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Yesterday’s Wines, Tomorrow (Stony Hill Recent Releases)

Vinted on April 3, 2014 binned in elegant wines, on the road, overachiever wines, wine review

Peabody’s Wayback Machine has got nothing on the steep, two mile drive from Napa Valley’s Bale Grist Mill State Park up to Stony Hill Vineyard. Brave that vertical, moss-covered tree-lined climb between St. Helena and Calistoga, and in many ways you’re transported at least forty years back in Napa time, and to what seems an entire world away from the Disney-fied scene of the opulent temples of vino-ness that pervade Route 29.

Feel free to insert your own clichés about technology being the only indication we’re living in a modern age when touring this winery’s weathered but functional buildings and it’s gnarled old Riesling vines. They’re pabulum, sure, but in this case also apt (I was warned to plan on no cell phone coverage when I reached the top of their road; the Wayback machine renders that inoperative, I suppose).

“This is the land that Napa Valley Time forgot,” mused Sarah McCrea, the former corporate marketing brand director who, in 2012, stopped fighting the inevitable call of becoming Stony Hill’s third generation proprietor. “And we like it that way.”

McCrea’s grandparents, Fred and Eleanor McCrea, bought this little chunk of Spring Mountain in 1943, when it was a former goat ranch that “nobody seemed to want.” The first plantings happened “in `48, `49, after the war,” according to McCrea. Some Riesling vines from that era still remain on the property. A small winery was completed in 1953, and trust me when I tell you that, while charming and unquestionably setup in a beautiful place with a beautiful valley view, it would hardly qualify as garage-sized for some of the polished-with-gobs-of-cash winery façades just a few miles farther south on Route 29. Since that time in the fifties, almost nothing (thankfully, blessedly, miraculously) seems to have changed here. Case in point: in sixty years, Stony Hill has employed fewer winemakers than the venerable Pittsburgh Steelers have head coaches.

To put Stony Hill in perspective, one has to understand that when they started in the wine business in Napa, there was no perspective. There wasn’t even much of a Napa fine wine business. There’s is a tale that, as Morrissey sang, starts “from before the beginning…”

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There Are NO St. Patrick’s Day Wine Picks (March 2014 Answers.com Wine Articles, And My Birthday Wine Lineup)

Vinted on March 27, 2014 binned in elegant wines, going pro, kick-ass wines, wine review

Technically there was a holiday this month, but I could not bring myself to hazard conjuring up some long-shot wine pairing for St. Patrick’s Day in March.

Just… uhm… No. No way.

Anything along that vein is (being kind here) a desperate stretch. I mean, look, why would you even do that? What’s wrong with beer? [ A: the last time I checked, nothing. ]  I’m actually the worst person to ask about the subject anyway, because St. Patrick’s Day happens to be my actual birthday. So for me, that “holiday” wine pairing usually falls squarely into the category of “whatever the f*ck I feel like drinking, no mater what food is being poured, and preferably something bubbly and expensive.” But then, with my daughter’s birthday falling less than a week later than mine, these days at 1WD central we more or less give my birthday a passing wave hello/goodbye. “Happy birthday honey. Ok, so, did you order the dolphin place-mats yet for all of the kids coming to Lorelai’s party?”

Despite the daughter birthday madness, and the inevitable hangover resulting from the amount of alcohol one has to imbibe just to survive hosting a dozen 5- and 6-year-old children for a birthday shindig, I managed a few non-St.-Patrick’s-Day tidbits for the Wine.Answers.com gig in March (they are paying for the stuff, after all!).

And, I did celebrate the birthday in serious style, vinous-wise, as you’ll witness from the inset pic. More on all of that below…

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“Best Of The Best” From Premiere Napa Valley 2014

Vinted on March 6, 2014 binned in on the road, wine industry events, wine review

By now, many of you will have heard that 2014’s incarnation of Premiere Napa Valley, the annual Napa Valley Vintners fundraiser auction, broke records and brought in a haul to NVV that I think is best described as a sh*t-ton of money, times three (I had dinner with a couple of nice folks from NVV after the weekend of the event, and their collective mood could be summarized as something between kid-at-the-Crayola-factory elation and exhausted relief). PNV14’s auction of rare, small-lot Napa Valley wine rarities amassed nearly $6 million, with Scarecrow’s lot bringing in something to the tune of $4K per bottle.

I’ve covered PNV, on and off, for several years here on 1WD, and for 2014’s recap I’ve decided to play the tune again, which has a catchy-but-getting-too-damned-familiar-like-Call-Me-Maybe melody to it at this point, but with a different tempo and some funky rhythm section time signature changes, to try to keep things feeling a little fresher.

As usual, I did not taste all of the auction lots at PNV, because that is an endeavor that I view as somewhat insane, like NHL hockey goaltending (seriously… they need to be a little not-quite-altogether to volunteer for that job… just sayin’…). However, between two days of preview parties and barrel auction tasting, I did manage to sample more PNV lots than I ever have in past years. Ironically, this has made me decide to refrain from listing all of the lots I tasted with their respective ratings, and instead talk about only the lots that really moved me in some way. No ratings, no badges, just praise. It’s a “Best Of” PNV14, if you will, only with me acting as the sole arbiter of what constitutes “best” in this case (hey, it is my blog, after all).

But first, a few words on Napa’s 2012 vintage, which was on strong (arguably the strongest possible, given the pedigree) showcase at PNV14…

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1WineDude TV Episode 59: In Pursuit Of Balance (And Ridiculously Good California Pinot) 2014

Vinted on February 27, 2014 binned in 1WineDude TV, elegant wines, on the road, wine review

Two years ago, after tasting at the 2012 incarnation of the In Pursuit of Balance event (a bi-coastal roadshow of largely classy, vibrant, and restrained California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay offerings), I expressed surprise at the quality of wines coming out of the collaboration between sommelier Raj Parr and winemaker Sashi Moorman.

So after tasting at the 2014 incarnation of IPOB in NYC earlier this year, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the quality of wines coming out of the collaboration between sommelier Raj Parr and winemaker Sashi Moorman.

But I was, because where they’d hit it out of the park in 2012, they launched it clear out of the park, bounced it off the hood of a shiny Corvette Stingray convertible in the stadium parking lot, and sent just about into escape velocity and geosynchronous orbit in 2014. But more on that in a minute or two, after you watch the interview I did with Raj’s cohort and IPOB’s co-founder Jasmine Hirsch, to discuss the impetus behind the event, and how they graduated from brainstorming a wish list of participating winemakers and wines on the back of a cocktail napkin, to formally selecting the IPOB touring lineup. [ Special thanks to The Drunken Cyclist for the camerawork, and to Jasmine for staving off minor starvation for a few minutes so we could chat on vid. ]

1WineDude TV Episode 59: In Pursuit of Balance with Jasmine Hirsch

All done? Good. Now let’s get to the tasting notes, because in this case, the wines themselves are most definitely the story…

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