As we head towards America’s national day of Independence, July 4th, it seems highly appropriate to shine a light on the brilliant wines that emanate from California. David, himself enjoyed many happy months working at Sequoia Grove winery in the Napa Valley during the late 1980’s. The stories of wine excellence, hospitality and sheer wine excitement is much talked about.
A few interesting facts about the Napa Valley. Napa Valley is unequivocally one of the super-premium wine growing regions in the world. It is just five miles across at its widest point and 30 miles long with 18,000 hectares under vine, approximately 1/8th the size of Bordeaux. Although commercial vine planting in Napa is traced back to 1839. The winemakers that paved the way for much of this regions’ fame and notoriety were due to the visionary efforts of the late Robert Mondavi and Joe Heitz in the 1960’s with Robert Mondavi building his famous Oakville winery in 1966. Their energy, zeal and natural instinct for crafting great wines were legendary. In 2007 Napa Valley was the first wine producing outside of Europe to be recognised with a Geographic Indication by Europe.
Robert Mondavi created the category of Fumé Blanc and also co-founded Opus One with Baron Philippe de Rothschild in 1978 of Château Mouton Rothschild. Whelehans Wines link to Opus One is tenuous but one that the company is proud of. When Bob Mondavi flew to Europe to meet the Baron, he first stopped off in Dublin to Catch up with ‘T.P. Whelehan. In Dublin the Baron & T.P. worked their way through a number of vintages of Mouton Rothschild in le Coq Hardi. The following day they flew to Bordeaux and the deal was done. Opus One became a reality, a reality that continues to go from strength to strength.
The Paris judgement in 1976, the famous competition where Steven Spurrier founder of Académie du Vin presided over a wine competition where the best of California wines triumphed over the best of French wines and caused a huge international stir and catapulted some really extraordinary Californinan wine producers onto the world wine making stage. A movie was even made about this tasting and well worth a look at, ‘Bottle Shock’.
Whelehans Wines tenuous link to this piece of wine history was that Steven Spurrier came over to launch the Whelehans Wine School in 2018 and ran a similar type of tasting, lots of fun! Two of the real stand out producers from the Paris judgement were Château Montelena & Stags Leap Winery. Once again Whelehans Wines tenuous link with Stags Leap winery is that John Williams of Frogs Leap winery, that we directly ship from Napa, was the cellar hand of Warren Winiarski when he crafted the famous 1973 vintage.
Napa Valley is known for its premium Cabernet Sauvignons many of which can attract prices in excess of the first growths in Bordeaux wineries. In 2019, 64.6% of all red grapes harvested in the Napa Valley were Cabernet Sauvignon with an average price of $7,941 per ton the record so far, Napa County Agricultural Report 2019. The like of Screaming Eagle, Harlan…. Wineries that from their first releases attracted near perfect scores from Robert Parker.
Neighbouring Carneros is famed for its Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Our tip is also tune into the Movie Sideways and definitely plan a trip to Napa. This is a wonderful wine producing region geared up for the very best in wine hospitality.
We are big fans of Californian wines and directly import the wines of Frogs Leap and Failla. These wines are definitely in the super premium category and will elevate the 4th of July celebrations to a new high. Fingers crossed the sun will shine and the traditional barbequed delights will be the order of the day.
Our tips for the perfect food match with traditional barbequed foods are : The Frogs Leap Estate Cabernet Sauvignon should prove triumphant with a beautiful barbequed steak. The Failla Pinot Noir should be dreamy with barbequed chicken or pork. The Chardonnays of Failla will be sublime with most barbequed fish, chicken or simply on its own. One grape variety and wine style not to be overlooked and is always a big hit, very versatile and thrilling is the Zinfandel grape. For the ultimate Zinfandel experience we must direct you to the wines of Ridge Vineyards in Santa Cruz, California always memorable.
Frog’s Leap Chardonnay 2018 - €35
Frog’s Leap is one of the legendary Napa Valley wineries. Here under the careful stewardship of John Williams some of the most exciting wines of the valley are crafted. Serious wine presented with a warm sense of humour subtly sums up the wines of this winery were terroir and elegance are king. This wine offers a unique combination of barrel fermentation followed by extended “sur lie” aging in concrete vats.
