Taste of Howell Mountain: A Wonderful Annual Event for a Great Cause

Howell Mountain rises up on the east side of the Napa Valley floor. It is a distinct appellation in the valley that presents characteristics that contribute to the flavor profile of wine made from Howell Mountain grapes. The vineyards rise up to as high as 2200 feet, and this gives rise to temperature variations that range from 10 degrees cooler in the early summer to 10 degrees warmer later in the season. The fog is a big contributor, as it will hang on the valley floor yet the mountain will be bathed in warm sun. The red volcanic soil is full of minerals and not a lot of water. The vines really have to work hard on these mountain slopes. All this and more contribute to depth of flavor and a great fruit profile in the wine that will entice you back for more.

This is more than a wine-growing region though — it is a community. It is one that strives to contribute and has its eye on taking care of the children who attend Howell Mountain Elementary School. Each year, the Howell Mountain Vintners & Growers Association presents Taste of Howell Mountain. It is charitable event that supports the elementary school on Howell Mountain to ensure that the kids who attend have the opportunity to grow and learn in the best possible way.

This has become one of my very favorite events in the Napa Valley. It is an awesome opportunity to meet the vintners and winemakers who make their lives on this mountain as they share their passion – their wine — with us. Each year the event kicks off with a tasting of over 30+ wines. The setting is relaxed on the open-air grounds of Charles Krug. There is food, wine, music, and a beautiful setting. All the wineries want to share the great taste and distinct flavor of Howell Mountain. There are silent auctions items where special bottles and items are offered. The live auction caps off the day, where big lots and weekend excursions are the main stars. It is all for the main purpose of supporting the school and the kids who attend.

Can you imagine having the opportunity to taste these wines, enjoy some great food and music, enjoy the spirited auction, and contribute to a great cause — all for $125 per ticket!? Here is a listing of the wineries that participated this year:

Black Sears Estate Wines
Bravante Vineyards
Bremer Family Winery
Cade Estate Winery
Cakebread Cellers
Clif Family Winery
Cornerstone Cellars
Cresta Velia
Duckhorn Vineyards
Dunn Vineyards
Haber Family Vineyards
Howell Mountain Vineyards
Howell At the Moon Vineyards
La Jota Vineyards Co.
Lamborn Family Vineyards
Notre Vine
O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery
Outpost Estate Winery
Pestoni Family/Rutherford Grove
Piña Napa Valley
Prim Family Vineyards
Red Cap Vineyards
Retro Cellars
Robert Craig Winery
Robert Foley Vineyards
Roberts & Rogers
Round Two Wines
Sbragia Family Vineyards
Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery
W.H. Smith Wines

Next year’s Taste of Howell Mountain is on June 18th, so you have plenty of time to prepare. Spend the weekend in the valley and enjoy what Howell Mountain has to offer.



Melissa Etheridge at Mondavi

When folks think about visiting the Napa Valley, visions of great wine, informative tours, fun wine tastings, and great food immediately spring to mind. Of course, all that is valid. The Napa Valley is one of the most visited sites in California, and those thoughts should come to mind. The setting is gorgeous with a vast array of grapevines dotting the landscape. Mountains surround the valley, which is only 30 miles long and 5 miles across at the widest point. The beauty is undeniable.

But it’s good to remember that there’s also a lot of great entertainment in Napa Valley. We were recently reminded of that when we attended a Melissa Etheridge concert at the Robert Mondavi Winery, as part of the winery’s summer concert series during July. The concert series also included performances by such notables as the Wallflowers, Phillip Phillips, Lyle Lovett, and Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue.

On the night we attended, we enjoyed a dinner in the vineyard followed by Melissa’s concert in an open air theater accompanied by quality wine! The weather was perfect, the dinner was excellent, and the crowd was relaxed and very friendly — sharing an appreciation for both the wine and the entertainer. It was a great opportunity to meet new people and enjoy the rocking sound of Melissa, who delivered on all of her hits and sang for two hours. It was an outstanding event!

This is just one of the wonderful entertainment experiences in the valley. Great music and performances abound in the area. This weekend, Mary Chapin Carpenter is performing at the Uptown Theater. This is a small and cozy venue in downtown Napa that has wonderful acoustics. We have explored other entertainment as well with performances at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville, where Garrison Keillor was on tour. These specific performances may not be your choice, yet good talent and shows are a regular occurrence in the valley. BottleRock is another example – now a recurring event and that alone is a three-day, multi performer event.

Your visit to the valley can include great entertainment when you come. Here are some venues to explore the next time you plan a trip.

Uptown Theatre in Napa
Napa Valley Conservatory Theater
Napa Valley Opera House
Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater (We also saw Lilly Tomlin here in addition to Garrison Keillor)

These are just a few of the cultural and music venues that afford you entertainment when you are visiting. There is much to keep you entertained in this beautiful valley.



Value Buy for Under $9.00!

I did my quarterly shopping at Costco yesterday. As always, I browse the wine aisles. Costco is the number one retailer of wine in the U.S. You should also know that wherever I go — grocery stores, drug stores, it doesn’t matter — if they have wine, I am there reading the labels.

While at Costco, I picked up an old favorite – they still had some 2012 Tres Picos! I also found this little ‘potential’ gem. First, you should know I have adopted a philosophy that I will taste any value wines before I recommend them. While I appreciate the critics and the reviews, I want to make sure I can support the wine before sharing it with you.

So today’s little gem is from Columbia Crest. It is a red blend from the Horse Heaven AVA out of Washington State. The price at Costco is $8.99! This is a true value when one looks at the price. Also, Horse Heaven is an excellent AVA (American Viticulture Area).

It is in these economical value blends that the real artistry of the winemaker shows through. This is where their palate and sense of flavors come into play. What percentage of which grape will give this blend the best possible expression of the vineyard and please the consumer? That is their quest, and sometimes it may take 50 different variations and tastings to land on that final blend. Upon my first investigation this wine was deep in color with moderate weight. The nose was bright blackberry and cherry. There was smokiness and mild leather as well. It had a mild tannic structure with rich fruit and plum on the palate. I say this is a great drinking wine for during the week and would make an excellent party wine. I enjoyed tasting it and do recommend it for your pleasure.

Wine Spector Review
H3 Les Chevaux Horse Heaven Hills 2012

Score: 90
Release Price $15
Country Washington
Region Washington
Issue Dec 15, 2014
Tasting Note: Plush and generous, with blackberry and plum flavors on a velvety texture, deftly balanced with refined acidity and tannins that persist on the finish. Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Viognier and others. Drink now through 2017. 80,000 cases made. –HS