Rubicon Estate was previously known as Inglenook and Neibaum-Coppola. (Note: After this review it was renamed Inglenook.) It is at the end of a long driveway off Highway 29 near Rutherford Cross Road. Rubicon is in a beautiful old building with a staircase that leads to a museum that includes early lantern movie projectors and a Tucker automobile. This is a place you will want to see even if you don't taste there. The tasting is $25 for a flight of five one-ounce pours.
Our tasting began with the 2008 Captain's Reserve Chardonnay that has a bit of apple on the nose followed by a very smooth citrus and apple taste. It sells for $30. The 2007 Captain's Reserve Pinot Noir at $38 had a raspberry nose with cherry on the palate. It had light soft tannins with a vanilla finish. Our favorites, though, were the two cabs. The 2006 Captain's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon had a cherry and blueberry aroma and was very balanced and drinkable. It is well worth the $48 list price and one that you will surely want to buy. We were told that 2006 was an exceptional year. This is a blend of 87% cab, with 8% Cab Franc, 4% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot. The 2007 CASK Cabernet Sauvignon at $65 was rated 95 points by Wine Enthusiast. I got some violet on the nose with a sweet cherry taste and mild tannins. It should age nicely. I'd recommend getting the 2006 to drink now and the 2007 to lay away for a few years, although it is certainly quite drinkable now. We also had the 2007 Rubicon that is 94% Cab, 4% Petit Verdot and 3% Cab Franc. It has a spicy nose of cherry and nutmeg with fruit forward sweet cherry on the palate. It sells for $145. Out of curiosity we tried a little of their 2009 Blancaneux which has some Marsanne in it. This is a pleasant desert wine and sells for $32.
While each of these wines was quite good I was most impressed at the 2006 Captain's Reserve Cab and the 2007 CASK Cab, especially given their prices. The service throughout was friendly, pleasant and unpretentious. This is a Napa Valley winery you must visit even if you are not into wines. But if you like cabs you will certainly want to sample some.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Beringer is a winery that has something for everybody, and you will surely enjoy your visit. They make world class Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignons but also excellent Port style wine. Be sure to sample the premium wines in their Rhine House, though, if you are serious about wine.
We have been to Beringer many times over the past forty years. It has a beautiful grounds and interesting buildings that visiting friends and relatives love to see. (Yes, it can be busy and touristy during peak times.) They offer tastings of their inexpensive line of wines, but these are completely different than the reserve wines, which are in a another building called the Rhine House. Reserve wines are now served ($25) on the first floor instead of the second, however. This review is of Beringer's reserve wines and not their other inexpensive line of wines, which are fine for the money. Beringer also has an incredible wine library of old and rare releases.
First, let me say that Beringer has always had really good service and our host, Ed, was one of the best ever. Courteous, informative, knowledgeable, and friendly, he was the epitome of the ideal wine host. Some wineries seem to forget how important this is, but not Beringer.
Our tasting began with a Sauvignon Blanc ($30), the 2005 Merlot ($50) and then the 2006 Cabernet Franc ($50). All three were good, and we bought several bottles of SB. But the Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignons were the main reason we visited, so we did a vertical tasting of the 2005, 2006 and 2007. The 2005 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($115) was rated 93 by The Wine Advocate and it is easy to see why. It is incredibly well balanced with nice fruit and a generous touch of chocolate on the palate. The 2006 Private Reserve Cab ($115) was rated 92 but was definitely not as good as the 2005. The real knockout, however, was the 2007 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($89). Robert Parker rated it a 95. With a cherry aroma, it was very well balanced with cherry and a touch of chocolate on the palate, nice soft tannin and a good finish. Simply put, this is a great Cab!!! It is easily worth the $89 and you can buy it for even less if you are a wine club member. Increasingly, 2007 appears to be an especially good year for Napa Cabs.
At the end we shared a sip of the sweet dessert wine, a 2006 Nightingale, which was very pleasant at only $40 a bottle. It is made with Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. While we were waiting for our wine orders to be filled, we were offered a glass of their 1987 Port (style) Cabernet Sauvignon ($60) from their wine library. I think this is the best California port style wine I've ever tasted. It is even be better than some Portuguese Vintage Ports I've had that were many times the price. It is amazing that a winery can offer such great Reserve Cabs and then follow up with a wonderful Port. We strongly recommend that you visit Beringer and try their reserve wines, especially the 2007 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
2000 Main St
St Helena, CA 94574
Titus Vineyards makes the finest California Cabernet Franc I’ve ever tasted. We went to Titus Vineyards for the annual Napa Neighbor Afternoon in the Vineyards on May 7th. This was primarily a vineyard tour, but they offered some tastings as well. Titus is a small vineyard that is usually open only by appointment. We were offered a very nice Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. There was a Zinfandel, too, but it was all gone before we could taste it. When asked about their famous Cabernet Franc, which I had read so much about, I leaned that they did not have any open. Of course, this was not an official tasting but a vineyard tour, and this is a small family owned and operated vineyard, so that was certainly understandable.
A few minutes later, I was offered a glass of 2009 Cabernet Franc ($36). Staff said I looked so disappointed that they opened a bottle for us. I did not take tasting notes but this was the finest California Cabernet Franc I have ever tasted. It was not overpowered with fruit, but was interesting and complex with some pleasant herbal tones. If you don't have an opportunity to tour Titus Vineyard, I recommend you purchase a bottle if you like Cab Francs.
Titus is on page 176 of the book The New Connoisseurs' Guidebook to California Wine & Wineries (2010 edition) by Olken and Furstenthal, but the book states "No Tasting" rather than "Tasting by Appointment." I asked them while there and you definitely may make a tasting appointment. The book further states that Philip Titus "finds time to achieve great things at the family winery." In Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 2011, it states that they make, "very good Cab Sauv., an outstanding spicy Zin and Cab Fr." I was sorry to have missed the Zin but the Cab Franc really is outstanding and I recommend you try it and visit this small vineyard.
2971 Silverado Trail
2971 Silverado Trail
Saint Helena, CA 94574