Exploring the Beautiful Historic Estate of Inglenook in Rutherford, Napa Valley…

A big day of tasting on day 4 of our epic California trip, started at the iconic Francis Ford Coppola estate of Inglenook and ended with a tasting and dinner at another iconic estate, Silver Oak Winery in Napa Valley.

Film director Francis Ford Coppola has lived at the estate since the early 70s, raising his family there, slowly piecing the Inglenook entity back together again and restoring it to its former historic glory. Head of winemaking is the famous Philippe Bascule, who was chief winemaker at Chateau Margaux for several decades. 

Philippe’s first vine to bottle vintage at Inglenook was the 2012 vintage. But with the sad demise of Chateau Margaux’s Paul Pontallier on the 28th March 2016 at just 59, it was fully expected that the call would come from the Mentzelopoulos family to recall Philippe back to Bordeaux to take up the wine making responsibilities at Margaux again. 

So Philippe will remain the de facto head wine maker with Chris Phelps acting as the full time man on the ground overseeing future Inglenook production on a day to day basis. Chris made over 10 vintages of Dominus back in the day and now also produces a small amount of super premium Napa Cabernet on the side under the Ad Vinum label from fruit from the “Sleeping Lady Vineyard” in Yountville.

Inglenook Rubicon 2013 

13.8 Abv,. Beautifully fragrant and classical nose with sweet tobacco, chocolate mocha spice, espresso, buttered brown toast, and sweet leafy cedar nuances. Unusually, the Rubicon 2013 is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, but certainly does not lack any complexity. Very precise, elegant and focused, this wine oozes class and finesse. Texturally seamless, this wine has Bordeaux in its roots, with intense black berry fruit framed by fresh, vibrant acids. Very fine breadth as well as depth, this is definitely a wine for cellaring. 

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Inglenook Rubicon 2015 (Cask Sample)
14.2 Abv,. Rich, lush and very intense, the nose is powerful and extrovert, with layers of vanilla pod spice, sweet blueberry, black cherry, kirsch and fleshy black black currant pastille. Tannins are sweet and round and finely balanced. A beautiful work in progress, there is more immediacy and overt generous fruit than the 2013. The finish is very salty and spicy with black liquorice length. Superb!

(Wine Safari Score: 95-96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

14.2 Abv., 87 CS, 8 Franc, 3 PV, 2 Merlot

Very taught, broody and restrained, you need to coax the black, spicy graphite fruit out the glass. Subtle cedary, spicy dusty chalk notes create a very classical feel. Touches of dark chocolate and black berries linger on a very harmonious palate where the acids are soft and incredibly integrated. Slightly shy now, this wine shows great potential. 

(Wine Safari Score: 93+100 Greg Sherwood MW)

California Day 3 – Tasting the New Vintages from Silverado Winery…

Owned by Diane Miller, Walt Disney’s daughter, and ex-NFL quarterback husband Ron Miller, Silverado’s winemaking success has been firmly rooted in their six vineyards, allowing them all to express their own inherent quality characteristics. Since opening in 1981, the winery has grown to nearly 162 hectares which are all farmed organically and sustainably, from which Silverado Winery produces Estate and Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Chardonnay wines.

Sadly my buddy Russ Weiss, the Silverado President, was not around when we tasted, but as always, it was great to get an early snap shot of the new vintages that will be heading to the UK later in 2017. I’ve always been a big fan of their wines which thankfully are sold at very reasonable prices in the UK. If you have not tried these wines, seek them out and discover an elegant, pure, supple, restrained expression of Napa and Carneros.

Vineburg Carneros Chardonnay 2015

14.5 Abv., 4% neutral oak, no malo, French puncheons. Dusty, dry lemon, pithy citrus. Chalky and dusty leesy, the palate is vibrant, bright and fresh, packed full of white stone fruits. Classical interpretation. 

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

88% CS, Merlot & Petit Verdot – 14.6 Abv., Rich creamy nose of blue berry crumble and black berry confit. Plenty of graphite and cedar spice with attractive violet perfume. Palate is sleek, linear and fresh, light on its feet and super elegant. Very polished and precise with super creamy sweet tannins. A real beauty. 

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Solo Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

14.2 Abv., Big dark fruited dusty nose with classic Cab notes of violets, tobacco, black current and graphite. Massive rich intense unctuous core, wonderful balance and fresh vibrant finish. Tannins are creamy and dense, with plenty of power and concentration. Impressive wine, one to age in the cellar. 

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Visiting Napa Valley and Sonoma with the Wine Institute of California – Day 1 in San Francisco…

For the past 10 years I’ve tried to make a habit of visiting the US wine lands of either California, Oregon or Washington State at least every 2 years to keep up to speed. With my last two trips being in Washington State and Oregon for Pinot Camp, it’s great to finally make it back to California. 

