My flight to San Jose landed about an hour late on Friday night. Mat and Beth picked me up and then we headed up to SFO to fetch Sonia whose flight was also an hour late. We then made our way up to our hotel in Santa Rosa and drank a bottle of Heitz Cellars Ink Grade Port to unwind before going to bed. It was a delicious port, very easy to drink, jam-like with much younger fruit flavors than I normally associate with port. A great way to start the weekend.
We got up and out the door by about 8:30 Saturday morning, grabbed a breakfast sandwich at a local coffee shop and headed out to B.R. Cohn in Sonoma. Beth has a membership there so the four of us were treated to a complimentary tasting. They were serving a huge number of wines, but I only sampled 6 of them, the most memorable being the zinfandel and their signature cabernet. The zin was not as huge as other California zins but still had nice spicy cherry flavors going on. The cabernet was even better, a nice balance of fruit and oak and not too heavy on the tannins.
We made our way to the building next door where B.R. Cohn features their olive oils. We tried an unfiltered, a regular, a picholine, and flavored versions, sampling by dipping cubes of bread into them. The unfiltered was the best of the bunch, but not quite dazzling enough to compel me to buy any, especially considering I have like 6 different brands of olive oil at home already.
We got back on the road and headed over to Napa, trying not to hit any of the dozens of bicyclists on any of the long, hilly, narrow winding roads that Mat’s Garmin selected for us. When we got into Napa, we stopped at a little deli shop called Oakville Grocery but it was standing room only in there, mostly around the deli counter. So after bouncing off people like a pinball for a while and not being able to figure out exactly what everybody was ordering that was worth waiting in such long lines for, I gave up and made my way outside.
We headed up the road to BV and were greeted with a complimentary glass of some sort of blush wine which seemed rather bland and watery to me, but yet not exactly unpleasant either. We did a tasting there, although I can’t seem to remember any of the wines we had because none of them made that much of an impression on me. Maybe we should have opted to do the Reserve tastings in the other building instead, but BV has always been to me just one of the old reliable labels, consistent but unspectacular in my opinion, and I didn’t think it would be worth $50 for their reserve tasting.
Oh well, no matter because I noticed on our way into BV that Rubicon was just across the street. Rubicon is what was formerly Neibaum Coppola, and it was definitely one of the properties I was interested in seeing. I’ve always loved everything I’ve ever had from Coppola and all the wines in our tasting were no exception. It was probably the best overall flight of wines we would sample all day. We decided to do the full Rubicon tour and I’m glad we did and not just because of the barrel tasting at the end. There was a lot of interesting history on that property, even way before Francis Ford Coppola bought it. It used to be Inglenook before that name became associated with ass-cheap jug wine. And under that label, their 1941 cabernet was named one of the ten wines of the century. Anyway, here’s a couple of pictures:
From there we headed further north to Corison, producer of my favorite California cabernet. We were the only ones there when we arrived although halfway through our tasting a bachelorette party swept through to help liven up the empty barn. The cabernets were of course excellent, like old friends to my taste buds. Year in and year out Cathy Corison has been producing consistently well balanced cabernets with lush fruit that drink well and age well. But it was a nice Zin, their Acapella, which Sonia bought for me because that wine is not readily distributed and we could only get it there. We would later enjoy that over dinner.
We then moved along to Heitz Cellars where I wanted to reload on port for consumption later that evening. They featured another port, their Grignolino, in their tasting, but I still preferred the Ink Grade, so that’s what I went with. None of their other wines made much of an impression on me, but we had been drinking for hours and even unspectacular wines made me happy at that point.
Our last stop was at Frank Family Vineyards, a winery that Mat really wanted to visit. Apparently he wasn’t the only one. It was standing room only inside even though it was nearly closing time and they made us wait outside for a few minutes before letting us in. The tastings were completely free there which may explain the huge crowds. They offered a spritely sparkling wine in the front room, a little more acidic than I prefer in a bubbly and not enough earthy chalky notes, but still a pleasure to drink. Or maybe I was just drunk. We then had to wait a little while for the back room to clear out before they allowed us to squeeze in there like happy farm animals being herded from pen to pen. We eventually made it back there and sampled a few more wines, none of which I can remember because in my state of inebriation I was so easily amused and the guy doing the pouring was extremely funny. It felt more like we were just drinking wine and enjoying the entertainment rather than focusing on what we were tasting. Good times.