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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

Round Pond - Your best destination for dusty Cabs, crisp Sauv Blancs, and fresh pressed Olive Oil

Sunday, December 9, 2012
Sometimes you’re on a mission to find the best Cabernet in Napa.  Other times you’re looking for a cult winery that’s ultra exclusive and off the beaten path.  You may want something as specific as a deep dive into winemaking or just purely a winery to romance your date.  When you’re looking for a winery experience that’s guaranteed to appeal to everyone in your group, high tail it  to Round Pond.  Located in the heart of Rutherford, you’ll encounter a long, palm-tree lined driveway leading towards the beautiful Estate Winery ensconced in gardens and olive groves.  In addition to being the perfect home for their small-lot winemaking, Round Pond provides the perfect setting for groups to share the excellent wines in a comfortable and aesthetically soothing environment. With a lovely second story tasting lounge and a covered terrace offering panoramic views of the vineyards and the Mayacamas Mountains, this winery makes an ideal destination for a leisurely afternoon tasting experience.  You can even stop by Round Pond after a day of touring Napa and enjoy their sunset tastings offered on the terrace from 6pm - 8pm.

Round Pond is also known for their fresh-pressed olive oil and organic gardens that guests can enjoy on property.  There are several options to chose from - the Il Pranzo Lunch, which offers guests a chance to tour the gardens and then savor local artisan cheeses, meats, breads and other delectable accoutrement, as well as the garden’s freshest fruits and vegetables on the terrace overlooking the valley.  Topped off with dessert prepared by the in-house winery chef, this may just be the ideal Napa Valley picnic to keep your energy up between a packed Napa wine tasting trip.  For those visitors who are not partial to winetasting, the Olive Mill or Garden Tour is the quintessential non-traditional tasting experience fit for foodies, offering  a sensory exploration of Round Pond’s handcrafted olive oils and red wine vinegars. You’ll learn everything you never knew about olive cultivation and production at their estate mill before immersing yourself in a guided tasting of the estate’s fresh oils and red wine vinegar blends. A delightful selection of gourmet bread, cheese and fresh organic produce accompanies this tasting - what’s not to love?

Round Pond’s wine making modus operandi is simply to “remain true to time-honored traditions and strive to bring you the best wines the Napa Valley has to offer”.  Round Pond makes 3 labels of wines: the Reserve Wines, the Estate Wines, and the Napa Valley Wines.  The Reserve Wines are named in honor of Jannine Bovet (current owners, Ryan and Miles’ mother) and her grandfather, Louis Bovet, and these wines were inspired by an old wooden stamp marked “Chateau Bovet” for the wine Louis made in his home in the 1920’s. Louis' vineyard, and the Chateau Bovet wines, mark the beginning of The Mac Donnell family’s growing and winemaking history in California.  We tasted the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet and they really showcase how expressive certain blocks in the Round Pond vineyard can be.  Made from the best lots of the winery, these wines are complex and layered and have wonderful finesse and balance.  My tasting notes follow.

The Estate Wines were released in 2005 and the flagship Cabernet Sauvignon received much praise. These terroir-inspired wines embody the essence of the soil that they are grown in -my favorite of the wines we tasted was the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, a rich, seductive Cabernet reflects its Rutherford origins displaying dusty baked earth notes (Rutherford dust), sweet spices, layered with bright red cherry and plum sauce.  These lots are hand-harvested in the cool early morning, then hand-sorted in the vineyard before a second hand-sorting at the winery. Individual lots from specific vineyard blocks are fermented and aged separately to allow for the broadest range of flavors at blending.  State-of-the-art insulated fermenters ensure consistent temperatures and the 2005 Cab was aged 20 months in 90 percent new French oak, prior to receiving extended aging time in the bottle.  This wine is a beautiful embodiment of great structure, a solid acid backbone and refined tannins.

The Napa Valley Wines have a different label (a rustic vintage tractor which I love) and are made from fruit outside the estate.  The wines include some of the Rutherford home vineyard wine lots, with the addition of carefully selected wines from neighboring appellations.  This label’s Cabernet reflects multiple characteristics of Napa Valley’s famous appellations with fruit focused wine that are approachable in youth (and a more affordable price tag as well).

The experience at Round Pond is high touch and personalized yet approachable for groups and all levels of wine drinkers. As we arrived at the winery, a concierge noted our reservation and walked us upstairs to the terrace where we were introduced to a personal guide and given a selection of comfortable seating vignettes overlooking the winery.  Our guide walked us through our tasting at a leisurely pace - it felt personal and comfortable and he was warm and open to answering all of my questions, both technical and sentimental.  (i.e. where the name Round Pond came from).  We chatted with him while sampling perfectly paired appetizers cooked for us to accompany the wine selection by the on-site chef, and I was overcome by the beauty of the surrounding mountains, palm trees and acres and acres of vineyards that surrounded us.  There are not may tasting rooms or terraces in Napa that offer you an open-air 360 degree view of endless vineyards and it really is spectacular.  I adore this winery because it embodies the love that the Mac Donnell family has for this special appellation, Rutherford, which I too fell in love with and will always hold dear to my heart having been married at Auberge, Rutherford the previous year. Round Pond is a place that truly cares about the land is cultivates. It celebrates the land while creating an environment that is approachable for guests yet rarefied in its simple elegance and natural beauty.  And for the record, here’s the story behind the winery name. As a child, founder Bob MacDonnell spent many summers relaxing and camping by the water near Lake Frederick in West Point, New York, named Round Pond.  This source of his happy youthful memories became the inspiration for the MacDonnell family’s Napa Valley home. which they envisioned as a natural and serene retreat and even built a man-made Round Pond for their children. Clearly, this is a family that cherishes tradition and they have done a beautiful job of lovingly cultivating the land using sustainable methods to ensure its integrity for generations to come.

My tasting notes below:

2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: $95.00 per bottle
The aromatics on the 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon are a perfect representation of the vintage, with a heady perfume of black forest cake, tobacco leaf and prosciutto as well as accents of cedar and allspice. Complex and layered, big, chewy and dense, the dark fruit profile of this wine has surprising finesse and balanced acidity. The palate displays flavors of Bakers chocolate, espresso and candied cherries complimented by just a touch of vanilla.

2009 Estate Cabernet: $70 per bottle
This bright, balanced wine has vibrant red fruit notes of bing cherry, tart plum and dried cranberry while displaying it’s origins with Rutherford dust notes of baked earth and hints of baking spice and vanilla.  This wine has an appealing balance and smooth tannins that make it easy to drink now or cellar for a few more years.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon: $30 per bottle
This wine is ideal for weekday meals, notes of cherry cola and baked dark fruit complemented by savory yet subtle sage, cloves, and dried lavender. The bouquet prepares the palate for a complex marriage of fruits, warm herbs and spices, and plush velvety tannins, while maintaining nice balance and acidity.

2011 Sauvignon Blanc: $42 per bottle
This aromatic white has notes of fresh white peach with hints of lemon and honeydew adding depth to the bouquet. Top notes of toasted coconut and cut herbs give it depth and body while a refreshing amount of acid allowing the wine to finish in a zesty fashion. The reserve wine is fermented in 100% French oak and is aged sur lie for ten months, enabling the wine to show best when at cellar temperature rather than over-chilled.

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