Napa Valley cabernets among the world's greatest wines
April 25, 2001
Napa Valley is to California wine as, say, Mississippi is to catfish farming. Nobody does it better. Nobody produces more. That may be a terrible analogy but it makes my point. There is a lot of wine produced in California but nobody does it better than the winemakers of the Napa Valley. Mississippi catfish farmers would say the same about the product for which they are famous.
Cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay are the favorites, both locally and nationwide. Tomorrow night's wine tasting at Northwood Country Club will feature cabernets.
The cabernet grape accounts for about 15 percent of the state's red wine production. It is conceded to be the state's finest wine grape, producing a product that is rich, velvety with a marvelous bouquet and a depth of great flavor. While prices have risen steadily in the past 10 years, it is still affordable, even at its highest levels of quality.
Many of the wines on the Wine Spectator's list of the 100 best wines worldwide from the year 1999 were cabernets that came from the Napa Valley. Opus One $125) was the second best wine of the year. Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($100) ranked ninth on the list. Bryant Family ($120) earned the 13th spot. Flora Springs ($45) was 37th, Sterling ($50) earned 38th place, The Hess Collection ($25) ranked as the 44th best wine. Following those were Mt Veeder ($30) 50th on the list; Beaulieu ($35) was named the 62nd best; Raymond Reserve ($23) was #64; and Whitehall Lane ($28) was listed at number 72.
In other words, 10 of the world's best 100 wines on the 1999 list came from Napa.
Because they were on the 1999 list does not mean they were produced that year. Most of them were from the 1997 and 1998 vintages. The classic year was 1997, one of the greatest vintages in the history of California. The critics rated the 1997s as a group at 95 to 100 points which means darn near perfect.
If you'll review the 100 best you'll be delighted to know that several of the six wines for tomorrow night's tasting are on the list although they may be the winery's second wine in several cases. But even the second wine of producers such as these is outstanding. For example, Flora Springs, Sterling and Beaulieu will be tasted along with a year in and year out California classic, Stag's Leap. The price for the tasting continues to be $20, but if you were to buy one bottle of each that will be served tomorrow, the retail cost for the six would be over $150.
Wines on the list include Stags Leap, Beaulieu, Flora Springs, Sterling, Hawk Crest and St. Supery. St. Supery is a sleeper. Wine Spectator rates it 91.
Hawks Crest is Stag Leap's second wine. You'll have the opportunity of comparing the best against the winery's number two, head to head.
We have been asked by several people who purchased Riedel glasses after the last tasting if they can bring their own glass, Certainly. I plan to.
A reminder. You do not have to be a member of Northwood to attend. The public is invited. You may also stay for dinner after the tasting. Members can sign their dinner checks. Non-members can pay in cash. Call 482-0930 today or first thing tomorrow to check on a reservation. There is still space available. The tasting begins at 6:30 p.m.
The Napa Valley proper is not a large area. It is about 25 miles long and between eight to ten miles wide. It is sheltered by mountain ranges. Most of the wines are grown on the valley floor. But there are other areas in the valley which are in the business of producing great wines. Among them are Atlas Peak, Carneros, Howell Mountain, Mount Veeder, Oakville, Rutherford, St Helena, Spring Mountain, Stags Leap and Wild Horse Valley. Those relatively small areas grow some of the greatest wine grapes in the world and is home to many of the true experts in American wine making. Tomorrow we will let the wine speak for itself.
Stan Torgerson, a longtime Meridian resident, has written a wine column for several years.