Another holiday season means another wonder trip to wine country with Pops.Â I usually get the week off between Christmas and New Years from the day job and with that extra time I like to spend some quality father and son time spent, well honestly, what else but drinking wine?Â We also recently added a summer trip to the roster, as one trip is usually not enough for the two of us.Â We decided to continue to explore parts of Napa that were still new to us for this trip, especially with the economy in a wonderful tailspin.
The first stop of the day was intended to be at one of the best value-driven brands in the marketplace, Cartlidge & Brown off of Green Island Road.Â Unfortunately, they weren’t open and thus we weren’t able to taste nor pick up Pops’ wine club selections.Â Seeing as how we were in the Southern-most part of the Valley, we decided to then head over to Kirkland Ranch Winery, off of Jamieson Canyon Rd (SR-12).
No…Kirkland Ranch is *not* the same as Costco’s brand, Kirkland Signature, but it IS another great value brand and in a handy spot all to its own, across the road from Chardonnay Golf Club (where I had my Junior Prom!) in the hilly and beautiful Jamieson Canyon.
Here, in yet another case of the small town feel that Napa can still provide, we were greeted and hosted by a former student of Pops!Â Jessica had Pops as a sub back when she was still at Justin Sienna High School and playing some really good softball.Â After the hellos, we moved away from the huge Western-styled tasting bar on the second floor and sat on the couch next to the fire for our leisurely tasting and Napa gossip session.Â The wines were had just as good a Quality to Price Ratio (QPR) as I remembered in the past, and I was particularly taken with the ’02 Napa Valley Estate Syrah. It showed a great medley of black and blue fruit along with some chocolate and lavender in the nose and the smooth palate.Â I know that Kirkland Ranch has been having some financial difficulties, so that might have been a factor, but if you purchase soon, you’ll find that their QPR is even better than usual…they’re having a 50% off sale on many of their wines!
We headed back up into the Valley proper after saying goodbye to Jessica and Co. at Kirkland.Â Our next stop was to be a winery about which I’d heard quite a few good things and yet I had never swung by its location, right near Silverado Country Club off Atlas Peak Road…William Hill Estate.Â Our friends have raved about their Cabs and as I found it, it was for good reason. Will Hill is actually somewhat quietly owned by E & J Gallo.Â Before you get all huffy about family wineries being bought up by conglomerates all over California however, keep in mind that Gallo is still a private, family owned and run operation (and one of the largest vineyard owners in France, interestingly).Â Will Hill owns extensive vineyard land around the winery and further South in Carneros, with plantings that include all 5 major Bordeaux varietals and many other varietals including Chardonnay.Â They feature beautiful grounds with some picnic space and while they say they are appointment only, stop on by and you should be happily accommodated.
I had to make this tasting a bit short and sweet as Pops was planning on sitting this and the next out, as the very kind driver for the day.Â I chose to tackle the Estate tasting as I saw a particular pet love of mine (and sometimes hard to find as a single varietal) was the first choice…the ’05 Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Franc..yum! While I found the smooth Cab Franc to be rather tasty, I was more taken with their wine made from a varietal that is even less commonly found as a single wine, the ’05 Napa Valley Estate Petit Verdot.Â This is usually only a wine club exclusive wine for Will Hill, but the elegant Claire was pouring it that day as part of this series.Â I found it to have huge depths of multi-faceted fruit and while big and bold, the structure was already starting to integrate and combine into a beautiful wine.Â This is a must-try if you are able to make it into the winery!
After aÂ thankful cheers to Claire, we again headed out on our way to our afternoon tasting appointments, despite an unfortunate experience on the way to the parking lot.Â After sustaining a significant blast (outside, even!!) of perfume by a passing female patron, I again commented on how rude it is to wear heavy (or any) perfume or cologne to a wine tasting.Â Wine is all about aromas and tastes…if you’re constantly tasting the rose perfume or spicy cologne dripping off of the patron next to you, it can be very challenging to enjoy oneself at a wine event.Â A helpful hint to all of you planning your next trip to taste wine somewhere:Â please leave the scents in the cabinet that morning and you will be a very respectful taster to those around you later in the day or night (and everyone around you will respect you for doing so).
Find out where we went in the afternoon in the next installment coming in just a few days! Please see all of the wines that we tasted on the first half of our first day in Napa, by checking out all of my reviews below.Â If you would like to list these wines in your own WineLog, they are all tagged with “5thPSWT2008-D1“.Â All of the wines that were tasted on this trip are tagged with “5thPSWT2008“.Â Please leave a comment if you’ve had these wines before, too.Â Enjoy!