Napa Valley; a perspective on vintage at 67 Pall Mall

43,000 acres of planted vineyard, 400 wineries (95% family owned) and 16 sub-AVA’s. Napa Valley is the epitome of multiplicity. The region sees the annual hosting of the prestigious Premiere Napa Valley. Premiere is a showcase, the ethos is that wineries offer a one-off wine style to trade-only bidders, assuming the wines will become the focus of collectors. Each year, prior to Premiere Napa Valley, Napa Vintners hosts a perspective on vintage. This year, Emma Wellings PR, working with Napa Vintners, offered this unique perspective tasting to the UK trade at 67 Pall Mall.

 

11 wineries offered current release wines, in most cases vintages 2014, 15 and 16. 7 wineries offered library wines spanning from the early 90’s. The wines were presented blind until 13:00. After this, the owners, or representatives from the winery, revealed which of the wines belonged to them. Bravo to Emma and the team at Napa Vintners, this format offered those present the unique opportunity to observe the distinct differences between the sub-AVA’s of Napa Valley, analysing each wine objectively and providing a more comprehensive understanding of the variation available within Napa.

Napa Cab. We use this term rather fleetingly, don’t you think? We use it as if it represents an inherent expectation of what is in our glass. Of course there are certainly more ‘stereotypical’ expressions of Napa Cab, but as an AVA, the wine on offer is diverse, perhaps as nuanced as many Old World appellation structures. From the relatively low lying Los Carneros in the south to the more mountainous Atlas Peak (760-2600ft) and Howell Mountain (1400-2600ft) in the centre and North, there’s much more to Napa than broad terms would suggest.

Recent vintage outcome have been kind to Napa, despite drought and fire the vintners have managed to produce a stellar half decade of wine. Amongst the vintages on offer on Friday 2014 stood out as distinctly characterful, quality was consistent with ample power and depth. 2015 showed a touch more variability, a little boozy at points. 2016 appears notably more complex with good acid structure. Despite pleasant outcomes, Mother nature has been tough on Napa; disasters aplenty, but these vintages are of good quality with significant cellaring potential.

Extracting highlights from memorable events like this is no easy feat; I’ll give it my best shot. Amongst the vintners present was Shafer. My first experience with Shafer (One Point Five) was in Hakkasan Las Vegas, punchy, extracted and powerful. I was born in 1991 (which wasn’t too impressive across much of Europe) and amongst Shafers offering at 67 was my birth vintage. It was nothing short of delicious; rustic, gamey and bold (hopefully I was not too biased) I have not yet had the opportunity to taste Herb Lamb Vineyards (situated just below the Howell Mountains and producing an insanely small amount of wine) On Friday, Jeniffer Lamb kindly guided us through her offering, her wines are bloody good, likely my preferred of the day (which is tricky to call amongst such a range) they displayed a clear elegance and class regardless of vintage. Jamieson Ranch was another first for me, their Atlas Peak Cabernet was precise and bright, great acidity and chewy black and red fruits, pronounced backdrop of graphite and spice, big win.

As I left the event, I of course expressed my appreciation to Emma’s team, we also discussed my closing thoughts. I left feeling somewhat revelatory, I had realised the disservice I have previously given to Napa. The AVA’s of Napa deserve much more of both my appreciation and attention. The wineries in the foothills of the Howell Mountain and Atlas Peak, which i had previously under-explored, were particularly suited to my palate, distinct acid profiles and what I thought was a brighter array of red fruits, showing clear ability to age gracefully. Lesson learned … don’t underestimate Napa Valley.

Thanks to Napa Valley Vintners, Emma Wellings PR and 67 Pall Mall for putting on a flawless event. Wineries present were Barnett Vineyards, Favia, Herb Lamb Vineyards, Inglenook, Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, Newton Vineyards, Pine Ridge Vineyards, Rombauer Vineyards, S. R. Tonella Cellars, The Hess Collection, TOR Tierra Roja Vineyard, Cain Vineyard, Corison Winery, Darioush, Long Meadow Ranch, Shafer Vineyards, Silverado Vineyards and Trefethen Family Vineyards.

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