Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc. --> A Visit to Napa Valley Part 3 of 3

A Visit to Napa Valley Part 3 of 3
By Jim Bandy
Here is the final installment of Wine Guy, Jim Bandy's Napa Valley wine trip...

The primary reason we choose early February to visit Napa is the Silver Oak Napa release party, held the first Saturday of February. We were up early and arrived at the event 9:45am. Whether or not this is a bargain all depends on your outlook. The price is $50 per person but you can taste, and re-taste, and re-taste the Twomey Merlot and the current release Cabernet. They also have some local restaurants providing tapas but the lines for food are usually very long so I don't add in any value for that. Of course, you do get to keep the wine glass etched with the Silver Oak logo. And the people watching can be unparalleled!

Last year I was left a bit disappointed with both the Twomey and Napa Cabernet. This year, the Twomey station was our first stop. The wine was a little cool at that time of the morning but after several sips I just couldn't give it a thumbs up. It was well made but I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was I didn't like. Too much minerality? A little too much terroir? Not sure why but didn't hit my tastebuds couldn't get happy about it.

The 2006 Napa Cabernet, though, was very nice! I liked it much better than the 2005 we tasted at last year's event. Pronounced vanilla from the oak with just a touch of "cellar floor" made it quite tasty at 10:00 in the morning. This is never a powerful wine but in good years it garners a big following. I think 2006 may just prove to be one of those good years for Silver Oak.

Silver Oak Winery, 915 Oakville Cross Road, Oakville, CA 94562 707-942-7022

We broke our cycle of re-tasting at Silver Oak about 12:30pm. Our next stop was Elizabeth Spencer winery in Rutherford. Crafted from the two first names of the owners, Elizabeth and Spencer, they are making some small batch wines from various sources around Napa. This was our first exposure to their wines and we're so happy we found them. We began with their Chenin Blanc, which was fresh, fruity, and a good palate cleanser from the Cabernet we'd been sipping that morning. We then moved onto their Syrah and four Cabernets. They have other varietals available but that day was focused on the Cabernet and Syrah. I enjoyed them all, but their Napa Cab and Howell Mountain Cab were especially good.

Napa still commands some high prices for their Cabernet Sauvignon, especially when you see the tremendous values Doug finds around the globe. It was nice to see that Elizabeth Spencer wines were more reasonably priced than the $75 and $125 price tags that seemed to be everywhere.

Elizabeth Spencer Wines, 1165 Rutherford Road, Rutherford, CA 94573 707-963-6067

Our last stop of the day was an overdue return to Regusci, one of the oldest wineries in Napa. Away from the traffic of Highway 29, the Regusci winery is located on the Silverado Trail and can be easily missed if you aren't careful. Once you turn in though, the stone buildings and extensive picturesque grounds make it clear you've arrived at someplace special.

The tasting room is a very pleasant space with lots of shopping options to view while evaluating their wine. We tasted several wines in the Regusci line-up. Of those, my first preference was for their Chardonnay. It exhibited a good balance of oak and minerality that left me wanting more. My next favorite was their Syrah, followed by their Cabernet and their Zinfandel. Give Regusci a shot if you're in won't be disappointed!

Regusci Winery, 5584 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558

We wrapped up the evening with a lovely Italian meal at Uva Trattoria in Napa. Uva offers a casual environment that is a favorite among locals. At this point in the wine tasting weekend you really don't want a lot of fuss. Yet with all those good wines you'd been tasting your palate requires the food be spot on. Uva delivers on both those points. We devoured our pastas and relished our fish, beef, and lamb entrees. Even though the restaurant was packed, our service never suffered. They have live jazz on weekend nights in their bar which added a nice touch to the evening.

Uva Trattoria 1040 Clinton Street Napa, CA 94559 707-255-6646

Now back in Indianapolis, I'm going to enjoy a Napa Chardonnay or Cabernet tonight and toast to having had another great weekend in Napa.

Jim Bandy