Dream Big - Discover California Wines 2019 - Tasting of wines from California, Gamla Riksarkivet, Stockholm (28-04-2019 by Nenad Jelisic and Robert Jonasson)

 

Dream Big was a tasting where there was the opportunity to taste a large selection of wines from California. In total, there were about 600 wines to taste from 135 producers and of these there were about 40 producers who lacked a Swedish importer. There were a lot of wines from the large and well-known wine districts of Napa Valley and Sonoma County at the tasting. There was also the opportunity to taste wines from lesser known appellations such as Santa Ynez (wine region Central Coast), Lodi (wine region Central Valley) and Paso Robles (wine region Central Coast). Since the tasting time was slightly shorter than usual while the number of wines available to taste was large, a limited amount of the wines was tasted. Of the 159 wines tasted, 51 wines got more than 2,5 NJP, i.e. 32%. It is a very good result compared to tastings from other countries. NJ Wine's expectations were very high, considering that 56% of the wines got more than 2,5 NJP at the 2015 tasting. For that reason, NJ Wines felt a little sting of disappointment over the quality of the wines. Something that distinguishes Dream Big against, for example, the Italian and the French wine tasting day is that many of the producers had their top wines with them. That is something that NJ Wines has been missing for several years at the major tastings in Sweden. The American producers should have a great praise for that.

 

The following wines got more than 3,0 NJP (in alphabetical order): 1. Birichino, Saint Georges, Zinfandel, 2016, red dry wine, Central Coast, 3,5 NJP, 2. Littorai, Les Larmes Pinot Noir, 2017, red dry wine, Anderson Valley, 3,5 NJP, 3. Merryvale Vineyards, Merlot, 2016, red dry wine, Napa Valley, 3,5 NJP, 4. Merryvale Vineyards, Profile, 2015, red dry blend wine, Napa Valley, 4,0 NJP, 5. Merryvale Vineyards, Silhouette, 2016, white dry wine, Napa Valley, 4,0 NJP, 6. Ramey Wine Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014, red dry wine, Napa Valley, 4,0 NJP,  7. Ramey Wine Cellars, Ritchie Vineyard, Chardonnay, 2014, white dry wine, Russian River Valley, 3,5 NJP, 8. Ramey Wine Cellars, Rochioli Vineyard, Chardonnay, 2015, white dry wine, Russian River Valley, 3,5 NJP, 9. Ramey Wine Cellars, Syrah, 2016, red dry wine, Sonoma Coast, 3,5 NJP,  10. Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello, Chardonnay, 2016, white dry wine, Napa Valley, 3,5 NJP, 11. Robert Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014, red dry wine, Napa Valley, 3,5 NJP, 12. Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Artemis, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015, red dry wine, Napa Valley, 3,5 NJP, 13. Silver Oak Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014, red dry wine, Napa Valley, 3,5 NJP and 14. The Hess Collection, Allomi Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2016, red dry wine, Napa Valley, 3,5 NJP.

 

The best producer at the tasting: Merryvale Vineyards. There were two producers who really stood out; Merryvale Vineyards and Ramey Wine Cellars. Thanks to that Merryvale Vineyards got a slightly better average rating for all tasted wines (6 out of 7 wines got over 2,5 NJP) and that the best wine at the tasting came from this producer, Merryvale Vineyards was chosen as the best producer at the tasting. Merryvale Vineyards holds very high quality throughout all their assortment. Merryvale is a well-known wine producer from Napa Valley, California. The story of Merryvale Vineyards begins in 1933 when Jack Riorda, together with a group of partners, built a winery that they named Sunnyhill Winery. Shortly after, they renamed the winery to Sunny St. Helena Winery. All wine that was produced was sold as bulk wine. In 1937, Ceasare Mondavi (the father of Peter and Robert Mondavi) became a partner of Rionda. It was actually at Sunny St. Helena Winery where the Mondavi brothers got their first experiences of winemaking and winegrowing. The property has since been sold a few times over the years before getting bought by Bill Harlan with partners in 1986. Harlan and his partners completely restored the winery and reopened it in 1988 under the name Sunny St. Helena. In 1991, Jack Schlatter became a partner to Harlan. This year, Sunny St. Helena also changed name to Merryvale Vineyards. In 1996, the Schlatter family acquired the rest of Merryvale Vineyards from Bill Harlan and partners and became sole owner of Merryvale Vineyards. The Schlatter family has continuously developed the property over the years. Among other things, the building containing the Merryvale Vineyards winery has been rebuilt to become a luxury-class winery containing everything that may be required to produce world-class wines. The newly renovated winery was inaugurated in 2007. In 2008, an important change took place when Jack Schlatter's son René Schlatter became the owner and CEO of Merryvale Vineyards. René Schlatter has been a significant person in the wine industry in the US and in 2011, he was awarded the prestigious "Person of the Year" award by the Wine Enthusiast magazine. René and his family are very engaged in to protect and preserve Napa Valley for future generations through, among other things, the use of sustainable cultivation methods. The vineyards in both of Merryvale Vineyards estates have been Napa Green Farm certified. Merryvale Vineyard has the philosophy that great wines are born in the vineyard. This has resulted in a long-lived tradition to choose and buy grapes from high-quality vineyards from all over the Napa Valley. The work with to choose vineyards, which meet the tough criteria that Merryvale Vineyard has, is a rigorous and meticulous process. Great emphasis is placed on analysing the vineyard's microclimate, soils and whether the wine-growing is done according to sustainable principles. Merryvale Vineyards sometimes chooses to buy only grapes from parts of a vineyard or even single rows in a vineyard.

