Memory Lane and the Oakville Grocery

Historic Oakville Grocery in Napa Valley wine country
Oakville Grocery reopens May 22nd!

You may have seen the news that the historic Oakville Grocery building, newly renovated, will be re-opening tomorrow.  I couldn’t help but smile at the news, as it brought back memories of my entry into the wine business.

Just across the street from the store, just about where the photo at left was taken, you’ll find the Cellar Door tasting room for participating producers from Napa Wine Company.  I worked there on weekends, under the patient and jovial tutelage of Andy Gridley (now of Gridley Family Cellars).  I spent my weeks working at Charles Schwab’s headquarters, and my weekends in Napa.  I stayed in the guest room of friends in St. Helena, and we spent my few non-working hours enjoying the many sites, sounds and tastes of the valley in the summer time.

Right around noon at the tasting room, Andy would say “I’ll buy if you fly”, and I’d venture out to forage for food at one of the small handful of nearby options.  Oakville Grocery was a favorite spot, full of hand-selected gourmet items targeted to tourists without budget restraints.  They also had a corner on the valley’s beautiful people, who seemed to rotate through their staff with regularity, and all of whom were surprisingly friendly, given the crush of people one encountered during peak hours.

I can’t wait to get to Napa soon, to see what the renovations have meant for this old icon.  Add it to your list as well, for your next trip to Napa wine country.  (and for help with your trip planning, check out the iPhone app – NapaWineries)

June 2010 “Grand Cru Selections” Wine Notes

Increasing connectivity.  The richness of online media.  And your positive feedback.  All tell me it’s time for an electronic archive of my wine club notes.

Members who used to receive dead tree versions of my notes can now access them whenever you need answers to questions such as:

Q: “What’s the deal with that wine you featured in our club months ago?  We hid it under our bed and forgot about it.  Now we need to know what it cost, what to serve it with, and how to get more of it!”

A: Easy.  From my homepage (www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com), click the “Blog” link and select the category “wine”.  Then use the search box (look!  I’ts hanging out up there in the top left corner right now!) to find the wine you’re after.   Just type the vintage and the producer and you should find what you’re after (ex. “2006 Arcadian”).

Q: “I keep a notebook with all your notes and recipes from each shipment, but I can’t find the ones that go with (this wine). Before I pull the cork, what should I pair with it?  Is there an easy recipe for it?”

A: Another easy one!  From my homepage, click the “Recipe” link and use the search box to find my recommended pairing.

Q: I just found these great _(insert seasonal ingredient here!) at the farmer’s market!  What can I make with them and what wine should I pair with it?

A: Same as above – go to my recipe blog and use the search box to type in your ingredient, or the season, or just about anything you can think of.  Go ahead – give it a try!

Do you like this new format?  Hate it??  Please weigh in with your comments, below!

Cheers!
Dave
www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com

866-746-7293

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Summary of “Grand Cru” Selections

for June, 2010

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  1. Tournesol, 2004 Napa Valley Estate Bordeaux Blend.  $45 (member price starts at $40.50) Buy it/Rate it Here
  2. Chateau de la Font du Loup, 2004 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Puy Rolland $49 (member price starts at $44.10)  Buy it/Rate it Here
  3. 2006 Rene Lequin-Colin, Chassagne-Montrachet, 1er Cru Cailleret $46 (member price starts at $41.40)  Buy it/Rate it Here

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1 0f 3) Tournesol, 2004 Napa Valley Estate Bordeaux Blend

$45 (member price starts at $40.50) Buy it/Rate it Here

In French, Tournasol is the name for this winery’s iconic logo – the Sunflower.  The literal translation is “To the Sun“, after the flower’s ability to face the sun throughout the day as it moves across the sky.

2004 marked the debut of this winery.  Subsequent vintages of Tournesol’s Bordeaux Blend are selling at $60, despite the most depressed market Napa has seen in a long time.  So when they approached me with a special price on their debut vintage – at 300 cases, on that was too small for their sales channel – I jumped at the chance to introduce it to you at this lower price.  This is a well-made wine that will appeal to new-world wine lovers.

Tasting Notes – Ruby red, with leading aromas one can follow reliably down the path towards Bordeaux Blends from Napa.  Black fruits, a hint of flinty steel, black olives, dried herbs and warm, smoky leather and sweet oak spice.  A most interesting flutter of milk chocolate on the finish.

