I was in Napa last week for work. I had a terrific lunch at C Casa in the Oxbow Market, which is always good for a visit. After lunch I had time to hit just two wineries before I drove home. I picked Laird Family Estate & Trefethen Family Estate. They make some good wines & are practically across the street from each other. Here’s what I tried, with a little info about the wineries.
Laird Family Estate
Ken Laird started the vineyard in 1970 when he bought a 70 acre orchard that had gone south. He was $150,000.00 short of having enough money to buy it, but Robert Mondavi loaned him the money on the provision that he plant 50% Gamay grapes. He agreed & planted 50% Gamay & 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. Mondavi was his original client for fruit. These days they make their own wine, & do custom crush for a number of other wineries.
Laird Family Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Big Ranch Oak Knoll Appellation
This is a big New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc. It has gooseberries or cat pee or whatever you want to call it on the nose. On the palate, I got kiwi, guava, & other tropical fruits. The mouth feel is great. I didn’t notice this much at first, but pink grapefruit is a big part of the finish. I really enjoyed this wine.
The Oak Knoll appellation is at the southern end of Napa. It has less rainfall & one effect of that is that the ground warms up earlier. This contributes to a longer growing season than in some other parts of Napa. Despite the ground getting warmer earlier, this is actually one of the cooler appellations in Napa (other than Carneros). It is near San Pablo Bay, & that keeps it from getting too hot. So you get a long growing season, without baking out acid.
Laird Family Estate Chardonnay Cold Creek 2010 Carneros
Laird Family makes two Chardonnays. This one is a single vineyard wine. It spends 11 months in a 50% blend of new & used French oak. Continuing the 50/50 theme, 50% of it goes through malolactic fermentation. There is toasted nut and bread on the nose. This is a classic California style Chardonnay, done about as well as you can do it. It has lots of coffee notes & toffee. It also has some notes that remind me of pineapple upside down cake. This is a really tasty Chardonnay.
Laird Family Estate Jillian’s Blend 2010 65% cab, 20% Syrah, 10% Merlot, 5% Malbec
Jillian did not blend this wine. She is the youngest family member & the staff was talking about what she wore for Halloween the previous day. All of the fruit is from Napa, but it comes from three different vineyards. It is a finesse wine with some fruit to back it up. I tasted candied cherry, brown sugar. It has really solid tannins that make me think that this could be even better in a few years. There is a little bit of cinnamon.
Laird Family Estate 2010 Cabernet 60% flat Rock Ranch 40% Mast Ranch
This started soft with dark chocolate & some cherry. It actually has strong tannins…almost astringent. There is some vanilla & in some ways this wine reminds me of vanilla Coco-cola. I enjoyed this wine, but I wouldn’t pay $90 for it.
Laird Family Estate 2010 Suscol Ranch Syrah Napa Valley
Blueberry & bacon fat…really…on the nose for me. Blueberry is a key fruit component, with tar and some dark herbal notes. The tannin is really high. They just went from the 2008 to the 2010 with nothing in between, and this we will be better in a year or two. There is plenty of vanilla on the finish. I would like to try the 2008, so I can see how this wine will change. It tastes good now & there is a ton of potential.
Trefethen Family Vineyards
The original vineyards and winery were established in 1886. It was called Eschol. My Mother-in Law would recognize that word as the valley of enormous grapes, a cluster of which were brought back to Moses to show him fruit from the promised land.
In 1968 the property was purchased by Eugene and Katie Trefethen. They added property to it, but kept the original barn/winery. Over the years they restored the winery and now it is the only remaining 19th century gravity flow winery in Napa. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Trefethen gained international fame in 1979 when its 1976 Chardonnay won 1st place in the Wine Olympics organized by the French food and wine magazine GaultMillau.
Trefethen Family Vineyards Dry Riesling 2012
Fruity with lime & floral notes. There might be some pink grapefruit on the finish. This has nice acidity & a generally nice balance. I know that Riesling & spicy Asian food is kind of a cliché, but this would really be nice with spicy Asian food. This vintage won the 2013 Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition. That’s a cool competition sponsored by a shellfish company to find the best wine to pair with their oysters.
Trefethen Family Vineyards Viognier 2012
Four Months in French oak really changed the character of this wine. The nose is really muted & isn’t floral. It smells like vanilla & bread. Once you taste it, it is still hard to identify as Viognier. This is actually a really tasty wine. It has everything that I think most people like in a California Chardonnay. It just doesn’t taste like Viognier. There is apple & coconut here. I think this would be good with Indian food. It is a nice wine, but I wouldn’t ever use it in a class to show people how Viognier should taste.
Trefethen Family Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2010
As opposed to the Viognier, this has a classic Cabernet Franc nose. It is clean with just a touch of bell pepper. The wine has a depth that I don’t often see in Cab Franc. It has great tannins. This was just released, so that will probably fade a bit as it ages. It is actually kind of hard to pick out the flavors here. There is raspberry, mint, & spice. I don’t really get a bell pepper flavor. I think it comes out more as mint. The final taste gives me more of that bell pepper. I wish that I had this when I had lamb tacos earlier at C casa.
Trefethen Family Vineyards Merlot 2010
Smells like berry & coffee. On my first taste, I thought that this was pretty simple. On the second taste I got more complexity. The tannins are really high. I wish that I were trying an older vintage because I don’t think that I am getting this one at its best. It is packed with tannin & I can tell it will be good, but it is a little hard to get a handle on it right now. There is bright red fruit with cherry & chocolate. This would be good with duck or steak, but mostly it would be good with time.
