Clos du Val built their foundation like many Napa wineries did in the 1970s, with the great, noble Cabernet Sauvignon grape. According to the winery, the “crown jewel” of their estate program is the Hirondelle Vineyard located in the Stags Leap District. The vineyard spans 100 acres and is planted to nine different Cabernet Sauvignon Clones.
Stag’s Leap’s place along the valley floor gets love from the sun and cooling breezes from the San Pablo Bay, which means grapes plush tannins but also a vibrant acidity. This is probably why — as you’ll see in my notes — Clos du Val is able to craft an age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon that is also completely approachable now.
There are so many different styles of Chardonnay — from the crisp and refreshing, a result from 100% stainless steel fermentation and aging, to the full-out butter-bombs that occur from an abundant use of fresh oak and 100% malolactic fermentation. And then everything in between. How a Chardonnay tastes and feels is almost exclusively determined by the winemaker’s chosen process. Which Chardonnay you enjoy, well that is ultimately up to your personal palate. What I love about this Clos du Val Chardonnay is that it’s for the folks who are going to Dante’s fourth circle — the folks who can’t make up their minds. Soft palate, vibrant acidity, and depending on the temperature as milky (or not!) as you like.
Clos du Val is a name that I’d heard of but had yet to experience until just recently. The winery has been around since the 1970s Napa Valley boom and it seems that they’ve not just lasted through the years, but have developed and refined both their vineyards and their winemaking, becoming the triumph they are today. Once a Cab-dominant wine program, Clos du Val now boasts a full portfolio showcasing all the varietals the region does well. In the past I’ve been hesitant about Carneros Pinot Noirs — and, yes, I know it’s something the sub-AVA is known for. It’s just within these past two or three years that I’ve seen an increase in a more “hands-off” approach span across both grape growers and winemakers in this area, and I have to say that the results have been phenomenal (and delicious). Case and point is this estate Pinot Noir from Clos du Val.
So, not too long ago I voiced my frustration with California — or “new world” in general — Riesling. I feel like the majority of us have a stigma surrounding German Riesling, stereotyping it much like Gewürztraminer as a sweet wine. This is not without its merit, as the country is technically known for that style of white wine, but it’s because they were (originally) catering to the palate of the American demographic. And, so, I don’t know if it’s because of that Rhine region interpretation of our tastes, or our initial misunderstanding of our California terroir, but it seems like a lot of American Riesling were, up until a point, created with sweetness in mind.
Well thank goodness that this seems to be dissipating. California, even just within the last 10 to 20 years has seemed to develop a new understanding of terroir in regards to what grapes grow best in which areas. So, Riesling from Napa? I don’t believe I’ve had it before. And I, of course, had some doubts and hesitations. But that being said, Smith-Madrone has quality wines made by people who’ve been working to understand the land for decades. So, if Smith-Madrone says Napa Riesling, then I am, without a doubt, tasting Napa Riesling. Here we go…
When it comes to Napa, is Chardonnay the first grape variety that comes to mind? Well, it is the second most widely planted grape in the county, at 6,397 acres/2,588 hectares it makes up just 15% of the county’s vineyards. No surprise, Cabernet Sauvignon leads the race with 20,342 acres/8,232 hectares planted, making up 47% of Napa’s wine grapes. But as a consumer, at least in my little world, when I think Chardonnay I think about the “other” side of the mountain range (Sonoma). But Smith-Madrone, once again with the care and attention to the vines and the very minimalistic and naturalistic approach to winemaking, proves that even white wine has its place in the land of “big red.”