Collective Wine Wisdom

So, you’ve been to the wine country a few times. You’ve tried some of the major brands and driven back and forth to visit several of the larger, well-known wineries.  Where do you go next?

Park the car in downtown Napa and spend an hour or two at the Vintner’s Collective.

Vintner's Collective

Vintner's Collective

This is another world of smaller winemaking operations that aren’t open to the public. Many of these winemakers operate on a shoestring, without a tasting room.  There’s no marketing or advertising  budget , either.

In many cases, restaurant wine buyers and collectors who are “in the know,” scoop up these gems and re-sell them at substantial mark-ups. It’s hard for an  individual wine lover to learn about — much less purchase — these little treasures, unless they stop by the Vintner’s Collective in downtown Napa.

The VC is a multi-winery tasting room inside an old stone building on Main Street. There’s not a vine in sight, but wines from 18 boutique wineries are poured daily on a rotating basis. They charge $25 for tasting six wines. And, while that may seem like a lot, the quality and price of the wines available make for a high-value experience.

There’s no telling what wines will be open, or who might drop in.  On a recent mid-week afternoon, three couples from New York, Ohio and California and an investment advisor from Danville shared the wooden bar. The atmosphere was friendly and fun.

The pourers, like Chris Briseno-Morgan, know their stuff and explain the pedigree behind every taste that’s poured. Chris held court like a wine-pouring ringmaster. He practically bounced from guest to guest, offering new samples, answering questions and giving hotel and restaurant suggestions with a smile that never wavered.

Everything he poured was a winner. Here’s a rundown of three of  my favorites:

Esmerelda Pinot Noir

Herrera Pinot Noir

2006 Herrera pinot noir “Selection Esmerelda” — A smooth, beautifully sleek and elegant single vineyard wine ($95, Russian River Valley, Sonoma) made by Mi Sueno Winery.

Clark-Claudon Cabernet Sauvignon

Clark-Claudon Cabernet Sauvignon

2004 Clark-Claudon Vineyards cabernet sauvignon, Napa Valley — A complete and exciting cabernet ($75)  that everyone in the tasting room swooned over. A second taste later in the session was even better!

Vinoce Vineyards

Vinoce Vineyards

2005 Vinoce Vineyards proprietary red, Mount Veeder, Napa — A deeply colored and more challenging wine ($60) — made from 60 percent cabernet franc, 25 percent cabernet sauvignon and 15 percent merlot — that really showcased the delicious cabernet franc fruit. Imagine dark cherry fruit integrated with fine tannin and an aftertaste that lingered for a full minute.

The Vintner’s Collective was started seven years ago by owner Garrett Murphy, a Bostonian who spent time in France before settling in Napa. As a wine insider with serious Napa connections, Murphy had the inside line on up-and-coming winemakers who needed an outlet to showcase their wines.

A symbiotic relationship was born and it continues today through sales to visitors who stop by for a sample or join the wine club to receive regular shipments of these hard-to-come-by wines. Wine club members taste for free and also get invitations to periodic food and wine pairings, winemaker appearances and other special tasting events.

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