A swing by Napa Valley

Since I’m out on the West Coast visiting family, I thought it would be nice to take a short trip over to Napa to do a bit of compare and contrast with European wines.

First stop was Darioush Winery. A rather OTT sight greets you as you turn off into the driveway. A forest of Persian columns topped by two headed horses leads the way to the entrance. The interior is all cool marble and glass dominated by a large square tasting area. Darioush is known for their shiraz but I was more impressed by their 2007 Signature Viognier. The grapes were all sourced from the Oak Knoll appellation which has a reputation for cooler temperatures and higher humidity then the rest of Napa Valley which preserves the aromatic components of the grapes. A perfect showcase for the aromatic viognier grape.

A swirl of honeysuckle, jasmine, white peach and cantalope leap from the glass and greet your nose first off. I could have sniffed this wine all day long, it was so pleasingly divine. That nose leads off into a mouthful of succulent, juicy white peaches and cantalope with hints of green apple and a citrus finish, nicely balanced acidity leaves you wanting another sip. I bought a bottle of this one to take home with me.
Another winery that I really enjoyed was the Artesa Winery in Carneros The winery is situated on a hilltop and has various pieces of sculpture scattered around the grounds.
Artesa is a subdivision of Codorniu but since 1999 they have specialized in red wines. They did have a fume blanc but I’m not a big fan of oaked S. Blanc.
Artesa is producing a limited release of that Loire classic, Cabernet Franc. The grapes are from the mountainsides of Alexander Valley which has rocky soils and gets plenty of sun. The grapes were hand-harvested and no detail was overlooked in the winemaking process.
We sampled the 2005 Cabernet Franc Limited Release. A juicy nose of raspberry and cassis mingled with cloves and spice on the nose. On the palate, it was rich and dense yet fruity with lots of smooth tannins, a slightly smoky, spicy berry delight. A lovely elegant version of cabernet franc.

The last wine we tried was their 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. California is known for their cabs so I had to give it a go. These grapes also got lots of extra special attention both in the vineyard and during the winemaking process.

It was a beautiful California Cab. with plenty of bouncy raspberry, cassis and blackberry fruit. It was well made with none of the jamminess that is too often a hallmark of California wines. The oak was well integrated with aromas and flavors of nutmeg, vanilla and chocolate. The wine wasn’t flat or flabby either with a good sense of acidity and smooth tannins. I found the finish to be more fruity goodness with a dash of chocolate to round things off. The host told us that this wine could age for another 10 years but I think it’s plenty ready to drink now.

All in all, some fabulous finds out there on the California wine trail.
Darioush 2007 Signature Viognier (rrp $39US)
Artesa Cabernet Franc Limited Release (rrp $40)
Artesa Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (rrp $40)
All available on-line


  1. Sounds like a good plan.

    We are getting there a couple of days early. One day drinking wine in San Francisco and a second day drinking it in Calaveras County.

  2. I think we have a day or two after that might work. We are heading down to Murphy to visit El Jefe at Twisted Oak before the WBC. What day are you coming in?

    • I’m not sure when I’m arriving but one thing I do know is that I’m not going to fly in the day before again! I was so jet lagged that I was in bed by 10 pm every night (LOSER) which is so unlike me, normally I’m a nightowl. Right now I’m thinking of coming in a week before and visiting the folks in Tahoe to get over the jet lag. How long are you guys planning on being in CA?

  3. Those all sound awesome! I may have to make a pilgrimage next time I am out that way.

    • You should take a couple of days before or after the WBC and hang out in Napa and definitely visit Darioush if only purely for the kitsch value!

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