One of the best wine trips I have attended over the years was in 2007 when I was invited to the Master Napa Valley Programme in California soon after I was told that I had passed my Master of Wine. What could have been a very studious, head in the books note-taking trip instead turned into a much more celebratory, enjoyable, fully immersive, heads-up trip where I felt I could really soak up the knowledge and the wonderful wine atmosphere.
Over the years I have revelled in attending numerous superb alumni events in London hosted by Napa Valley Vintners. Finally in June 2022, we saw the return of a whole host of winemakers for the first time post pandemic. The tasting I attended was generously hosted by Pol Roger, who themselves won the superb “Lot 23” at the Premiere Napa Valley Auction.
The gathering was held at the superb London Michelin Star Restaurant Trinity and in attendance from Napa was Rosemary Cakebread, Diana Snowden-Seysses and Cathy Corison, three of the four doyenne responsible for the blended Premiere Napa Valley Auction Lot 23. Besides this rarity, we got to taste a selection of current releases from these top producers. Californian wine holds a special place in my affections and this was certainly a memorable return to London for the NVV.
Corison Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, St. Helena, Napa Valley, 13.8% Abv.
Fabulous dark and opaque, the aromatics are picante and spicy with notes of saline black currant, dried kelp, iodine, sandalwood, dried tobacco leaf and cedar spice. But for all it’s power packed in the glass, it’s also wonderfully elegant and textural with velvety tannins, creamy layers of cassis and hoisin plum sauce and vibrant nuances of tart black cherry. Persistent and focused, this is a beautiful wine from a near perfect vintage.
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Snowden Cabernet Sauvignon Lis Ricos Vineyard 2017, Napa Valley, 13.2% Abv.
Dark broody aromatics with a distinct savoury, earthy note over layers of sweet black plum, plum sauce and stewed winter back berries that melts into black liquorice and sweet tobacco. The palate is plush and soft textured with a creamy, polished elegance, ripe tannins but also a glassy acidity that fames the wine before finishing with a graphite laden finish.
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Gallica Cabernet Franc 2017, Oakville, Napa Valley, 14.2% Abv.
This elegant red shows a delicately savoury yet perfumed aromatics boasting red and black berry fruits and hints of exotic blueberry interwoven with nuances of sweet cedar, graphite and freshly tilled earth. The palate shows incredible finesse and vibrancy with sleek silky tannins, a delicious black fruited purity and a textural pinpoint focus. Very impressive.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
The Premiere Napa Valley Blend 2019 Lot 23 was purchased buy Pol Roger UK and is currently available in tiny quantities. All proceeds for the auction go to the Napa Valley Vintners’ sponsored charities.