Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cuvaison Estate Winery Revisited

Cuvaison is certainly one of the Napa Valley Carneros wineries that you will not want to miss.  They have been around for a long time and they make well balanced, very decent wines, with something for everybody to enjoy.  The view is gorgeous and the hospitality excellent.  They also have a very attractive wine club program that allows you to purchase limited release wines that are not for sale to the public. I'd check them out before heading up valley unless you plan to be up near Calistoga and prefer to visit them at their tasting room there.

View of pond

In 1979 the Schmidheiny family from Switzerland purchased 400 acres of undeveloped land in the Napa Carneros AVA.  The following year they planted it with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot.  In 2004 the entire vineyard was replanted after Phylloxera had been discovered. The Cuvaison Carneros estate now consists of 38 blocks of Chardonnay, 23 of Pinot Noir, 5 of Syrah, 1 of Merlot and 1 of Sauvignon Blanc.  In 1998 they purchased the 170 acre Brandlin Vineyard on Mt. Veeder, a vineyard whose history dated back to the late 1870s.  They planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, with the first release being the 2003 vintage. In addition to their winery in Carneros that was completed in 2004, Cuvaison also has a tasting room in Calistoga on Silverado Trail.  Our two visits were to the Carneros winery which is across the street from Domain Carneros.  The word "cuvaison" is French, meaning vinification or fermentation.

View from patio

The broad open view from Cuvaison Carneros is spectacular and you may chose from indoor our outdoor seating.  The modern style building has large windows overlooking the vineyard and is out of site of the highway giving it a natural and secluded feeling that belies its close proximity to highway 12 and 121.  It is a great place to relax and unwind and the service is excellent.

Indoor or outdoor tastings

Our first review of Cuvaison was on November 11, 2011 and may be read here:
We were especially fond of the Cuvaison 2010 Chardonnay at $22 which we thought was quite good at this price point, noting that it could easily be found in many grocery stores. We enjoyed all of their wines, but the special standout for us was the Cuvaison 2009 Diablo Syrah.  The Diablo Syrah had not yet been released during this most recent visit, however, so we had to forgo that pleasure.

Tasting room wines

Our first pour was the Cuvaison 2012 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir at $19.  Neither of us care much for most U.S. roses or blush wines, but this one was very good.  After a very nice nose, I got dry, crisp cranberry and pomegranate with some raspberry on the palate with excellent balance and more character than one usually finds in rose wines.  It seemed more French in style, was quite refreshing and is one of the very few California roses we can recommend. If you ordinarily do not like roses, you might want to try this one.  Very well done! This will be the first Napa Valley rose wine we will be adding to our list of favorite wines of Napa Valley.

Building behind tasting building

This was followed  by the Cuvaison 2011 Estate Chardonnay at $25.  This represents over half of Cuvaison's yearly production and was the varietal that I associated with them some thirty years or so ago. 20% of this Chard saw new French oak for 8 months. It saw about 60% malolactic conversion but is not at all overly buttery or lacking in varietal characteristics. It had a very good nose of apple and white peach with some minerality.  On the palate it is well balanced and clean with crisp apple, good structure and some great minerality that carried through to the finish.  Cuvaison makes one of the finest Napa Valley Chardonnays in the under $30 range, and I've found it on sale at Safeway for under $20. It is on our list of favorite Napa Valley Chardonnays because it is so well balanced and such a great price.

Our third pour was the Cuvaison 2011 Estate Pinot Noir at $38.  30% of the grapes saw 11 months in new French oak. After a lovely purple and red color and great red cherry and baking spice aroma, I got a medium plus bodied Carneros Pinot Noir with lively acid, great balance, some earthiness and a very good finish.  The fruit was red, mostly raspberry and strawberry. My friend, who often finds Carneros Pinots to be too light, commented on how much he enjoyed this one.  I would have loved to have taken tasting notes on the Cuvaison 2011 Spire Pinot Noir at $48 but this was not offered. This estate Pinot is one of the better examples of a Carneros Pinot Noir. At this price point I thought it was a very good buy and in my tasting notes I rated it a 90.

Lounge in tasting room

The Cuvaison 2010 Brandlin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon at $55 was the second and last of our red wines. It saw 22 months in French oak and is 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petite Verdot, 1% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc, all grown on Mt. Veeder.  It retails at $55 and is well worth the price.  Dark and dense in color, it had a good nose of black cherry with floral notes followed by a very "mountain" Cabernet Sauvignon presentation of dense black cherry, black currant and blackberry, with firm tannins, excellent structure and a medium plus finish. It will cellar well, but I'd be tempted to drink mine now it is so appealing.  Along with the Pinot Noir, it was the favorite of both of us.  In my tasting notes I gave it 91 points.  If you like mountain Cabs, you might want to try this one.

Modern tasting building

I opted to try a taste of the debut release of the Cuvaison 2010 Noblesse dessert wine, which is a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc with botrytis or so called "noble rot" that often adds much to the wine.  It is $45 a bottle.  Although it did not erase memories of some of the layered and complex French Sauternes I've had in the past, it was quite decent for the money and can be recommended.  I especially enjoyed the very flowery nose and good balance.  Try it if you are open to trying sweet white dessert wines.  This one is better than most of them by U.S. producers and is quite pleasant and drinkable.

Entry sign

All of the wines we sampled at Cuvaison were quite good for the price.  I was sorry they did not have the exceptional Diablo Syrah available for tasting and would have liked to have sampled the 2011 Spire Pinot Noir after having tasted the very nice 2011 Estate Pinot.  I noted, too, that they have a Brandlin Vineyard Zinfandel and have yet to try a Cuvaison Zin. You might want to check out our previous review of Cuvaison here: Cuvaison Estate Wines
1221 Duhig Road
Napa, CA 94581
(707) 942-2455
Date of visit: August 21, 2013

Open 7 days a week, 10 am - 5 pm, by easily made appointment
Last Tasting at 4:30 pm
Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Monday thru Thursday they offer $15 or $20 tasting flight to choose from.
Friday thru Sunday they only offer the $20 tasting flight.
They are in the Napa Neighbor Program.
Please see their website for more up to date information.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.