joel Gott (Joel Gott Wines), and Dave Phinney (Orin Swift) about making a special wine blend to benefit their kids’ school.  The documentary is fake.

2007 Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (4/10/2011)

Blueberry and chocolate behind a formidable and (for now) insurmountable wall of rather rough tannins. Wine is currently showing rather angular. Some smoke, tobacco, and earthy notes peek out on the finish.  My wife didn’t like this wine but I think it shows some promise as a more traditional styled Cab.  It needs some years to smooth out. 89 now but will probably top a 90 for me in 3-4 years. (89 points)

Posted from CellarTracker

I had a chance to do a side-by-side tasting comparison of these two wines this past week.

The 2008 Butterdragon is fairly closed right now and needs hours of air to start to show its stuff.  I recorked a bottle and a couple of days later it was much more expressive.  The ’08 vintage, in my opinion, is going to display more depth than the ’07, but it is going to take some time.  My recommendation right now is to hold your 2008 Butterdragons for a few years.  Surprisingly for this vineyard, the 2007 Baconbrook was more open for business.  After just an hour of air, it’s really singing with a great, complex finish.  While cellar age is still the watchword with Baconbrook, you can enjoy the 2007 now with a bit of advance planning.

I’m going to try to regularly update drinkability reports in this Vintner’s Journal.

2002 Bressler Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena (3/23/2011)

Wow. This wine is firing on all cylinders right now. Dark and rich with waves of mouthfilling dark fruit flavors that coat the mouth and last for almost a minute. Creamy mocha, or even hot chocolate. Hint of mint on the nose. Smokey. Big, but balanced. This wine is showing its very best right now. Drink over next 3 years. (94 points)

Posted from CellarTracker

The Bressler was the perfect partner to take to dinner at Asena Restaurant in Alameda.  This was our first visit — but hopefully not our last — to this small restaurant specializing in Mediterranean cuisine.  The flavors of Italy, North Africa, and Turkey are all presented in delicious style.  Service, mostly by the owner himself, was friendly and warm but sometimes seemed a bit disorganized even though the restaurant was far from full during most of our meal.  I think he (the owner) may have been doing a bit too much schmoozing with all the guests at the expense of following up on drink orders, leveling a table that had a disconcerting wobble, and generally orchestrating the dining experience.  This is not a big gig in our book: we’d probably prefer this homey approach over cold efficiency.  The food was mostly wonderful with highlights including crispy breaded artichoke hearts with lime aioli ($6.95), house-made humus and flatbread with linguiça ($7.25), and paella with chicken, linguica, Mediterranean mussels, prawns, leeks, saffron, and rice ($19.95).  Members of our party also raved about the shrimp special though I didn’t catch the details on that one.  The “miss” on the menu was grilled lamb tenderloin with mint-burgundy demi glace ($20.95).  The lamb was tasty enough and cooked to the right temperature but two of us really had our hearts set on the mint in this recipe — loving that flavor with lamb — but alas, the mint was subtle to the point of non-existence.  For dessert, the blood orange cheesecake, chocolate pot de creme, and tiramisu were all wonderful.  Corkage was a very fair $12.

On March 17th before going over to a birthday party for our neighbor Patty Day:

(I kid you not, her parents were real comedians)

2005 Brogan Cellars Pinot Noir My Father’s Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley (3/17/2011) I don’t have any green beer for St Patrick’s Day so a wine with an Irish sounding name will have to do. Flat color, light bodied with cola, spruce, green tomato. Needs time. (88 points)

Posted from CellarTracker

  • 2001 Peter Michael Les Pavots – USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley (3/13/2011)
    Sweet, full, mouthfeel, with berry, cassis, and milk chocolate flavors. Still really big and primary. I was checking in on 01′s and if this is any indication, it still isn’t time. By now, I was expecting a little more complexity from a wine that used to have such a promising future. Hold it a few more years and then drink before 2018. (89 points)

Posted from CellarTracker

I don’t know their wines (though I hear they’re good) but this is a nicely produced video by Auteur Wines.

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