Pinot Noir from Carneros has been hit or miss with me. I often times find the expression so tightly wound that I lose all mention of real fruit. But Cuvaison has provided me not just a hit, but a home run. Crafted from a single vineyard block located on the vineyard’s highest elevation, using winemaking methods created specifically for these grapes, and keeping the real essence of those grapes and vineyards through every step of the winemaking process — Cuvaison has changed my perception of what Carneros has to offer Pinot Noir vineyards and has piqued my interest in the AVA.
I’d heard of the prestigious Cuvaison vineyard and winery, but this is my first adventure alongside them. What makes the wines so special? Not only are their grapes all estate grown, but the vineyard management is focused on block-by-block farming methods. So when tasting from their single-block series, as with this Chardonnay, one is tasting a very specific slice of Napa Valley terroir — which means precision in flavors and textures with every single sip.
I feel like everything Grgich Hills produces has an element of fun to it. Even their rustic Zinfandels and hearty Cabernets take the intimidation out of the Napa red wine stereotypes. But nothing says a whimsical night of wine drinking than a fumé blanc. Even the name has a bit of witticism: an accepted synonym to Sauvignon Blanc, the nickname was given to the varietal by Robert Mondavi in the 1960s — purely as a marketing gimmick. So cheers — gimmick or not — to a fun fumé by a fun producer.
Sourced from the rugged terroir of the Vaca Mountain foothills, the consistency of quality fruit the Shafer family harvests year after year is, indeed, persistent, continuing, nonstop, never-ending, interminable, unceasing, endless — relentless. But, as proprietor Doug Shafer says, the “soul” of this wine comes from the winery’s long time winemaker, Elias Fernandez, whose tireless attention to detail seems to create a new level of quality with each vintage. “And so Relentless emerged as a testament to both a person and a place.”
Founder John Shafer wasn’t always a wine country cowboy. At 50 years old, Shafer left his business shoes and commuter trains behind in Chicago, trading them in for a pair of boots and a TD-9 tractor. Without a green thumb to speak of, he picked up his family and purchased his first piece of Napa Valley property. On that property were old sheds and ancient farming equipment — among them an International Harvester tractor from the 1950s. One of his first challenges was learning how to drive the rickety old beast — but he loved every moment of it.
The TD-9 proprietary red blend is made each year with that same spirit — making the best of what you have and enjoying the process. “Any time you try something new, you take a gamble,” says winery president and John’s son Doug Shafer. “But the story of TD-9 is all about risk-taking and a sense of adventure – it was there at our founding and it’s part of our DNA today.” (more…)