Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Terra Valentine Winery

Terra Valentine Winery provided a great view, enjoyable tour and some very good wines.  You should enjoy your visit there.Terra Valentine is a charming little winery up on Spring Mountain, just off Spring Mountain Road.  (The parking lot is quite near the tasting room, so no hiking is involved.) Tastings are by reservation only, something that is standard for this district.  Be sure to bring your camera because you will want to take photos of the interesting castle like building, the stained glass windows and the lovely view off the patio.

Tasting area

Our tasting began with a glass of dry Riesling as a welcome greeting and then we had a short walking tour of the winery, along with a description of the winery and its history. The tasting, afterward, was in a lovely, spacious room where we sat at a table with linen and had a separate glass for each wine, along with some delicious cheeses, chocolate and crackers.  This is not one of those wineries where you have to look for an opening at the stand up bar and then have to wave to the server to get another taste.  We were poured a generous sampling of each wine while we sat and relaxed. It is quite nice and very personal, even indulgent.  The tasting fee is $30 but is waived with purchase.  They also have a special estate tour and tasting ("the ultimate tasting experience with a private tour of the historic 80 acre estate") that is $75 but waived with case purchase.

View from deck

In addition to the very pleasant Terra Valentine 2010 Estate Riesling ($34) which is quite dry for a Riesling, with good acid and fruit balance, we tasted five additional wines, all reds. The first was the Terra Valentine 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($38) which was very good but still somewhat young.  Coming from Sonoma County, it had more substance and a better mouth feel than the thin Carneros PNs that one often encounters at Napa Valley wineries, with a pleasant aroma and a nice balance of fruit, tannin and acid. We both bought some. They also have a Russian River PN which they described as being a bit more rustic, but we did not taste this. The PN was followed by an interesting comparative tasting between the Terra Valentine 2007 Yverdon Cab and the Terra Valentine 2007 Wurtele Cab, both which sell for $65.  Both were very good, with a favorite depending on which style you prefer or what you want to pair with it. (Our host, for example, liked the first with cheese and the second with steak.)  The Wurtele (rated 95 by The Wine Enthusiast) had more rounded blackberry taste with a touch of chocolate whereas the Yverdon seemed a bit spicier and brighter, with a touch of pleasant herbaceousness.  The Yverdon is described by the winery as showing "the elegance and intensity that can be achieved at the highest elevations in our district." Initially we both preferred the Yverdon but the Wurtele began to open up and they seemed equally attractive.  Both have enough tannin and substance to age a few years but are drinkable now.

Stained glass

For me, the best of the wines we tasted was the Terra Valentine 2007 Marriage (not "Meritage") which is a Cab, Cab Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot (Bordeaux style) blend at $75. With some cherry on the nose, it had very ripe fruits with a pleasant jamminess, good tannin and a long finish. It should age nicely. If you try only one of their wines, I'd recommend the 2007 Marriage. (It seems underrated by the Wine Enthusiast at only 88, although they rate the 2008 Marriage at 95.) The Marriage is made from the best of the Yverdon and Wurtele grapes.  Last in our tasting was the 2005 Spring Mountain District Cab, that is their basic cab.  It was on sale for $55 and we liked that it had a little age on it so we couldn't resist buying some. This is a very drinkable, soft, round Cab that had 20 months in French Oak.  This would be a good one to take to a holiday dinner at a friend's house. We had heard great things about the TV Cab Franc, but they only make 70 or 80 cases of it and it not available for tasting and all goes to club members.  Case discounts are available and during December they donate 5% of all sales to the St. Helena Food Bank. Our host was extremely gracious and helpful, even offering second tastes of some of the wines when we were trying to decide what to buy at the end.

3787 Spring Mountain Road
Saint Helena, CA 94574
(707) 967-8340
Date of visit: December 27, 2011

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