Auction Napa Valley starts Thursday and I am in the mood to celebrate one of the best wine events, and most charitable, in the country. To date this event has raised over $111 million in support of community health and children’s education charities in Napa, with the workers who fuel the wine country we Texans love so much. As a city and a state, we drink a lot of wine in general, and a surprising amount comes from Napa Valley. We have many of our local residents who have followed their love and passion for wine out to Napa to create their own, like Hall, Coquerel and Red Mare, and they couldn’t do it without the workers who are based in the area who are directly helped by proceeds from the auction. I will be attending the auction this year as a guest of the Napa Valley Vintners who support and make the auction possible each year. As I prep for the trip I have been sipping some stellar wines from Napa Valley. I talked about a few of these this morning on D: The Broadcast but the list of great wines from the region is far too long to fit into one segment, so here is a great list to consider when sipping Napa. Some selections were sent for editorial consideration.
If you can’t make it out for the auction, check out their E-auction going on now through this weekend. There are some great lots available including vintage wine, wine country get aways and experiences all benefiting this wonderful event. Full details available here.
It wouldn’t be right to talk about the Napa Valley wine auction and not include wines from one of the first advocates of the event and still, one of its greatest supporters. Robert Mondavi and his wife Margrit were instrumental in getting the auction started in 1981 as a fundraiser featuring the incredible food, wine and hospitality of Napa Valley. Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc fits this occasion perfectly, as it is the ultimate summertime wine, perfect for patio sipping and relaxing with good friends, something often seen throughout the valley.
I talked about the 25th anniversary for Franciscan for their Magnificat Cabernet Sauvignon and their Cuvee Sauvage Chardonnay this morning on the show, but also recently tried their Equilibrium for the first time. A blend of predominantly Sauvignon Blanc with 17% Chardonnay and 11% Muscat, with a small portion fermented in barrels while 83% is in stainless steel, creating an interesting, well rounded white blend filled with white flowers, ripe white peaches and citrus. Not a traditional blend for white wines in Napa Valley, which I like, and the combo makes an easy pairing partner to anything from spicy Thai cuisine to delicate sushi to simple summer salads.
For Chardonnay fans in Napa Valley Carneros is key, as their maritime climate is ideal for growing great Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. A great go to Chardonnay is Cuvaison. Made from their sustainably certified, estate grown fruit from 44 different blocks for fruit, each individually vinified (some barrel fermented, some in stainless steel) and then blended to create a wine filled with green apple, ripe kiwi and quince notes and aromatic orange blossoms.
Frank Family Carneros Pinot Noir is another great wine for sipping on a patio if you are more partial to reds than whites as the juicy Carneros fruit pairs perfectly with many favorite summer dishes, like grilled salmon, roast chicken or fresh shellfish. Carneros is really the only area in Napa proper that the temperamental Pinot Noir grape can grow, with its maritime climate enhanced by cool morning fog, warm afternoons and constant winds, the region is ideal and Frank Family elevates the wine with their own elegant style. Still a relatively new addition to their portfolio, this is a wine I wait for with great anticipation each year.
2010 Purlieu Cabernet Sauvignon and 2011 Le Pich Sauvignon Blanc are both from a relatively new winery in the newly designated Coombsville AVA in the base of Napa. Named after the French term meaning “the edge of the forest,” perfect for their setting in this AVA known for producing robust reds filled with fresh cherry and ripe berry fruit. The fruit in their wines comes both from Coombsville, as well as vineyards in Oakville and Rutherford, all blending together to create delicious wines marrying balance with intensity and the flavors of the earth.
On my first trip to the wine auction a few years ago I had a chance to visit Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars for a dinner they hosted in their gorgeous wine cave featuring their selections like their Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon, S.L.V. Cabernet and stunning Cask 23. Hearty reds with personality from Napa’s Stag’s Leap district, highlighting the special area they are from. I just had a chance to try the latest release of the Artemis, named after the Greek goddess of the hunt, which couldn’t describe the wine better. Round and robust, yet also refined and elegant, highlighting their luscious fruit mingled with slight herbal and spice notes. And, just received a note from the winery that they have just welcomed a powerful new addition, winemaker Marcus Notaro, joining Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars from their sister winery, the impressive Col Solare in the Red Mountain AVA in Washington State. I am a huge fan of Col Solare and am excited to see what Marcus does with incredible fruit the Stag’s Leap district gives him.
Though Cab is King throughout Napa, the often more approachable Merlot also shines throughout the valley. Hall Winery in particular is a favorite. Created by our own Kathryn and Craig Hall, their Napa Valley Merlot exemplifies everything that is good about Merlot, filled with boysenberry and plum notes, rounded out with milk chocolate and a slightly floral aroma of freshly picked wild flowers.
Only 2% of vines planted in Napa are to Zinfandel, but the wineries who have them do a beautiful job with them. From Turley to Black Sears to a tasty one I just had from Napa Cellars, Zin can do very well in Napa Valley. Napa Cellars fruit comes mainly from St. Helena and Calistoga, where the temperatures are warm enough to help ripen this spicy, fruit forward wine filled with ripe black cherry, juicy raspberry and dark chocolate with touches of baking spice lingering throughout.
The Stag’s Leap district of Napa grows Petit Sirah extremely well and Stag’s Leap Winery excels in creating a soft and elegant wine out of this powerful fruit, blending in a bit of Syrah, Grenache, Carignana, Mourvedre and even 1% of Viognier, to make their 2010 Petit Sirah approachable young with layers of raspberry, blueberry and cherry intertwined with vanilla, pepper, nutmeg and clove.