In Wine Country, just like where you live or do business, location is a key to quality.
The winegrowers of Coombsville, just east of the town of Napa, make some great wines and also sell grapes to some of the biggest names in the business, but they don’t get the same level of respect as their neighbors in world famous hot spots like Stags Leap, Oakville and Yountville, but that’s about to change.
Soon, wineries will be able to feature the name of the Coombsville growing region on the label. Wine made from grapes grown in these rolling benchlands today can only carry the general “Napa Valley” designation on the label. A lot of Coombsville’s grape production winds up in “Napa Valley” blends made by other wineries all over the valley.
Federal authorities are expected to approve a request to create a Coombsville AVA (American Viticultural Area) that covers about 11,000 acres where dozens of wineries operate. This would be the 17th sub-appellation within the overall Napa Valley AVA.
Earlier this week, I was introduced to the Coombsville area and its wineries at a private tasting at the Napa Valley Country Club, which is in the district. There were 20 participating wineries, mostly smaller grower-owner estates along with a few bigger and smaller operations, pouring tastes. The wines were well made and interesting — across-the-board.
I enjoyed several very good cabernet sauvignon, cabernet-based blends and a couple of tasty merlots. The slightly cooler climate and hillside locations of many Coombsville vineyards gives the Bordeaux varietals a nice California punch of flavor that’s satisfying, but not overwhelming.
Hitting the Highlights
Farella Vineyard, Alta, 2005 — This blend of 70 percent cabernet and 30 percent merlot made by Tom Farella is ready to rock. There’s a touch of smoke on the nose, leading to some nice chocolately flavors under the broader palate of mixed fruits. A balanced, smooth wine with the chance to improve over the short term.
Frazier Family Estate, Memento Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 — This is a dark, deep and powerful wine. There is 5% petit verdot and 2% cabernet franc in the bottle, which sells for $110. This wine, which sees 100% French oak, is a classic high-end Napa cabernet. It’s approachable now, but will only get better over the years. A great effort. “I could open a bottle and let it sit out for two days and it would be better,” remarked owner Bill Frazier, whose family winery got its start in 1995.
Inherit the Sheep, Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 — This deep purple bottle of wine ($65) presents a broad, smooth tasting base of red fruit, shading toward plum. It’s blended with a small amount of cabernet franc, which contributes to its complexity. The winery got its name after the owners — wine industry veterans Clay and Tersilla Gregory — made a successful bid to buy the property that included an offer to raise the resident sheep that the owner’s children had raised for a 4-H project.
Sciandri Family Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 — This wine is also deep purple with higher toned, sweet prune fruit with a good edge of oak to cap the finish. I enjoyed sampling this wine, which is produced from estate-grown fruit. Family patriarch Ron Sciandri and his wife, Roberta, head the family-run business, which had been “winegrowing-only” until the 2006 vintage, when they began producing their own label. Only 600 cases ($48/bottle) were made of the inaugural vintage.
Silverado Vineyards, Mount George Merlot 2006 — I’m coming around on merlot, thanks to wines like this. Silverado is located in the Stags Leap District, but it sources grapes from Coombsville’s Mount George Vineyard for this smooth red wine. There’s just enough tannin from aging for 15 months in French oak (47% new). I caught a touch of green bell pepper in the background but it fit in nicely between the rich broad red fruit that’s the core of this $50 wine. This vineyard is the site of one of the original wine grape plantings in the Napa Valley, way back in 1868. Grapes for this wine come from vines planted in 1989-1990.
Coho, Michael Black Vineyard Merlot 2006 — Made from a home-cultivated clone, this deep, dark $55 wine features a delightful balance of power and finesse. It’s 100 percent merlot, but it shows some of the same strong backbone as its cabernet cousin.
Daviana, Cabernache 2007 — This cabernet-grenache blend ($45) presented a nice change of pace. The fresh fruit of the grenache balanced the firmer cabernet to produce a delightful moutful of red fruit flavor. Just three barrels (75 cases) were produced.
Prime, District 4 Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 — I enjoyed this wine — produced from four different clones of cabernet — for its high-toned blue fruit and slightly higher acid component, which bodes well for matching with food. It was a bit shy on the nose, but presented some fine fruit-forward flavors on the tongue. Production was 304 cases ($39/bottle).
Tags: american viticultural area, ava, cabernache, cabernet sauvignon, california merlot, coho merlot, coho winery, coombsville, daviana winery, district 4, farella vineyard, frazier family estate, inherit the sheep winery, memento cabernet, michael black vineyard, mount george merlot, napa valley merlot, napa valley wine, prime wine, prime winery, sciandri family winery, sciandri vineyards, silverado vineyards, tom farella