Fruit from the estate vineyard was fermented separately, by varietal.  Barrels from a wide number of forests and coopers were used, where some of the varietals lived for as long as 20 months – one sip tells you the winemaker (Ken Bernards, of Ancien fame) spared no expense on the oak regimen. Each barrel was kept as a separate lot, then blending trials began in late 2006. Over the course of that first year, the staff at Tournesol developed this wine, defining the style that has become their signature wine.
  • Grape Source: 100% Tournesol Estate Vineyards
  • Appellation: Napa Valley, in the eastern foothills south of Atlas Peak
  • Winemaking: Certified Organic Winery
  • Production: <300 cases

Tournesol, 2004 Napa Valley Estate Bordeaux Blend

$45 (member price starts at $40.50) Buy it/Rate it Here

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2 of 3) Chateau de la Font du Loup, 2004 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Puy Rolland

$49 (member price starts at $44.10) Buy it/Rate it Here

A unique wine from Chateauneuf-du-Pape –100% Grenache!
The Wine
Grenache has always taken the leading role in the 13-grape blend that defines these “Kings of the Rhone”. But this is the first C-d-P I’ve tasted where the wine was 100% Grenache. And I like it! But then, what’s not to like when the grapes come from “Le Puy Rolland” – a vineyard planted 90 years ago!?

Look for the noted “flavors of the pebbles” (photo, left) which marks wines from this region. The Chateau’s vineyards also have some alluvial soil mixed with their stones, though both are glacial vestiges.  

Made from vines that are 80-100 years old, the grapes for this wine are grown on a single parcel of land. Richly structured black fruits, lively game and earth notes, and deep, dark and smoky fruit on the long finish – reminds me of berry pies baked in a dutch oven over a camp fire.

This estate is now in its fourth generation of descendants of Great Grandpa Jean-Roch Melia, who founded it in the first half of the 1900’s.  The current caretakers – Anne Charlotte Melia and her husband Laurent are working to elevate the label to the top tier of C-d-P wines.  The name of the estate – La Font du Loup, or “the fountain of the wolves” – comes from a natural spring on the property which has sated the thirst of Mount Ventoux wolves ever since memory began.

Map of Southern RhoneThe Region

The term “Chateauneuf-du-Pape” roughly translates as “The Pope’s new Castle“, a term referring to a 70-year period of history when the Papal residency was moved to Avignon. The Popes who sat on French soil were big wine lovers, but at first their wine came from Burgundy, as the Rhone wines of Avignon were far inferior.

They did, however, do much to promote better varietal selection and vineyard/wine-making practices.  During the installment ceremony of the second Avignon pope (John the 22nd) records indicate that wines of the Northern Rhone were served at the Pope’s palace.  To gain such a prestigious and noteworthy imbiber was sufficient for the proud locals to coin the phrase “Vin du Pape” (wine of the Pope), the basis from which the current name evolved.

For wine lovers and history buffs, a visit to the Rhone valley lives with you the rest of your life.  From the antiquities of Roman Ruins – the Pont du Gard perhaps the most famous – to Van Gough’s final years, Nostradamus’ birth place, and even the sights and smells of the lavender fields, this is a place that warms its way into your soul and refuses to leave.

Chateau de la Font du Loup, 2004 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Puy Rolland

$49 (member price starts at $44.10) Buy it/Rate it Here

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3 of 3) Rene Lequin-Colin, 2006 Chassagne-Montrachet, 1er Cru Cailleret

$46 (member price starts at $41.40) Buy it/Rate it Here

The Lequin family’s roots intertwine with Burgundy’s vines all the way back to 1679.  When René Lequin married Josette Colin – from another well-established wine making family, they created Lequin-Colin to craft wine from their 22.5 acres of vineyards scattered across some of Burgundy’s best-known areas – Santenay, Chassagne-Montrachet, Pommard, and Nuits Saint Georges.

The Lequin-Colin winemaking tradition has now passed on to the second generation, as son François has joined the winemaking team (in center of photo, left).

Unlike Chablis’ old tradition of eschewing oak on its Chardonnay, the white wines from the rest of Burgundy are not quite as naked.  But these wines are still rather scantily clad relative to their new world counterparts, with just 25% – 30% of the barrels being new each year – a winemaking decision that allows the fruit to dominate this wine’s experience.  The grapes are crushed and pumped directly into barrels, where they ferment slowly at cool temperatures.

The barrels are stirred weekly (a process called batonage) throughout the winter.  The first racking occurs in the Spring, with some of the spent yeast cells remaining with the wine until the second racking at the end of July, in preparation for bottling at the end of August.  The bottles wine then rests for six months prior to release.

Rene Lequin-Colin, 2006 Chassagne-Montrachet, 1er Cru Cailleret

$46 (member price starts at $41.40) Buy it/Rate it Here

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Cheers!
Dave
www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com