John Williams take on this wine : “Balanced, restrained style that is our signature. Held for less than 5 days in new French oak barrels, the wine is racked at the peak of its fermentation to concrete vessels, where it sits, untouched and sur lie, for up to 10 months. Grown in shale and aged in stone, our Chardonnay boasts incredible freshness and a distinct mineral edge that speaks directly to its origins.” Alc: 13.2%
Frog’s Leap Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 - €65
Serious wine presented with a warm sense of humour subtly sums up the wines of this winery were terroir and elegance are king. These are best in class and attract our top recommendation. John worked at Stags Leap when the 1973 vintage won the Paris Judgement! This is simply complex and connected dry-farmed, organically-grown Cabernet. Blackcurrant fruit, dense palate, and dusty aromas that are classic to a Rutherford Cabernet.
John Williams take on this wine: “A wine with all the hallmarks of the legendary Cabernets of Rutherford: deep, cassis-currant aromas, the classic notes of Rutherford Dust, earthen flavours of cedar and black olive and a velvety, plush mouthfeel.” A blend of 83% Cabernet sauvignon 9% Cabernet franc 8% Merlot with 20 months French oak. Alc: 13.8%
Frog’s Leap Merlot 2017 - €45
John Williams take on this wine. “We believe that our Merlot is another great ambassador of the Frog's Leap style; elegant, balanced and restrained” John Williams Winemaker. Grown in cool clay soils, this wine shows why some of the rarest wines in the world start with Merlot. With beautiful deep plum and red fruit aromas, a silky structure and long perfectly balanced flavours, the 2017 Merlot paired beautifully with a confit of duck served with wild rice at a recent gathering of friends.” Blend of 94% Merlot 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 19 months in French and American oak. Alc. 13.1%
Frog’s Leap Zinfandel 2018 - €35
A Zinfandel that draws its power from sophistication instead of raw alcohol content. John Williams take. “Made in the classic field blend style including significant portions of Petit Syrah and Carignan. Delightful aromas of summer-berry conserve combined with a touch of spice and fresh fruit flavours. The 2018 Zinfandel is one for the ages and we have already put extra stocks of it into our deep cellar. Tremendous aromatic intensity, yes, but it is the cool, calm and polished flavours that are getting us excited. Fine young—we just had it with chicken mole sauce for lunch—but it is the aging potential of this wine that is truly special.” 13 months in 50% American oak and 50% concrete cubes. Alc. 14.3%
For those who like thrilling Pinot Noir and Chardonnay we cannot recommend our direct import wines from Failla in the Sonoma Coast. Champions of champions and wines that will elevate any 4th of July celebrations.
“Failla is a reference point winery for the Sonoma Coast. This is as good as it gets.” Robert Parker.
Failla Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2018 - €45
Owned by Ehren Jordan and his wife Anne-Marie Failla the wines of this small but great estate attract very high ratings. “We’ll never be a massive winery because we’re esoteric in the sense that we make all these single vineyard wines” EJ.
This Chardonnay is unfined, unfiltered, native yeast. Simply sublime cool climate Chardonnay for the purist. Ehren’s take on the wine “with is spine of sappy brightness and crystalline salinity, this wine displays all the dense, bright and savoury appeal of the Sonoma coast. At once textural and filigreed, this is a laser-focused expression showing citrus, coastal bay and textural depth to carry the mid-palate to a refreshing finish.” Alc: 13.7% with 10% new French oak
Failla Platt Vineyard Chardonnay 2017 - €65
“…….medium bodied, racy, vibrant Chardonnay that has good concentration and depth as well as length. This is classic Sonoma Coast Chardonnay Jeb Dunnuck 94 points (Outstanding). Ehren’s take on this wine “The 2017 vintage gave us healthy fruit with nuance and finesse. Rich minerality and high texture begin a journey to electric influences of white peach citrus and pear.” Alc: 13.1%
Failla Lola Pinot Noir 2017 - €59
Rated ‘Outstanding’ 92 Points Wine Spectator 31st August 2019. Only 512 cases made. Ehren’s take on this wine “…..vibrant dried cherry and savoury herbal flavours, supported by fresh acidity and medium-grained tannins. Crunchy minerality emerges on the precise finish, revealing hints of smoked paprika. Drink now and through 2023”. Alc: 13.2%
We are particularly proud of the wines of Frogs Leap and Failla shipping them directly from California. We also are delighted to offer the wines of Sequoia Grove Vineyards, Grgich, Ridge, Duckhorn, Martini. We of course have the legendary Opus one!
Happy 4th of July from us all.