The best wine in all categories at the tasting: Merryvale Vineyards, Profile, 2015, red dry blend wine, Napa Valley, 4,0 NJP of 5,0 NJP. Profile 2015 is a wine that makes you happy when you taste it. It is hard to stop smiling when one has smelled and tasted the wine. The wine really shows how high class Merryvale Vineyards winemaking and vineyards holds. The aroma is very complex with blackcurrants, dark cherries, dark chocolate and a hint of cedar and roasted coffee beans. The flavour is long and elegant with a velvety tannin structure, in combination with a good acidity. A very well-balanced wine where the aftertaste remains for a long time. This wine is great to drink now and will benefit from decanting. Those who really want to enjoy how the wine develops in the glass, it is recommended not to decant it. The wine will continue to develop for at least 10 years in the wine cellar i.e. until 2029. Merryvale Vineyards Profile 2015 goes very well with grilled lamb chops with buttery mashed potatoes and red wine sauce or with a classic Coeur de filet Provencale with pan-fried potatoes with garlic or with different types of hard cheeses such as Cheddar, Svecia, Västerbottensost, Parmesan and Grana Padano. Drink the wine at 18°C in real Bordeaux glasses, if possible, from Orrefors, Kosta Boda, Spiegelau or Riedel. The grapes for the Merryvale Vineyards Profile 2015 come from a steep part of the Profile Estate Vineyard, which is located in the eastern corner of St. Helena appellation (AVA). The wine is produced from a blend of grapes of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc. The grapes are hand-harvested at night in order to them will come in the winery early in the morning and as fresh as possible. The grapes are sorted by hand. Each part of the vineyard is fermented separately in small tanks. After that the wine has been fermented and macerated for 15 days, it is racked to oak barrels where malolactic fermentation takes place and then a 26-month long aging. 80% of the oak barrels consist of new French oak barrels. After the aging, the wine is bottled without fining and filtration.

The best wine district at the tasting: Napa Valley. Napa Valley is located in the wine region of North Coast in California and is USA's most famous wine district. Napa Valley is also classified as an appellation, American Viticulture Area (AVA). The wine district of Napa Valley consists of 16 different appellations: Atlas Peak, Calistoga, Chiles Valley, Coombsville, Diamond Mountain District, Howell Mountain, Los Carneros, Mount Veeder, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, Oakville, Rutherford, Spring Mountain District, St. Helena, Stags Leap District, Wild Horse Valley and Yountville. The wine district has 18,600 hectares planted with vines. Napa Valley was classified as AVA 1981. That a wine can be classified as Napa Valley AVA-wine it is required that the grapes are grown and that the wine is produced within the wine district/appellation. The wine can come from one or more appellations within the Napa Valley.

 

Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, the best vintages, 1968, 1974, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016; not 2017.

 

Napa Valley grapes: The most common grape variety that is grown is Cabernet Sauvignon, which represents about 40% of the total wine production. It is followed by, in descending order, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Napa Valley soils: Geographically, Napa Valley is enclosed by the Mayacama Mountain Range in the west and north, and the Vaca Mountains to the east. Geologically, Napa Valley was formed by the movements of the tectonic plates and volcanic activity that was ongoing for 150 million years. Together with marine deposits and erosion, this has created a very complex and varied geology. The soils within the district vary a lot and over 100 different soil types have been found. Usually, the soil has eroded down from the mountain sides to the valley floor. This means that coarser soils are found higher up on the mountain sides while clay, other fine-grained soils, sand and gravel has been deposited onto the valley floor. These deposited soils are also called alluvial soils and they are very fertile. The most known alluvial formation of Napa Valley is Rutherford Bench within which most of the vineyards in Oakville AVA and Rutherford AVA are located.

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