Etude, Stags’ Leap and Hall

2 Jun

Today continued the visits to Heirloom wineries (see St. Clement and Beringer in previous blog), Etude and Stag’s Leap, and finished up with Hall, a small winery that’s coming on strong.

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Lori at the Tasting Bar

Etude – The tasting room is beautiful, designed to mimic various aspects of wine making with many recycled materials. Etude is especially known for Pinot Noir, and their Cabs are excellent as well. Angel met us and took us to a private tasting room where we tasted an impressive line-up. The 2011 Rose of Pinot Noir is one of our favorites…we had it at Pairings last year but weren’t able to get it this year. It’s small production and sells out quickly. Next were two single vineyard Pinot Noirs, very different because of the different locations of the vines and different clones. We had them side by side…fun to go back and forth between them. These are serious PN’s. The Deer Camp is powerful and concentrated with lots of blue fruit, whereas the Heirloom is more complex, with baking spices and a velvety feel. Similarly, the two cabs are very different, with the one from St Helena having lots of dark fruit and smooth cocoa, and the Oakville Cab with more cherry liqueur and graphite. The wines live up to their reputation. Etude is very involved with wine and food pairing, a bonus to us, of course. Maybe one of these days we’ll try some of their suggested pairings with Etude wines.

Stags’ Leap Winery

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House at Stags’ Leap

Not to be confused with Stag’s Leap (note apostrophe placement). This is the more exclusive of the two Leaps….no road signs at all….and about a mile up a back road/driveway…thank you GPS. Tours are limited and by appointment only. The property is incredible, with gardens and homes (a guest home that some customers were staying in), a beautiful view….

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Lori and Ray with David and Tour Group

This visit was different from all the others in that David Meagher poured us several different wines as we walked around the estate, starting in the main house, going to the old winery (now a back-up to the new one), a room that used to be a speakeasy, and the vineyards. We were regaled with various stories, such as about a previous woman owner who ran the speakeasy, the effect of the Judgement of Paris on Napa (as opposed to Sonoma, i.e. “not so much”), the estate as a resort (at one time), even about the wines themselves… We learned that Stags’ Leap is best known for Petit Syrah, which is excellent.  We were “paired” with a group from PA, one the distributor for Stags’ Leap, a restauranteur and 4 customers (who were staying at the estate).

We started out with the excellent Viognier (is at Pairings) as we walked around the main house before the tour started, seeing art in the upstairs. Stags’ Leap sponsors artists, giving them time at the estate to work on art, and the artists leave something behind. It was a fun tour, with lots of joking and pouring of wines…we didn’t spit as much as usual. The tour finished up back at the house with two wines…I’d mentioned to David that Philipe (Beringer) had said to make sure we tried the rose…and we had a chance…lovely:

2011 Amparo Rose – lovely strawberries and white peaches, refreshing, crisp, with nice persistence, Primarily Grenache, 14.1%

2008 The Leap, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – lovely intense nose; cocoa, hints of leather, with delicious black fruit & brambly, hints of coffee. Absolutely delicious! (we have it at Pairings).

Hall Napa Valley

We stopped at Hall because I’d tasted a Cab at a distributor tasting last year and remembered being very impressed. This visit not only confirmed that impression but extended it. In addition to impressive wines, Hall also is very environmentally conscious. For instance this is the only winery we’ve ever visited that has a special parking area for electric vehicles along with a station to re-charge the batteries. Katherine Hall was the US ambassador to Austria, once upon a time. The production, about 35,000 cases is on the small side, and a separate “Walt” brand (Katherine’s maiden name) is on the boutique scale (about 5,000 cases).

We had a good time talking and tasting with Zeke; he’s passionate about wine and food, as we are…a Imagenice geek to geek interaction. Some of the highlights were the T Bar T Ranch Sauvignon Blanc with 9% Viognier; “spring time in the bottle”; it sees some oak, has lots of tropical fruit and is absolutely delicious. The Walt Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines are exceptional. The Napa Valley Cab Sauv was as luscious, as I remembered. The 2006 Diamond Mtn. Cabernet is like “jumping off a high dive into a pool of satin” (from Zeke), with lavender notes; brambly and dark fruit on the nose with hints of coffee and nuts; complex, layered and delicious; awesome!

The 2009 Malbec was a surprise…expresso – smooth, more mocha on the palate. As usual, many of the wines are available only in the tasting room…Hall is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.

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