Premiere Napa Valley: One Dude’s Tasting Notes

Vinted on March 2, 2010 binned in wine industry events, wine tasting

We know that I’m not terribly fond of massive tastings.  I did thoroughly enjoy myself at Premiere Napa Valley, however, even if I didn’t get to try all 200 of the wines, mostly because the experience, with lots of people in close proximity to wine and to each other, is uber-social.  For a gadfly like me, it’s like social crack, only with ultra-premium wines and the opportunity to catch up with friends, chill with industry folk, and ask geeky questions of winemakers.

In other words, it’s like super wine crack for me.

I’ve decided not to rate any of the wines I tasted at PNV, because a) you’re unlikely to find them, and b) we are talking some of the best-of-the-best in CA winemaking here, and the scores on my cheesy A-F scale for are in the A- to A+ range for all of these wines; there’s no real point in sharing those subtle shades of differing scores, now is there?  I mean, I’m not getting into a 94 vs 96 points discussion, thankyouverymuch.

Anyway, following are some of my favorites among a field of very, very impeccably made wines (in PNV auction lot order):

  • Keenan (008) – “Grand Classique” 2008 Cabernet – Not what one would expect from a competition of muscular New World reds; it’s lovely, with an abundance of violets on the nose; like you passed out in a field of violets after a night of drinking Napa Cabs…
  • Hestan Vineyards (009) 2007 Stephanie Selection – 80% Malbec – Just screaming good, a nuanced black & brambly beauty.
  • Duckhorn Vineyards (018) – 2008 Three Palms Vineyard Cabernet – In a room full of wines with supple & nuanced tannins, this might have been the most supple in that room.
  • Rocca Family Vineyards (040) – 2008 Yountville Cabernet – A healthy dollap of Syrah (all from Grisby Vineyard) give this lot a spicy, peppery edge.
  • Cornerstone Cellars (058) – 2008 Howell Mountain Cabernet – Dark & brooding with extremely focused black cherry fruit. 20 yr old vines. Might need 20 years to fully reveal itself!
  • Ladera (075) – 2008 Two Mountains Cabernet – fruit sourced from both Howell Mtn. and Lone Canyon (1100 ft) – Supple and very, very pretty.  Steep slopes = elegance?

  • Terra Valentine (083) – 2008 Cabernet Franc – A standout due to its unique nose of roses, candied fruit, and a palate full of blue- and huckle-berries.
  • PEJU & Sullivan Vineyards (086) – 2008  “P.S. We Love Rutherford” Cabernet – joint lot that delivered a solid punch of baking chocolate &, yes, dusty tannins.
  • Schramsberg Vineyards (110) – 1994 reserve Late Disgorged Sparkling Wine – OMG… Like apple bread, if apple bread were made by Valkyries. As my friend Alder Yarrow put it “it showed how amazing American Sparkling wine could be if no expenses were spared…”  It may have been the single greatest expression of wine mastery in the room.
  • Trefethen Family Vineyards (123) – 2008 Oak Knoll District Cabernet– Described to me by Hailey Trefethen as an “extreme farming trial.”  I think the question of whether or not Trefethen’s focus is on offering balanced wines has been answered, if this lot offering was any indication; the red & black fruit combo was stunning, with the fruit and spice riding structural elements (acids vs heft, tight vs. supple tannins) so deftly balanced it seemed like some kind of a high-wire act by a fruit supermodel.
  • Vineyard 7 & 8 (151) – 2008 “Collaboration” Cabernet – A winning combo of Mountain (Spring Mtn) and valley (Oakville) fruit, expertly blended to combine grace and muscle. The word “wow” appeared in my tasting note (as did “focused red & black cherries, with sweet spice”).
  • Faust (152) – 2008 “A Faustian Bargain” Cabernet – I don’t know about being a bargain, but this wine was as dark & gripping as Darth Vader (and I found it about as compelling as the first time that I saw Vader on the big screen)…
  • Louis M. Martini (179) – “Premiere 254” 2008 Cabernet – A handful of the Premiere wines had an abundance of gorgeous floral notes (violets), and this one offered them up in spades.
  • Mount Veeder Winery (188) – 2008 Cabernet– Not as tight as a Howell Mountain Cab, the violets and flowers on the nose belie significant tannins with tobacco and enough grip to give this wine a long future.
  • Barnett Vineyards (172) – 2008 Cabernet – From Spring Mountain, this wine screamed “Napa” – gorgeous, with lush dark fruit.






  • Mike Weber (@mweb)

    Great list Joe! Incredibly, out of all of these I don't think I've had any. Closest I get is the Duckhorn 2006 Three Palms Vineyard but it was a merlot, so not really that close at all :)

    And I totally agree with the "why debate a 94 vs. 96." When I last came back from Napa I thought nearly everything I had was pretty good to great. The true test is after tasting 30+ great wines, what sticks out, what do I remember?

    I remember loving the new release PlumpJack Cabernet, 2006 Cakebread Dancing Bear Ranch Howell Mountain Cabernet, St Supery Sauvignon Blanc, Chandon Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and a few others which I'll have to detail out in a post of my own somewhere :)

    Thanks for sharing!

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Mike! Would love to see your notes on those wines!

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