Along with the French classics, Italian wine and of course South African wine, I have a massive passion for American wines. I love their precision, polish, opulence, structure, and age worthiness. I rarely ever meet a customer who does not enjoy a mature Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, Russian River Pinot Noir or Sonoma Zinfandel! 

So today was Day 1 and touch down in San Francisco ahead of a jam packed schedule of lectures, visits and tastings in Napa Valley and Sonoma. What a beautiful city it is too. Much excitement awaits in the week ahead.

The Bay Bridge, not to be confused with the Golden Gate Bridge.

The AT&T Baseball Stadium on the Waterfront. Home of the San Francisco Giants.

Opus One 2013 – Another star studded Napa Valley release…

This week seems to have been a week full of colliding wine stars, none more so than yesterday. After already accepting an invitation to attend a private tasting and dinner with Opus One at the 1 Michelin Star Harwood Arms, I then had to sadly pass on a fantastic, subsequent tasting and dinner invite with my good pal Eduardo Chadwick at 67 Pall Mall, celebrating the triumph of Vina Chadwick’s 100 point score from James Suckling, a first for a Chilean wine.

For those unaware, Opus One 2013 received a 100 point score from Suckling and was rated his No.1 Wine of 2016, with Vina Chadwick 2014 cracking Chile’s first 100 points and following Opus One 2013 as Suckling’s No.2 Wine of 2016. So, whether or not you agree with James Suckling’s score pronouncements, we can surely agree that both are certainly fine wines of the highest order. 

I did however recently attend an incredible Vina Chadwick Masterclass with their importer, Hatch Mansfield, and got to taste an amazing vertical of this fantastic wine back to 2000. Yesterday was the turn of Opus One. 

Varietals: Opus One 2013
 ~ Cabernet Sauvignon 79%; Cabernet Franc 7%; Merlot 6%; Petit Verdot 6%; Malbec 2%. Skin contact 18 days and 17.5 months aging in new French oak.

A very dry and unseasonably warm winter gave the vines an early start to the growing season. Flowering occurred under near-perfect conditions which led to excellent fruit set throughout their Oakville estate vineyards and ensured a bountiful harvest in 2013 – though smaller than in 2012. Ideal conditions continued during the summer with moderate temperatures prevailing until harvest began after midnight on September 5th. Harvest was completed on October 8th.

Tasting Note: Opus One 2013, Napa Valley is a beautifully rich, dark Bordeaux blend using all 5 Bordeaux varieties. The nose is perfumed, pristine and pure with lashings of blueberry confit, creme de cassis, black cherry liqueur and damson plums. Wave upon wave of violets, cherry blossom and white flowers waft from the glass. Without even tasting, you know this is serious kit. The palate is dense and seamless with pinpoint purity. Hard to imagine tasting more polished, refined tannins. The 5 varieties are packaged into a super elegant parcel that builds to a crescendo in the mouth. With complex black fruits to the fore, the oak is subtle and superbly integrated already. There’s a lovely, seductive, fresh long finish that goes on and on. This is a fine wine that moves you, sensorially and emotionally. (Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

On this occasion, 1 Michelin star The Harwood Arms provided a fantastic gastronomic back drop to enjoy both the Opus One Overture NV Red Blend (91/100), the Opus One 2006 (95/100), the Opus One 2013 (97/100) and a superb, classically toned, graphite laden, Silver Oak 1995 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (94+/100).

Grilled Mackerel and fennel salad
Norfolk Quail and black pudding scotch egg
Rump of Herdwick lamb

The Harwood Arms, Walham Grove, Fulham, SW6 1QP

Inglenook, Napa Valley – Selling a Renaissance

1882 was the first vintage produced by Gustave Niebaum on the estate that would become one of the most renowned wineries in the New World – Inglenook.

In the same year, Niebaum dug a small cave in the foothills of the Mayacamas to experiment and better understand temperature ideals for barrel ageing.

Today, Inglenook lies in the heart of the famous Rutherford Bench in Napa Valley, offering a wealth of top quality fruit, richness and minerality from this genuinely special terroir.

The 1882 Cabernet Sauvignon is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from estate fruit, aged for 18 months in French and US oak with 15% new. It is a well proportioned wine with structured mineral tannins, graphite, and a taught linear texture. Supple core of black berry fruits, cassis, damson plums, black cherry, vanilla pod and choc mocha spice. Despite the 14.5 alcohol, it is a self assured, classical, elegantly restrained expression of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon with real age ability. (Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)