Intoxicate Diary Day 5 : Fleury and RustRidge
"What -- a rainy day?" This was our first, disappointed question when we walked out of the hotel, because we expected that heavy rain would make our tour not that fun. Still, we got into Grandfather's car and started making our way to the famous Napa Valley.
The Napa Valley AVA is located in Napa County, which is only an hour's drive north of San Francisco. Considered one of the top wine regions not only in the U.S. but throughout the world, the region is conducive to growing quality wine grapes, and has become a very popular California tourist destination.
While the area is generally defined by a Mediterranean climate, there are actually 16 different sub-appellations within Napa, each with distinct weather and geographical influences. For example, the southern side is cooler during the growing season while the northern area tends to get much warmer.
Before heading to meet our winery partners that day, Grandfather had arranged some other visits along the way. First, we stopped for a cup of coffee at the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa, where we saw many Food and Beverage shops and outlets that were good references for future CV locations. Here, we also met one of CV's advisors, Ned Trippe, who is a very friendly person and had worked with us in setting up our Napa Technology WineStation systems. Ned then led us on a visit to a winery called Conn Creek, where we were about to have a very special experience.
Conn Creek was founded in the early 1970's, as part of a small group of wineries that led a renaissance in Napa Valley playing an important part in establishing its reputation as a fine wine growing region. There, we joined a tasting tour in their AVA room to blend our own wine. We learned about the concept known as "terroir" which is the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the production. The room held 16 barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon samples, each from a different sub-AVA with different soil types, climates, and topography. This allowed us to really get a sense of just what "terroir" means!
After an introduction, we started to combine different Cabernet Sauvignon samples in order to find the right blend. After a while, we found what we wanted, then started to bottle the wine, using a simple machine to insert the cork.
Our own creation "Sweet Lip" and "Purple Teeth". Nice drawing, isn't it?
After our Conn Creek educational tour, we headed to our first winery partner for the day: Fleury Estate Winery. Located in Rutherford in Napa, just a short distance from Conn Creek, they own 50 acres spanning three vineyards, in three different appellations (Rutherford, St. Helena and Howell Mountain) and at three different elevations.
Fleury Estate Winery
When we arrived outside the winery, we saw a HUGE wine barrel and were told by Grandfather that it was actually an elegant restroom designed by Claudia Fleury. When we entered the main building, we were shocked. Here we discovered a very cool and playful combination of an aging room, tasting area and retail outlet.
We were greeted by Brian Fleury, who owns Fleury along with his wife Claudia. Brian is a self-taught winemaker who learned his craft by hiring various mentors and working alongside them.
Fleury has some of the most beautifully-designed wine bottles I've ever seen, especially their "F in Red" which is one of the super-premium wines we carry at CV. The bottle is wrapped with many different font versions of the letter "F", which looks very cool! Brian showed us a double magnum size of the bottle, and it was the biggest and nicest wine bottle I've even seen!
Brian then introduced us to several of their wonderful wines from different vintages, pouring for us in their uniquely-designed tasting room, which had cushioned seats under an old parachute tent. We also met Claudia Fleury, who was amazingly friendly, and they both shared many stories about their winery and wine making, along with many laughs along the way. It was a very entertaining experience and, like so many happy times, went all too fast. After finishing our tasting, we took some photos and then headed on our way to our second winery visit for the day: RustRidge Ranch & Winery
RustRidge Ranch & Winery
RustRidge is located in the Chiles Valley region of Napa, about a 20 minute drive from Fleury. Along the road from the valley floor, we passed Lake Hennessey and began to ascend into the hills and away from the stretch of vineyards below.
When we exited the car, we were greeted by a few cute and lovely big cats outside RustRidge's Bed & Breakfast located on the ranch property. Both of us are also cat owners, but we had never seen big friendly ones like this before. But just like our little kittens, they curled up on our feet.
Grandfather led us up a road toward the winery, and close by, we saw a big ranch with some horses. This is my first time to see a real horse, and I really wanted to hug them but they were standing quite far. On the road, we met three winery dogs, who were also quite big :), followed by two friendly smiling faces: Jim Fresquez and Susan Meyer.
After the friendly introduction, Jim led us to the vineyard. Oh my God! -- it is incredibly full with bright yellow flowers lit up by a totally blue sky. What a great picture this would be!
Jim brought us to the center of the vineyard and showed us their Zinfandel vines. After a few questions about pruning, Jim gave us a chance to learn even more by trying to prune a whole vine ourselves. That was really cool! We used some of the techniques we had learned from Ann (Yorba), and then Jim also taught us how to recognize which bud should stay and which should go. Thanks for the lesson :)!
One of the other things we learned about the RustRidge vineyard is that, due to the high elevation and cool night time temperatures, their bud-break is delayed from the rest of Napa by about 2-3 weeks. Their harvest also occurs later than most other areas.
We then went to their tasting room to sample some wines. There, we found another cute cat trying to get our attention and, as a skillful cat owner, Shin easily caught it and took its photo.
After the tasting, Jim brought us to their B&B, which is done in a gracious southwestern ranch style and decorated with many beautiful antiques.
We toured around it and took some photos before we needed to head back to San Francisco before it got too late.
On the way back down to the valley floor, we captured a fantastic view of the lake during sunset.
Tasting Notes in this tour
Rich, Creamy buttery aroma. Offering a tropical pineapple and butter flavor on palate
2009 Pinot Noir Carneros Napa (100 cases)
Aromas of mixed red fruit, earthy and savory
Taste of mushroom, earthy on palate. Very good finishing with sweet spicy
2008 Cab/Zin Blend (50% CAB 50% Zin)
Very good cassis, oaky, smoky aromas
Palate offers black currant, plum, baked black fruit flavors up front with anise, licorice lurking in the back
Long finish with baked oaky flavors and good tannin
2009 F in Red (Merlot based, CAB, CAB Franc) (Same clone as used in Petrus)
Elegant style. Dark and rich but soft, silky wine
Soft oaky Merlot based wine. Very long finish
Lucky 8 2009/ Deuxieme (Cab, Syrah, PS, PV)
Baked, smoky, cassis, black currant aromas
Complex wine with baked black fruit, oaky on palate
CAB Merlot 2007 Napa (500 Cases) (85-90)
Sweet baked cassis aroma. Full bodied, a wine which shows the terrior of Napa
2008 Rocket Juice. (Syrah+PS)
Deep purple color. Baked sweet blueberry, cassis aromas
2008 Passionne (50Cab+50Bordeaux Blend)
Aromas of plum, floral and cassis
Beautiful, elegant and focused. Ready to drink, but can develop after 5-10 years of aging
2008 BDX Howell Mt (Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv)
Sweet and spicy plum ad floral aromas; elegant wine
Light-med intensity; silky on structure
2006 CAB (3 yrs oak) (fewer than 500 cases)
Soft, sweet baked oaky, cherry and plum aromas.
Sweet and spicy; med acidity; light-med bodied style
2007 CAB (fewer than 475 cases)
Pronounced aromas of plum and cassis; sweet, baked, oaky
Med bodied, very muscular; rich tannin and long finish
2008 CAB (fewer than 650 cases)
Black currant , black fruit, plum aromas
Fruit-driven style, baked sweet black fruit carried. Ready to drink but will improve after 3-5 years aging
2007 Petite Sirah Napa (fewer than 180 cases)
Fruit forward style; oaky, blueberry aromas; baked blueberry; jammy; very good for food pairing