Trefethen Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
There is spice on the nose with some licorice & cherry. It has deep flavors and solid tannins. I get primarily dark fruit, plum, cherry, & blackberry. Once again, this wine will be better in 5 years than it is now. I taste cassis, caramel, & a tiny bit of black pepper on the finish. It has a really good dusty taste on the finish. It doesn’t taste like Bordeaux, but that dustiness reminds me of Saint-Émilion. The fruit is from the north western corner of Oak Knoll. That puts it near the Yountville & Stag’s Leap appellations. Wine Enthusiast gave this a whopping 97 points. It is an excellent Cabernet and I really want to see what it tastes like in 3-5 years. I guess I better pick up a few bottles. At $60 each, it isn’t cheap, but it delivers for the price.
Trefethen Family Vineyards Dragon’s Tooth 2010 58% Malbec 22% Cabernet Sauvignon 20% Petit Verdot
Really smooth and almost velvety. It has dark fruit like blackberry that is close to sweet. This goes down easy. I don’t know that I would pay $75 for this, but if someone else paid, I would drink this all night long. It has good tannin, but not over the top like the last few. It is just a nice wine that will age well. Wine Enthusiast gave it a 93 & recommended it with grilled sausages and grilled tomatoes. They even included a recipe.
Here are a few thoughts about week 9 in the NFL
1) The officiating bothered me in the Chiefs/Bills game. I think Marquise Goodwin made the catch in the 4th quarter for the Bills. He held on to the ball to the ground, bounced twice, & then it was kicked out of his hands. I think it was a bad call that might have made a difference in the game. There were several other questionable calls. The roughing the passer penalty against the chiefs was terrible, so I’m not saying it was all one way. It is just frustrating to watch a game and feel that the outcome was impacted by the officials in a negative way.
2) The Patriots should trade with the Buccaneers all of the time. The Legarrette Blount trade was a great deal for the Patriots. When they traded Jeff Demps (and a 7th round pick) to get him, it looked like 2 teams swapping players that would get cut anyway. Blount had been replaced by Doug Martin as the starter in Tampa Bay and was on the outs with the coach. Jeff Demps seemed to have tons of potential, but he was on injured reserve last year and was training for track during pre-season this year. This season for Tampa Bay, he has touched the ball 8 times for a total of 128 yards (including kickoff returns). Blount is playing a solid reserve role for the Patriots at running back and is also returning kicks with Leon Washington injured. He has 85 touches and 661 total yards. He is averaging 4.5 yards per carry running the ball and he tends to get the tough yards. He had some nice runs to close out the game against Pittsburgh in week 9 and his 5 yard touchdown run at the end was impressive. He just refused to go down.
Last year Tampa Bay traded another player who was in coach Schiano’s doghouse to the Patriots. That was cornerback Aqib Talib, who was traded for a 4th round pick, which became William Gholston. Gholston has 4 tackles this year. Talib was a risk, because he had been suspended for using performance enhancing drugs. Once he was able to play, Talib stepped right into the starting position for the Patriots. Before being injured this year he had already intercepted 4 passes. He has missed 3 games, but should be back soon. The Patriots need him. Their pass defense hasn’t been the same since his injury. His ability to handle the other team’s top receiver one on one lets them use other players to cover weaknesses in pass or run defense.
Basically, if Tampa Bay calls about a trade, the Patriots should listen.
3) Why did Brandon Weeden start any games this year? I know that he was a first round draft pick for some reason, but the guys who drafted him and coached him were all fired. He was 5-10 last year and has lost every game he started this year. New general manager Mike Lombardi didn’t like the drafting of Weeden. On NFL Network, he called it “a panicked disaster.” This year when the Browns have played journeyman quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell they have won against everyone except the undefeated Chiefs. When Weeden has played, they didn’t seem to have any confidence and have lost. With the AFC North down this year, the Browns are in second place at 4-5. The good news is that Weeden didn’t start any of their division games, so they are undefeated in their division. If they can continue that trend, they have a chance to win their division. They made it harder on themselves by starting Weeden at all. I always thought it was a bad idea to draft him to replace Colt McCoy. McCoy might not have been a franchise quarterback, but it was really hard to tell considering what they put around him. He was clearly the best player on the offense for most of his time in Cleveland and I don’t really mean that as a compliment. I thought it made sense to draft a couple of receivers and a running back and to work on the offensive line before trying to bring in a 1st round quarterback. Most of the time you have to have Tom Brady type skills to make rookie wide receivers look good and no one was going to look good the way the line was playing (with the exception of Joe Thomas of course).
4) Closing out games separates the good teams from the bad ones. Bad teams seem to go into a slowdown mode the minute they get a 3 point lead in the third quarter. San Diego played that way in week one of the season against Houston & seemed to do that a little on Sunday after they went up 14-7 over Washington. There were other reasons that the Texans fell apart in the 2nd half on Sunday night, but a lack of killer instinct didn’t help. That was a game that they should have won. The Patriots showed a different approach. When everyone in the stadium expected them to run to burn time off the clock and keep the ball away from the Steelers, who seemed to be scoring whenever they got the ball, Brady threw an 81 yard touchdown run on a go route. Aside from Chip Kelly and the Eagles, there aren’t many teams that would have called that play. It let the Steelers know that the Patriots weren’t going to take their foot off of their throat.
5) Best wishes to Gary Kubiak & John Fox. Get well soon. Perhaps Gary Kubiak might need to take a year or more off to get well. After a transient ischemic attack (TIA) there is an increased chance of a stroke. Some say it is as high as a 1 in 3 chance, although based on what I could find online, that sounds high. Either way, he has plenty of money and he has a family that needs him. Getting back into the high stress job coaching the Texans might not be the best thing for his health. Whatever he decides, I wish him the best.