|Wines of the Napa Valley
||[Mar. 31st, 2018|11:38 am]
Quite apart from my general disapproval of bank holidays, this has been one of those irritating weeks: we had three fun things to do, but since they all happened at the same time, we could only do one of them. So on Tuesday, I could have gone to the Graphic Novels Reading Group, or we could have accepted a last minute invitation from friends whose wine club was mostly on holiday: would we like to take up some of the spare spaces at their New Zealand wines dinner? But we were long since booked into Helen Savage's Napa Valley Masterclass, so that's what we did. It wasn't a hard choice: we don't see Helen and Olwen often enough, and the evening's wines were supplied by Napa Vintners, so for a reasonable price we tasted wines well above our usual price level, some of them stratospherically so.
I'd like to be able to report that it was an eye-opener, but no. Once, at a Wine Society event I was served maybe a teaspoonful of Château Pétrus, and that was stunning. I thought then, if you had the money that this stuff costs, it wouldn't be a silly way to spend it. I didn't taste anything on Tuesday that I would have paid the price of - and I'm not just talking about the Heitz Martha's Vineyard cabernet sauvignon, which retails at £194. The Grgich Hills zinfandel (my notes say "smoky, smooth, elegant, pleasant") costs a mere £45 - but you will note that 'pleasant' is not a term of praise in my vocabulary. Compare it to the Wine Society's exhibition zinfandel, which is made for them by Frog's Leap and costs £16, next to which I have written a combative "There is nothing wrong with this." Even so I prefer the Ravenswood, not to mention the zins we drank last time we were in California...
It wasn't just me: the consensus of the evening was nice wines, shame about the price. In fact, I found myself making the case for the defence (well, maybe it's more of a plea in mitigation), arguing to our neighbours at table that prices reflect not only how good wine is, but also how rare it is, and how difficult to produce: the Trefethen riesling had been made with great care to retain its freshness and acidity despite the California climate, and if you want a Napa valley riesling you won't have much choice, so you might consider paying £28.80 for this one; and then if you serve it to me one a summer afternoon in the garden, I won't complain. But if you simply want even more clean, fresh riesling acidity, here's one we enjoyed in Trier, and it costs under €8 a bottle (though you might have to go to Germany to find it). I certainly wouldn't pay the high price for the curiosity factor of a California riesling - but I will, at least occasionally, pay the extra for English wine.
One odd thing is that we tasted ten wines (not counting the Frog's Leap) with two bottles of each to go round 30 people; and of these, there were two bottles which were to some extent faulty. As chance would have it, the two bottles served the two halves of the room, and we were lucky enough to be in the half which got the less faulty one. One of those very fancy reds was underperforming: and my notes are sufficiently garbled at this point that I'm not going public on which one (but I will say that if I had opened this bottle at home, I might well have been disappointed, but I wouldn't have known it was faulty, and I certainly wouldn't have sent it back). The other half of the room had a white with a distinct cork taint, and they were all aware there was a problem. So that's educational.
A final treat: a couple we know both from Helen's tastings and through another connection, but don't often see, were there, though as we arrived quite late we didn't see them until we reached the station. But we had pleasant conversation on the homebound train.
This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.