Tasting Winners

Good things often come in “twos.” Like Starsky and Hutch, corks and corkscrews, and two cabernets that hail from one small but impressive Napa district.

Prime Cellars 2007 cabernet sauvignon from the Midoriya Hills Vineyard took a gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

I’d describe it as fruit forward (slightly tart, red cherry) with just the right touch of oak for my taste. The tannins are in balance. This $55 bottle took a Best of Show award at the Los Angeles International Wine Competition in 2010.

The Burly 2007 cabernet ($60) is another SF Chronicle medal winner (silver) with fruit from the Simpkins Vineyard, believed to be one of the earliest vineyard sites in Napa County.

This is another ready-to-drink red wine with red currant and blackberry fruit, unobtrusive tannins with just a hint of spice on the nose. I bet it gets even better over the next few years.

Coombsville Connection

Burly and Prime share a common base  — the Coombsville district.

While this is not an “official” appellation, there is an application pending to designate Coombsville as a separate AVA (American Viticultural Area). It’s no secret that many good Napa-based blends include fruit from this area, which is just east of the town of Napa. Harvest comes later here than in most other sites in the famed valley, allowing grapes to hang on the vine longer and potentially develop more complexity.

I wrote about a broad sample of wines from the Coombsville district after a special tasting last year.

Here’s a link to that story.

Tasting the Competition

I picked the two Coombsville wines as co-favorites from a crowded field at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition public tasting. The competition drew more than 5,000 entries, mostly from California. The tasting was held last week when award-winning selections from the contest were poured at Fort Mason.

Here’s a link to the top SF Wine Competition award winners.

Cloudy Skies, Quality Cabernet

Tasting day was chilly and wet, with grey skies and rain for a backdrop. But, there was a lot to like at this crowded event. In no particular order, here’s a list of the most interesting wines I sampled.

The 2007 cabernet from Frank Family Vineyards is delicious. With deep red color, this wine pumps out volumes of saturated flavor in classic Napa style. There’s a hint of mint on the nose of this $45 silver medal winner that leans toward blackberry and dark fruit on the tongue. The most complete wine of the tasting, in my opinion.

The 2007 cab from Oakville Ranch Vineyards is another fine example of Napa fruit that got a 93 rating from Robert Parker and a silver medal at the competition. I’d have nudged this wine into gold status for its cassis and red fruit flavors, perfect touch of moderate toasted oak and lovely aroma.

Petite Sirah

I enjoyed the very smooth 2008 petite sirah from Cahill, a small producer in Sebastapol which won a double gold for this $32 entry. The wine is smooth, contrary to petite’s tendency toward harshnesss. The grapes come from Alexander Valley.


I also liked the Clos du Bois 2007 reserve merlot from Alexander Valley ($21.99). I’ve been a fan of Clos du Bois for decades and have some of their older vintages in my cellars. This typically great merlot rates high for its great blackberry and cherry taste with mocha highlights.


La Casque is a winery I’d never run across until this competition. The 2009 viognier from the Cooper Vineyard in Amador County is a tasty California iteration of this primarily French varietal. The taste reminds me of Bosque pear with a faint trace of honey. The smell is divinely fresh and clean citrus. There’s a bit of marsanne, another French grape that’s sometimes mated with viognier, producing a bit fuller bodied product.

Pinot Noir

The words diva and pinot noir don’t normally conjure up visions of Salinas, but I discovered a good-tasting connection to the Central Valley outpost at this tasting.

Diva Cellars from Salinas won Best of Show designation for their 2008 Monterey pinot noir ($24). The wine has a classic red cherry core and it’s ready to be enjoyed now.

“You start with great grapes,” explained Dan Franscioni, whose family operates the winery. “It all comes from that.”

Caution: Shed Ahead

Of all the wines I tried — and I hardly made a dent against more than 1,000 available selections — the best buy was a wine called Tractor Shed Red. Cerruti Cellars is the producer of this versatile California blend, which is 60 percent sangiovese. The remaining 40 percent is split equally between zinfandel and merlot.

There’s nice cherry fruit alongside some good acids to balance everything out. A glass (or two) of Tractor Shed Red ($12) would complement any spicy tomato dish, grilled beef or pork sausage, especially on a chilly evening.

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One Response to “Tasting Winners”

  1. black friday Says:

    Thank so much I have been looking for this info.

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