There are many reasons to love being in Dallas in the wintertime. First off, we get plenty 70 degree days, even when the rest of the country is under two feet of snow. Local sports keep things exciting, whether you are a fan of the Mavericks, Stars, Mustangs or Horned Frogs, or are just celebrating another great season of Cowboy football. And, it is the time of year when winemakers travel, which for many means visiting Texas. I’ve had a chance to visit with a handful of Napa Valley winemakers and winery owners lately as they have stopped in town. Many were here to taste their Premiere Napa Valley wines with local Sommeliers.
I met Jay Schuppert several years ago at an event in Napa Valley but didn’t have a chance, at the time, to understand the history of the land he manages everyday as President of Cuvaison. Established in 1969 and purchased by current owners, the Schmidheiny family of Switzerland, in 1979, Cuvaison is dedicated to sustainable farming, precisely managed Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines in the rolling hills of the Carneros AVA. With a focus on individual, block by block vine management, the specific clones of each variety are allowed to shine, some adapting better to one soil type, sun exposure or elevation verses another. Forty different Chardonnay blocks and 20 different Pinot Noir blocks are planted on their certified sustainable estate in Carneros, each managed by hand and hand harvested each year, ensuring that the hand crafted wine is the best of the best, setting a standard for quality in the the region.
Cuvaison Estate Chardonnay ($25) and Estate Pinot Noir ($38) are both blends of the individually harvested and separately vinified blocks blended together create the signature wines expressing the beauty of the full property. Kite Tail Chardonnay ($44) is created from fruit from one individual block in the vineyard known to be the home of the White-tailed Kite bird. Rich and lush, with creamy vanilla, spice and baked apple characteristics, this small production wine is ideal for wintertime sipping as the richness will warm you from the inside out. The two estate wines are available locally at Total Wine and More; the Kite Tail Chardonnay is available via their website.
When the Mondavi family originally settled in Napa Valley it was as the owners of one of the oldest property in the region, Charles Krug, founded in 1861. Cesare and Rosa Mondavi acquired Charles Krug in 1943 after moving to Napa with their four children, Mary, Helen, Robert and Peter. Robert would go on to found Robert Mondavi Winery after leaving the family winery in 1966, and Peter would acquire full ownership of Charles Krug from his mother, who had stepped in as President when Cesare passed away in 1976. Today Peter Mondavi, Jr., and his brother Marc, are co-proprietors of the property, working alongside their father who at the young age of 100 is still quite active in the day to day operations of the winery. Peter Jr. was in town recently to taste through their current selections of wines, including a few soon to be released.
2014 Charles Krug St. Helena Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($18), from their property right around the recently refurbished stone winery, originally built in the 1870’s, leaps from the glass with steely mineral, juicy citrus and fresh grassy notes. Lively yet balanced, a refreshing wine that will be perfect for summer sipping and set to be released locally in March. My palate gravitates to Howell Mountain wines and the Charles Krug Family Reserve Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is an excellent example of why. Masculine, yet refined, robust yet elegant, rich and inviting, with ripe blackberry, black cherry, cedar spice and leather notes. This is a Cabernet that can be enjoyed as soon as the latest vintage is released, but will continue to soften, enhancing its elegance with a bit more time in the bottle. $75 available via their website.
Lindsey Hoopes knew that she would go into the wine business at a young age, growing up in Napa Valley, thinking she would eventually follow in the footsteps of her father growing grapes. It took her a little longer than she expected though, having her grape growing dad instruct her to get some “real world experience” before coming home and working for the family at their Hoopes Vineyard. I hear this story often, and usually the kids of Napa families work in other wineries or for a distributor, something within the wine business. Lindsey started in the management program at Gallo and utilized her language skills in Spanish, Chinese and Engligh working in the supply chain logistics for Pottery Barn catalog. She then took a path not many winery General Managers take, putting her education at Georgetown, Hastings College of the Law and Trinity University in Ireland into practice as Assistant District Attorney for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office prosecuting felons on a daily basis.
In 2013 she finally came home to Napa and to the Hoopes family winery in time for crush to start, taking the position as GM and working alongside her father. Hoopes Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is big and robust, reflective of their Oakville home and the fertile soils their small vineyard benefits year round from thanks to Napa River runoff. It is a wine that needs some time to breath, so decant a few hours before you are ready to pour. The result is a concentrated, yet elegant and nicely textured wine with earthy, leather and tobacco notes melding with blackberry and black cherry. $75, available locally at Total Wine and More.
When I met Lindsey she was with an impressive group of wineries pouring barrel samples of their Premiere Napa Valley wines set to be auctioned off at the annual event at the end of this month. Hoopes, along with wineries like Schramsberg, St. Supery, Whitehall Lane and Tate Wine were in town for a special Dallas preview of the annual Napa Valley trade event which brings wine buyers from all over the world to the valley for the opportunity to taste futures and buy ultra-boutique, one of a kind Napa Valley Cabernet, Cabernet blends and winery specialties for their establishments, all with the proceeds going back to the Napa Valley Vintners.
For the past 18 years Napa Valley wineries have selected their very best barrels from their very best blocks of vineyards to produce their Premiere wines, knowing that the auction will directly benefit them and their work if it is successful. Thankfully, it has been with just last year raising almost $6 million for the Napa Valley Vintners to use for their education, healthcare, housing and work related programs offered to the people of Napa Valley. The 70-year-old organization, made up 500 wineries and vintners in Napa Valley, has the goal to promote, protect and enhance the Napa Valley appellation, our wines, vintners and community. The lots tasted at the Dallas preview, many from the abundant and superb quality 2012 or 2013 vintages, are great indicators that Premiere 2015 will be as dynamic, and profitable, as last year.
The Napa Valley Vintners also just announced that registration is open for their 2015 Auction Napa Valley. Auction is one of my favorite events, bringing Napa Valley wine lovers together with great food, great music, and of course, incredible wine to raise money for the Napa Valley community. The auction day takes place each year at Meadowood, with the fun barrel auction and marketplace experience taking place this year at Hall Winery, Auction Napa Valley is a must attend wine event to add to your calendar. Details on their website here.