Gems in My Glass . . . April 2012

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Napa

Appellation St. Helena put on the first annual Food and Wine Pairing Competition this month at the Culinary Institute of America, and it was a bASH! to be remembered.    Wines from the St. Helena Appellation were creatively paired with unique and tasty bites prepared by local professional chefs as well as student teams from the CIA’s Culinary Program.   Among the impressive wines presented were:

Anomaly Vineyards 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon:  Spiced aromas meld deliciously with blackberry, chocolate dipped cherry and licorice flavors that generously fill the palate.   Savory earth-tinged notes led me to ask if there was a splash of Cab Franc, and indeed there is; and a touch of Petit Verdot also adds complexity.   This solidly built Cab Sauvignon with a creamy, rich texture and beautiful oak integration is approachable now, and is also cellar worthy. 

Benessere Vineyards 2008 Sangiovese:   This aromatically inviting 100% Sangiovese is delightfully reminiscent of a classic Italian Sangiovese with its dried cherry, strawberry and trace of orange peel intermingling with a dusting of herbs on the palate.  Elegant and precisely balanced with an uplifting kick of acidity holding firm through the tasty, lingering finish.   

Calafia Cellars 2007 La Reina, Johnson Vineyard:  Deeply hued with bold, dark fruit aromas, this rich, smooth Meritage crafted of 66% Cab Sauv, 15% Malbec and 19% Petit Verdot really packs a punch upon entry.  Black plums, cassis and wild berries sprinkled with freshly ground nutmeg and cinnamon spice take center stage, all framed by firm tannins; finishes long and strong. 

Flora Springs Winery 2009 Rennie Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon:   Intoxicating aromas of fresh raspberries waft from the glass and expand broadly on the palate.  Earthy, cherry, red currant and herbal notes artfully playing off one another and lead to a memorable finish.  Tremendous depth and purity in the glass with deft handling of oak, this full bodied 100% Cabernet Sauvignon speaks volumes for the sense of place; beautifully crafted.

David Fulton Winery 2007 Petite Sirah:  Appealing aromatics of blackberries and spice draw you straight into the glass.  Juicy black cherry, blackberry and dried plums, black pepper spice and a thread of earthiness unfold richly on the palate and hold up to firmly structured tannins.  Bold and powerful, with dense, concentrated fruit continuing to build through the persistent finish; should cellar nicely for many years.

Charles Krug Winery 2011 Sauvignon Blanc:  Wildly expressive aromas chock full of grapefruit and attractive grassy notes leap from the glass and remain focused and clean, dazzling the palate.    Lean and minerally, the grapefruit notes meld seamlessly with lemon grass, guava, lime peel and a touch of stone, all framed by a backbone of racy acidity; delicious!

Charnu Winery 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon:   The senses are fully engaged from the moment you lift the glass with this lush, full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.   Black raspberry, plum and cassis aromas and flavors join fresh tobacco and savory spice notes swirling exotically on the palate.    The ripeness of the fruit is spot on and the texture is smooth as silk.  Impressively balanced with a finish that lingers with persistence; a pretty, age worthy wine.

Robert Biale Vineyards 2009 Old Crane Ranch Zinfandel:   Enticing aromas grab your attention and an energizing burst of goodness wows the palate upon entry.  A decadent mouth full of juicy, jammy, boysenberries and plums accented by black tea notes and inviting pie spices meld harmoniously in the mouth.    Dense and lush with a velvety mouth feel and delectably fresh and clean. 

Tudal Family Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon:   Heavenly floral aromatics make way for focused red currant, cherry and wild berry fruit at the core, supported by finely grained tannins and a nice backbone of acidity.   Leather notes, pretty spice accents and a touch of earthiness add complexity and depth.  Nicely structured and balanced; another Cab Sauv built to go the distance. 

Vineyard 29 2008 Aida Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon:  This deeply hued Cabernet opens with a nose resplendent in mixed berry and mocha notes that leave you wanting to stay put and enjoy the aroma forever, but move on, as there is plenty more ahead.    Chocolate covered cherry flavors layered with spicy, earthy notes, a thread of tobacco and a hint of graphite lift this Cab Sauv to even greater heights as it broadens deeply on the palate.   Well structured with velvety, firm tannins suggesting its cellar worthiness.

Keep an eye out for this delicious Appellation St. Helena event next spring (more information can be found on their website  You don’t want to miss out on sipping the beautiful wines and the chance to choose your favorite food and wine pairings – absolutely wonderful!