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Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living. - Robert Mondavi

Groth Winery - A precious pink stop on your way to Oakville Grocery

Friday, May 20, 2011

What’s big, pink and proud with a double G logo and a reputation for big, delicious Cabs? That’d be Groth Winery, which I finally paid a visit to this April after a year of driving past the tree-lined entrance, filled with intrigue. Groth Winery is located on Oakville Cross Road, that sneaky little road that that cuts across Napa Valley from the Silverado Trail to the St. Helena Highway, dropping you off right near the famed Oakville Grocery- always a welcome destination.

We arrived at Groth in the afternoon of a warm spring day for a tasting appointment (tours are also available at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm only). The architecture of the winery immediately drew me in with its pink-hued Spanish mission style, tall domed tower, steps leading to a bubbling fountain before the wooden doors at the entrance and classic terra cotta roofing. Despite the grandiose appearance, the inside of the winery makes you feel at home (albeit in a very grand home) with a warm bright yellow wall, fireplace and wood table, warm boldly-hued art, and a friendly staff that enjoys pouring and sharing information about the wines and the Groth family and their winemaking practices and values.

Groth Winery is owned by Judy and Dennis Groth, both natives of the Santa Clara Valley who’d been married for twenty years when they purchased the property in 1981. Dennis was one of the key architects that built Atari, a consumer electronic company, into a 2 billion dollar company in Silicon Valley. When Atari sold in 1984, Dennis, Judy, and their three children moved from San Jose to the Napa Valley and home became the winery built on the Oakville ranch. Groth's first vintages of Cab Sauvignons put them on the map; their 1985 vintage of the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon received the distinction of California's first 100 point wine from Robert Parker! Despite the acclaim, the family chose to remain very involved in the winery, taking efforts to continually evolve the wine. Groth’s famed Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon comes from a special location in the vineyard, receives special handling and is harvested, fermented, and aged separately from the rest of their Cabernet lot. After 1999 when the Reserve section was replanted, the family committed to test the Reserve Wine to ensure quality and did not produce another Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon until 2005 when the newly replanted vineyard matured to produce fruit of Groth’s deemed Reserve quality!

From its inception, Groth winery has been family owned and operated (the two G’s in it’s logo come from the two generations of Groths who now work the winery) and produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay from Napa Valley's Oakville AVA. In special years, Groth makes the Reserve bottling of Cabernet from a small lot in the 121 acre Oakville Estate. Groth also has 44 acres of Hillview Vineyard south of the winery, a prime source for the Winery's Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

We opted to enjoy the reserve tasting outside on a terrace overlooking a beautiful grass courtyard surrounded by pillars draped with fragrant purple wisteria vines. Our wine educator was eccentric but entertaining and (with a few reminders,) eventually poured us tastings of the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet and Reserve Cabernet throughout the course of a sun-drenched hour. The tasting was relaxed as we were while enjoying the well-balanced wines at our own non-plussed pace. Groth’s location off the main Napa highways makes it a nice place to go to escape the masses - and if you stop at Oakville Grocery first you can bring snacks to enjoy on the patio with your tasting!

Tasting notes below:

2008 Chardonnay: This Chardonnay has light layers of fruitiness and isn’t overpowered by oak due to the long, cool fermentation in a mixture of old and new barrels. There is a complexity to this wine and it has toastiness and creaminess melded together harmoniously to create a balanced wine that is both lively and rich in aroma and flavor.

2010 Sauvignon Blanc: This light colored wine first hits you with lush, juicy honeydew melon but has a nice citrus character in the aroma and in the flavor that lends a solid, crisp backbone. It’s a lively wine that’s lush and crisp at the same time - perfect for a warm afternoon.

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon: Big and velvety as you’d expect in an Oakville Napa Cab with big bold stone fruit in the aroma and flavor. The texture of the wine is a soft and supple yet sultry smooth blend of cherries, cocoa and rum raisins.

2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: The 2007 Reserve Cabernet has black stone fruit and berry nuances from plum to blackberry with some soft spice hints and fragrant violet notes. There is bitter chocolate tannins which lend well for aging - not ready to enjoy quite yet.

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