The 2013 Harvest: Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley

“2013 was a phenomenal growing season in just about every way.  A warm, dry spring led to early bud break, limited canopy vigor and berry size, and created ideal conditions through bloom and fruit set. An abundance of long sunny days, with only one heat spike in early July, resulted in even ripening and an early harvest with exceptional flavor development. The 2013 vintage offers very high quality wines that are striking in their balance and expression.”

The above paragraph was taken from a mailer I received from Paul Hobbs Winery. Paul Hobbs is one of the most respected vintners in the valley, who also has projects outside of the U.S. In fact, Forbes magazine called him the “Steve Jobs of Winemaking.” With all that said, you can trust the descriptors he provides of the growing season in 2013 for cabernet.

Why should you care about that paragraph, and what does it mean to you? It means that most vineyards experienced a remarkably balanced growing season. It was one where the climate did not demand a great deal of intervention in the vineyard to provide an optimal crop. Bud break usually occurs around St Patrick’s Day in the Valley. It is when the first shoots erupt from the dormant vines to begin the growing season. The canopy refers to the growth of grape leaves that emerge from the vines and that could require thinning based on the amount of sun needed to ensure even ripening of the grapes. Berry size is a factor as well. The depth of flavor in red wine comes from contact with the skins. The desirable grape is thick skinned and is a small berry for concentrated flavors. Even ripening refers to the consistency of all the grapes in the cluster. If some are over ripe and others under ripe, it can affect the yield and the quality of the must. “Must” is the term that refers to the squished seeds, skins and pulp. This is essentially the winemakers’ “raw” material.

Wow – that is a lot to say that the wines out of Napa Valley from the 2013 vintage have the potential to be excellent. The growing season provided a great environment to deliver wonderful fruit. Every winemaker will tell you that starting with great tasting fruit is the beginning of something wonderful. Vintage matters, and this one from Napa Valley for cabernet is a great one!


Paul Hobbs and Diana

HALL Wines’ Cabernet Cook-Off: Charity Runs Deep in the Napa Valley

The Napa Valley is an agricultural region, with many different types of soil running through the area (50 of the known 100+ found in the world). Mountains surround this beautiful valley, rising as high 2200 feet. Nothing, though, is as inspiring as the charitable heart that runs deep through the residents of this region. Charity is one of the things that Napa Valley does so well. Winery owners and winemakers all show their heart with the many events put on throughout the year to help take care of their citizens.

The HALL Cabernet Cook-Off is a great example of this charitable heart. The theme of the day was to “pop a cork and grab a fork.” There were 13 chef teams, each representing a different charity and vying for your and the judges’ votes The challenge: What food paired best with the 2013 HALL Napa Valley Cabernet? What a great question! It really required some drinking and eating to cast an educated vote!

This was a magnificent setting with a glorious sun-filled day.  HALL Winery also hosted last year’s Auction Napa Valley (the Valley’s biggest charity event), which was a beautiful location for this event. HALL has lovely gardens, a large courtyard, and bocce ball courts – all sitting against the east side of Napa Valley with gorgeous view of the Mayacamas Mountains.

We started the day at the Cabernet Cook-Off with a Sauvignon Blanc – cool, crisp and full of acidity to set up your palate for the ensuing delightful tastes from the chefs and restaurants participating. The challenge again was which bite paired best with the HALL 2013 Cabernet, a wine from the famous 2013 vintage. This wine is structured, well-balanced, and plush on the palate.

The tasty bites ranged from pasta to shrimp to lamb to ribs – must I go on? The wild boar bite from the Sacramento Experience & Food Literacy Team was my favorite. The offering was explosive and dynamic with spice and rich meat flavors that paired beautifully with the Cabernet.

The wines of HALL are rich and approachable, and I highly recommend a visit. You don’t need an appointment, so you can step in and step up to taste through their current offerings and see what pleases your palate best. They’re located on Highway 29, just south of Saint Helena.

HALL is known for its notable art pieces, such as the beautiful big silver rabbit at its entrance. Art adorns the property, and it a beautiful setting. Yet nothing is as big as the heart for the fun and charitable work they do.


How Great Can a $25 Wine Taste?

Pretty darn good! Just opened a beautiful bottle of Garnacha from Spain. Specifically, this was a 2013 from Bodegas Alto Moncayo, located in the area covered by the Campo de Borja Denominacion de Origen (DO, wine quality standard). They don’t just meet the standard, they exceed it. This is a winery that has been on my radar for several years, and I have been enjoying the consistent outstanding quality of their wine.

The winery itself was founded in 2002 with the aim of turning it into a world reference for Garnacha wines of the highest quality, prepared from native vine clones. I think that they are on the right track.

What I opened was the 2013 Alto Moncayo Veraton. This is a rich and expressive wine that is beautifully aromatic and sweeps across the palate with broad black current and black cherry fruit. The challenge here is to stop drinking it as the wine beckons you back for more. Run — don’t walk — to your fine wine store to have them bring these wines in for you. It is well worth your time for the value and drinking enjoyment.