Napa Wine Experiences—St. Helena to Calistoga

Our two weeks in Napa gave us the opportunity to spend more times than usual at a number of wineries. Some were new to us. Others, long-time favorites. The following posts on Napa Wine Experiences begins in Los Carneros, at the southern tip of the valley, and ends in St Helena and Calistoga, in the north.

Northern Napa Valley, in addition to some great valley wineries, also contains some of the valley’s most priced mountain cabs, especially from Spring Mountain and the current hotspot of Howell Mountain, with its stressed vines, concentrated fruit and deep, highly extracted wines. Among our favorite Northern Napa wineries were:


St. Helena

  • Duckhorn. Another lovely facility with outdoor tasting deck, and another of our perennial favorites. Although many of the tasted wines were nice, we our tastes typically lean toward representations of four varietals: the 2013 sauv blanc, 2011 Goldeneye (a sister winery) Anderson Valley pinot, 2010 Rector Creek Cab and the consistently wonderful Three Palms Merlot (a 2011).
  • Hall. Always among our favorites, this year’s stop was at their beautiful, new St. Helena tasting room. After tasting 15 wines, I don’t even know where to start. So, I will just focus on those we bought. We have always enjoyed the Hall Sauv Blanc, and the 2013 was no exception. Then came another white, a lobster-friendly 2012 Walt Chard, and two reds; the interesting, amazingly affordable 2010 Craig’s Cuvee red blend and two lovely food wines—a 2011 T Bar T Ranch Cab and especially, the single-vineyard, 2011 Eighteen Seventy Three Cab.
  • Flora Springs. I couldn’t figure out why Joyce was so intent on going to this facility until we were inside and she recognized that she had mistaken it for another. But since we were there, we decided to taste. Good decision. While there estate wines are very well priced for the quality (we found the 2012 Napa Valley Merlot a particular bargain), we were totally surprised by their single vineyard premium wines. Although not cheap, we fully enjoyed the Out of Sight and Holy Smoke Cabs.
  • Trespass. Some very nice, if somewhat expensive wines from a small, 1,000-case winery at the edge of a residential St. Helena neighborhood. Although the winery grows three varietals, Cab Franc is the winery’s differentiator. Its 100 percent 2011 Cab Franc is nice, but its’ blends (especially its 55 percent Cab Sauv/ 45 percent Franc Rendezvous) are more to our taste. We also enjoyed its 100 percent Cab 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.


Pritchard Hills Region

  • Chappellet. We have always enjoyed this Prospect Hill winery and despite numerous and frustrating dropped balls in trying to set an appointment, we eventually succeeded. We tasted a selection of their whites and reds, where we particularly enjoyed the 2012 Napa Valley chard, the 2008 Clone 337 Napa Valley Cab and especially the big 2010 Pritchard Hill Cab.
  • Kuletto. This was our second visit. Our impressions were similar to our first a couple vintages ago. The Pat Kuletto (a renowned restaurant designer and developer)-designed Tuscan-style winery, the mountaintop site and the views are absolutely spectacular. The tour of the grounds (and the description of the 8,000 foot home (one-quarter of which is kitchen) was lovely and the five artisan cheeses (each paired with a different wine) delicious. As for the wines, somewhat less so. As with our previous visit, we found the Syrah (this time, a 2010) to be the most interesting.
  • Buehler. Interesting. We had been enthralled by winery’s very reasonably priced 2011 (a very challenging year) Napa Valley Estate Cab and Carneros Chardonnay. Although the price points are similar for its 2012s (a wonderful year for Napa wines), we found these and a number of the other wines we tasted to be somewhat too fruit forward and not sufficiently integrated for our tastes. This being said, the Estate Cab is still a lot of wine for its reasonable $36 price point.


Spring Mountain.

  • Pride. We were most impressed by the first (Viogneier) and the last 2010 Cab Reserve wines of the tasting.
  • Kenan. The temporary tasting facility, while the regular one is being renovated, is rustic. Our interest was primarily in Kenan’s Merlots and Cabs. Our favorites were the Mailbox Vineyard Merlot Reserve and, on the more expensive side, the Mernet Bordeaux blend and the Cabernet Reserve.
  • Spring Mountain. The site, from what a fellow taster told us, of the setting for the TV show “Falcon Crest.” Although a lovely site, we went for the wine. We particularly enjoyed the 2008 Elivette Bordeaux blend. But at $125, a bit over our budget.

Howell Mountain Region

  • Joseph Phelps. Always a favorite, but with a bit of a twist. Although we, as always, loved the Sauv Blanc and its flagship Insignia blend, we were less than excited with its 2011 Cab.
  • CADE. Another of or seldom visited favorites. Some very nice wines of three different varietals: the 2013 CADE Napa Sauv Blanc and Plumpjack’s (a sister winery) Reserve Chard, and the highlight, a 2010 CADE Howell Mountain cab.


  • Twomey. Another of our perpetual favorites. Although they do offer a growing selection of interesting Pinots, we are particularly partial to their Merlots: this year, their 2007.
  • T-Vine. One of our friend’s favorites, especially for its Syrahs (which were not available when we visited) and Cabs. Although their Grenache, Charbono and Zin were much too fruit forward for my buds, Joyce and I both agreed on the 2010 Doc Gold Vineyard St. Helena Cab.

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