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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

Tasting In the Dark - Vintner's Collective at Tout Suite Social Club

Friday, August 9, 2013

I was honored to recently be part of the August monthly tasting panel for Tout Suite’s Tasting In the Dark series. On the first Monday of every month, a talented local wine merchant selects a special flight of 6 wines, sometimes themed, sometimes not (past merchants have included Oxbow Market, Dean and Deluca, St. Helena Wine Center, etc.). The Tasting Panel participants (typically three total) have 15 minutes to evaluate the wines blindly as the cyber audience views and can participate via livestream. Wines are swirled, chewed, smelled, and rated by the panelists. By the end of the 15 minutes, the panelists deduce a score for each wine based on aroma, appearance, taste, finish, and overall drinkability.  While the panel makes their deliberations, host Matthew Simpson comments on the personality and style of the panelists in attempts to derail their concentration, while concurrently interviewing the wine merchant of the month.
This month’s August tasting, featured Garret Murphy of Vintner's Collective. Sommelier Woody Van Horn of Bouchon (formerly Goose and Gander) was a featured panelist. To make things even more interesting, the third panelist was replaced at the very last minute by my own husband, Garrett! As the guest "civilian panelist", this made for great entertainment value and provided an interesting juxtaposition in style and wine preference. The archived footage from the archived event can be viewed here.  

The Vintner’s Collective a multi-winery tasting room for twenty of the most experienced and talented winemakers in the Valley. Garret’s dream was to create a place where wine lovers could taste the wines of some of the best winemakers in Napa Valley, and where smaller wineries without their own tasting room could showcase their wines and introduce them to consumers.  If you are visiting downtown Napa, I highly recommend you pay a visit to the Vintner’s Collective in the landmark Pfeiffer building between the hours of 11 am and 6 pm.   
Garret selected the new Coombsville AVA as the “theme” he revealed after the wines were unmasked.  The only exception was a "ringer"produced in Bennett Valley, Sonoma - the Flanagan from Philppe Melka.  Following the blind tasting, the scores were tallied for each wine, and Garret Murphy’s own Las Bonita’s Grey label Cabernet earned the top score.  The small production wine’s first 2 releases were such a popular success that Las Bonitas was able to increase its production for the 2010 vintage. While Garret is the proprietor of Las Bonitas, the wine is crafted by the renowned Rolando Herrera, of Mi Sueno winery.  Herrera sources pristine fruit entirely from the newly recognized Coombsville AVA, southeast of downtown Napa and coaxes it to elegantly express the characteristics of anise, black fruit and coffee.
Below the 6 wines are listed in the order in which we tasted them with their rankings noted:

1) Richard Perry 2010 Syrah $40 RATED: #3
Blackberry, truffle and white pepper aromas combine with the nuances of leather and red licorice. The aromas echo on the palate framed by deep dark chocolate, brambly blackberry fruit and spicy tannins. The wine is lushly textured, round and soft with the underlying structure to continue to develop beautifully in the bottle.
2) Las Bonitas Cabernet Sauvignon 2010  $65 RATED: #1 (only 220 cases produced!)
This deep purple wine is packed with blackberry jam, classic aromas of earthiness, coffee ground and dried sage. Coupled with beautifully integrated tannins, this wine has a velvety mouth-feel with a complex and lingering finish. Well-structured, the finish persists revealing lightly toasted oak, spice and natural acidity.

3) Flanagan Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 $90  (Bennet Valley) RATED: #4 (only 363 cases produced)
This wine displays the classic Flanagan profile of red and black fruits, warm rock, and mocha. The texture of this Cabernet is elegant and reflective of both Sonoma’s cooler climate and 100% new French Oak.

4) Long Fellow Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $60 RATED: #6
Dark and elegant, this wine is a  great classic expression of the newly minted AVA of Coombsville.  Brimming with ripe blackberry, huckleberry, black licorice, and black plum. Approachable young, but definitely age worthy.

5) Mi Sueno El Llano Proprietary Red Wine 70% Cabernet  30% Syrah  $40 RATED: #2
The smell of white pepper is accompanied with dried berries, black olives, roasted coffee beans and vanilla extract. Velvety tannins with balanced acidity makes for a food-friendly and versatile big red wine. It's mouth coating richness and spicy flavors will enliven your palate!

6) Tournesol Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 $75.00 RATED: #5
Delicate aromas of lavender, cinnamon and cedar sit atop the bolder notes of cassis, blackberry, plum, currants and raspberry. The palate is firm, concentrated and compact

exhibiting power and structure and even some flinty minerality.  A muscular wine you can enjoy now, or age for another 5-20 years.


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