As one of the many perks of my industry, I toured Napa Valley last month on a whirlwind business trip. Admittedly (and somewhat embarrassingly – since it’s less than a 2 hour flight away), I hadn’t visited this area in several years . . . back when I could barely afford to drink these wines or Napa’s hefty tasting fees.
To be honest, with most Napa Valley wines, I tend to write them off as too big and boldly fruity, too alcoholic and tannic, overpriced and overhyped. (Should I tell you how I really feel?) And although this trip didn’t dispel all these generalizations, I did find myself enjoying the wines more than I thought I would – particularly those from Stags Leap District. One of the 16 (and counting!) different sub-AVAs of the Napa Valley.
Wines from this area tend to be softer and more elegant than other Napa wines, plus it has a pretty colorful history – here’s the outline on the Stags Leap District AVA.
I’ve been taking the Rhône Valley “Master Level” program through the Wine Scholar Guild for the past few months, so lately I’ve been completely immersed in all things Rhône related. Which is not a bad place to be!
Although I’m confident in my knowledge of the Northern Rhône, the South hasn’t come quite as easily.
Maybe it’s because there are about 27 permitted grape varieties in the South compared to only four in the North. Or because the Southern Rhône represents a whopping 95% of the area’s total production. But it’s likely due to the fact that one of my best wine days ever occurred last Fall when my hubby & I did a private all day tour of Côte Rôtie and Condrieu. Places I’ve visited in person tend to stick better in my brain.
Site of our guide, Vincent’s, future tasting room in Condrieu
Sampling Syrah in Côte Rôtie (with permission of course!)
Whatever the reason, I decided to pick a Southern Rhône Cru at random (congrats Vacqueyras!) and do a more detailed outline on that region. At least then I’m guaranteed to nail exam questions on this area. 😉 Here’s the Vacqueyras outline.
[Note: There was some conflicting information among sources while I was putting together this outline. Since I’m taking the exam through the WSG, I went with their materials – even if they differed from GuildSomm. As a general rule though, I prefer and trust GuildSomm as a resource pretty much above everything else.]
It’s the waning weeks of summer, but we’ve (thankfully!) still had plenty of sunny and toasty days here in the PNW. Although I drink whites consistently year-round, it’s during this time of year that I often reach for them to refresh and cool down. I don’t want anything heavy or serious. Just pour me a crisp, uncomplicated porch pounder and I’m good to sit on the deck (or in my bedroom with A/C) for hours.
I love acid bomb whites. Gramercy Cellars’ Picpoul (which appropriately translates to “lip stinger”) is one of my favorite summer staples. Both wines below are reminiscent of this wine, but both really push the boundaries of acidity. They’re on the edge of being too much.
Since I had these wines back to back, and noticed that they were both from the same region, I was curious as to why these had such high acidity. What is it about Ancient Lakes that produces such bright & zesty white wines? What else does this region produce? What makes this region special and unique?
Palencia Albariño 2016, Ancient Lakes AVA. 12.5% abv. Pale lemon. Aromas of lemon, chalk, and wet stones. Lighter bodied, high acidity with flavors of lemon, tart yellow pear and lime zest. This is a super easy to drink wine, but not necessarily one to sit and ponder. It’s fairly simple. Zippy and refreshing.
Efeste ‘Feral’ Evergreen Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Ancient Lakes AVA. 12.5% abv. More of a pale lemon-green hue on this wine. On the nose, grapefruit, grass, lime zest and herbal notes. Same on the palate, but with a touch of salinity. And holy acidity!
Here’s my outline on the Ancient Lakes AVA – an area you definitely want to check out if you like crisp whites, and reds with a good dose of acidity as well.