Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tres Sabores Winery

Tres Sabores Winery is an extremely friendly, down to earth winery that embraces visitors, eschews all pretensions and provides the sort of tour and tasting that is extremely appealing to visitors.  Who would believe that this small, certified organic winery is only a few minutes off of Highway 29 in the Rutherford District? Forget every negative stereotype you have heard about some Napa Valley wineries with their pretentiousness, corporate ownership and crowds of tourists.  Visiting Tres Sabores is like visiting a small Napa Valley winery back in the early 1970s, something I did frequently.  Tres Sabores means "three savory flavors." Julie Johnson is the owner and winemaker and, if she does not conduct the tour herself, she will probably drive up, wave at you and join the tour in progress. 


Grape vines
If you had a winery tasting room and invited visitors, then wouldn't you want the visitors to have a positive experience? Good wine is extremely helpful, a beautiful setting is a plus, but hospitality and treating visitors decently, even graciously, is essential  Do you think the French Laundry has such fame only because of the quality of the food?  Not on your life.  You are treated specially with the attentiveness and charm that only the finest restaurants can provide.  It is very important to make people feel welcome at a restaurant or winery.  Ashley, our host, was friendly, down-to-earth, helpful, unpretentious, and enthusiastic while the owner, Julie Johnson, was equally so. You may scoff at Yelp and similar reviews, and I don't blame you, but look at the ones for Tres Sabores. People really like visiting them. Visitors are treated very well and it is reflected in the reviews.

Bill punching down the grapes

Tres Sabores also makes olive oil.  We were able to view the trees, but it was not the season for tasting.  They have sheep and guinea hens, too, plus pomegranates.  This is more like a Napa organic farm than the stereotyped upscale Napa Valley Winery. You will meet the farm dog, Moose (who doesn't chase the deer away but is loved nonetheless), eat some pomegranates if they are in season, sample the various grapes if they are ripe, tour the grounds, and have an opportunity to punch down some grapes if you are there soon after a harvest.

Tasting table & Moose the dog

Our tasting began with the Tres Sabores Ingrid and Julia 2011 Rose ($20).  This is made from Zinfandel and really is quite dry.  The Tres Sabor 2001 Sauvignon Blanc Farina Vineyard Sonoma Mountain ($24) was next.  This is whole cluster pressed, from 95% stainless and 5 % neutral oak, with sur lie fermentation for six months.  Only 400 cases were made. This had a slight citrus nose, with a very dry, crisp palate, with some minerality and a pleasant touch of herbaceousness and spice along with a crisp finish. I liked it.  Different, but not really my cup of tea, was the Tres Sabores Farina Vineyard Sonoma Mountain 2010 Chardonnay at $25.  Only 360 cases were produced. This, again, is whole cluster pressed, stainless and sur lie  without MLF.  I have long been an advocate of less oak and little or no malolatic conversion with Chardonnays and often welcome whole cluster pressing and  sure lie.  This Chard had a light nose and was rather soft, smooth and fruity on the palate with a touch of minerality. It was a good Chardonnay but more fruit forward than I prefer with this varietal.  Our host said it was a Chardonnay made more like a Sauvignon Blanc.  It is a very different type of Chard, and some people might really like it.  At least it is not another uninteresting, middle-of-the-road Chardonnay that will put you to sleep with its ordinariness.  

Old wine press

Next we proceeded to red wines with the Tres Sabores 2010 Rutherford Estate Zinfandel ($35). It is somewhat fruit forward, but has nice pepper and spice, something I always welcome in a Zin.  The vines for this Zin were planted in 1972, which means they are 40 years old. For some reason, Zins usually taste much better when they come from older vines, and this is no exception.  It was my favorite of the wines we tasted. 500 cases were produced.  The final tasting was the 2009 Por que NO? Napa Valley Zinfandel Blend ($25). It is about 50% Zin with Cab, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot, rather an unconventional blending of varietals.  It is rounder and more fruit forward than the regular Zin and has some sweetness that will make it appealing to many palates, especially those that dislike big, tannic, bold red wines.  The party of four from Sweden who were on the tour with us all seemed to like it as did my friend. It is certainly easy to drink.  I did not find it interesting and much preferred the Rutherford Zin, but that is just my palate.  2000 cases were made, making it, by far,  the largest production wine for Tres Sabores.

Olive trees

Tres Sabores is a very small winery with extremely limited production, so it is understandable that they were sold out of the 2009 Calistoga Petite Sirah ($45). (200 cases were produced.) This was a disappointment for me since PS is one of my favorite varietals.  Even more disappointing, was that we were not able to taste the 2008 Rutherford Perspective Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc ($80).  They only made 127 cases of it, so I assumed they were sold out.  Rutherford is, of course, justly famous for their Cabs.  You know, Rutherford dust, etc. To visit a Rutherford winery and not taste a Cab is something of a sacrilege, but one must expect that when visiting a small winery with such a small production.  I think I would probably love the Petite Sirah and Rutherford Cab from Tres Sabores. If I ever find either in a wine store I'll purchase them and report back on them.  I frequently add updates to winery posts or even post a special review of a wine if it is exceptional.

Picnic area

If you like the idea of visiting a winery that is like an old fashioned Napa Valley farm where you will be welcomed with enthusiasm and treated with respect, then you will love visiting Tres Sabores. Their prices are very reasonable. I especially liked their Sauvignon Blanc and Rutherford Zinfandel and most likely would have loved their Petite Sirah and Rutherford Cab if they had not been sold out.


1620 South Whitehall Lane
St. Helena, CA 94574
Date of visit: October 3, 2010

Fall harvest from the garden


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