What can be better than to lead a life enjoying the pleasures of sipping fine wines, traveling the world, and feeding from a buffet of globally-inspired cuisine. Feel free to join me on my journey as I try to bring my varied experiences to my daily life.
Friday, 21 June 2013
there's a wine for everyone in saint helena...
nascent days of my wine world managing a wine-shop in Christchurch, one product
we did very well with was called Saint Helena (pronounced saynt-HELL-en-ah). With little knowledge beyond the maritime
borders of New Zealand, I always wondered at the Americans who came in and
asked if these wines were the same as the Californian Saint Helena (pronounced saynt-hell-EEN-ah). At the time, I was
completely unaware that saynt-hell-EEN-ah was a very important part of American
viticultural history, and just as well presumed the two were closely related. With the opportunity to explore the Napa Valley many years later, I therefore decided that saynt-hell-EEN-ah was worth a day’s visit.
Scenic Saint Helena from Rombauer
Located at the northern end of
Napa, St. Helena has a decidedly hotter climate than AVAs located further south
in the valley. This is because the famed Bay fogs that roll in to moderate
temperatures in the Valley do not penetrate this far north. The result is a
large cluster of wineries big and small that attract tens of thousands of
visitors each year. It is, quite arguably, the Disneyland-destination for
oenophiles. While the Kiwi saynt-HELL-ena (sold as Flying Kiwi in North America) specialised in Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, saynt-hell-EEN-ah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon are the major grapes. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot also perform very well.
time (so many wines, so little time!), I narrowed my visit to just 4
recommended wineries. While I had a general idea of what to expect in terms of
wine quality, it was the tasting room atmosphere that blew me away at each of
these wineries; beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.
V. Sattui (www.vsattui.com) – Crowds are not my thing,
but if crowds are your thing, then 7-time-out-of-10-years winner for best
destination winery V. Settui is up your alley. The volume of guests sipping
wine and shopping in their deli for a picnic lunch attests to its
destination-winery status, but I’m happy to give credit where credit is due;
the service was excellent for the volume. The wines – well – not bad for the price,
and I have to admit that their Moscato Frizzante and semi-sweet Moscato were a
pleasant and refreshing surpise.
Heitz (www.heitzcellar.com) – Quite arguably
among the top-pedigree of Napa producers, Heitz is humbly low-key just a few
doors down. Their Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (sourced entirely from a
single vineyard in the XXXXXXX AVA) is their flagship wine, having earned high
scores in the now infamous 1976 Paris Tasting. The Trailwind Cabernet Sauvignon
is more rustic and meaty, and the Sauvignon Blanc a refreshing white for any
occasion; among the best in the valley. At just US$45, the Napa Cabernet
Sauvignon is an absolute bargain, providing you with the chance to taste the
pedigree at a fraction of the price it could earn. Made from traditional Douro
varietals, the Heitz Port is another stellar find; among the best port-styles
I’ve come across outside Portugal.
Rombauer (www.rombauer.com) - With a superb view of
unspoiled forest mixed among vineyards, it’s no wonder Rombauer is on the
must-see list of visitors to the Napa.My
initial intention was to visit the winery that provides me with the antithesis
of Chablis when teaching classes. Big, buttery, and oaky is the theme among
Rombauer Chardonnays, but I was duly impressed with their Zinfandel programme,
such as the Fiddletown and Amador labels. Heavy oak extraction may not be to
everyone’s taste, but I can appreciate it when this style is done well. Also,
an intriguing influence of Petit Verdot in all red-blends proved an unexpected
addition to the Rombauer programme.
Sipping from serenity at Duckhorn
Duckhorn (www.duckhorn.com) – The purpose of my visit
this far north, Duckhorn proved to be well worth the trip in terms of both
ambiance and wine selection. The mother to duckling labels Migration, Decoy,
Paraduxx, and Goldeneye, Duckhorn is an icon of Napa production with a history
dating back more than 30 years. The Napa-based Duckhorn label is a benchmark
for Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and for single-vineyard Merlot; the Three Palms Vineyard is a testament to
why some Napa vineyards should earn a Grand
Cru-esque title. Exquisite at all price-points, it is also great to
experience a relaxed tasting atmosphere amid a surprisingly busy tasting room.
wineries today, and clearly by my notes half are for the wine-savvy at heart
and the other half for the wine-needy at heart. Nevertheless, each fulfilled a
promise of great service and value-for-money wines which goes to show you that
there is a wine for everyone in Saint Helena.