Attention passengers! We are now entering the tiny, grape-growing region of Napa Valley known as Coombsville, a somewhat hilly, bucolic region, dotted with small family wineries producing wonderful wine.
Population: Who knows?
Typical Coombsville vineyards
While five million visitors annually charge into Napa Valley, seeking cult wines in Rutherford, Oakville, Stag’s Leap District and other growing areas, almost no one visits the wineries in the sleepy old Coombsville corridor, at the southeast corner of Napa Valley.
(There are 16 designated American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs, within Napa Valley, identified as having site-specific, geographically defined, soil and microclimatic traits. Coombsville is the newest such region, gaining AVA status in 2011.)
Visitors! Show some respect!
The town of Napa might have been called Coombsville, as the founder of the town was a land developer named Nathan Coombs. In 1848, he created what was then – and still is – the largest city in our valley. Only he chose to call it Napa, instead of after himself.
Good idea, Nate! How popular would this place ever have become if tourists aimed to visit Coombs Valley, CA?
Coombsville, the wine region, is small, representing an area of 11,075 acres, of which 1,400 are today planted with grapes.
Writers assembled yesterday on the crush pad at Covert Estate to learn about the Coombsville wine-producing region.
In an effort to promote the grapes and wines of 52 members in the Coombsville Vintners & Growers Association, the group hosted its first-ever press/publicity event yesterday.
A tasting panel of wine writers assembled yesterday to be introduced to the wines of the Coombsville.
About a dozen guests were invited to Covert Estate, a new facility owned by Julien and Elan Fayard.
Julien Fayard. His 2012 Covert Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, tasted at yesterday’s press event, was magnificent.
Although born in France, Julien fell in love with Napa Valley and “specifically with Coombsville. I love the rustic nature of this area and the soil and climate are ideal for producing superb wines,” says the wine-maker.
Here’s what you need to know about Coombsville wines:
The only way to think about this tiny, perfect little area, dotted with small, mom-and-pop wineries is to think about diamonds.
You know how, when you see a gorgeous diamond ring on the finger of a pretty woman, your eye catches – and focuses on – the large emerald-cut diamond at the center of the ring. Your eye rarely registers two perfect, smaller baguette-cut diamonds mounted on either side of the center stone. But they’re there and they are, on their own, each gorgeous, precious, and delightful.
Well, the same is true of Coombsville wines; they are the shiny, gorgeous, precious and delightful wines on either side of the big stones – Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena – but on their own, they are themselves brilliant!
In fact, there are such great grapes grown here that, for decades, much of Coombsville’s best fruit found its way into heralded wines made at Robert Mondavi, Joseph Phelps, Far Niente, Pahlmeyer, Randy Dunn, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Kongsgaard.
Writers convened in a small ante-room at Covert Estate yesterday. On the right is illustrious wine writer, and natural contrarian, Dan Berger, whose writing and thoughts I much admire.
The assembled guests were given 11 wines to taste, to get an understanding about the richness, complexity and balance of wines from the AVA.
My favorite wine of the tasting.
While all the wines were delicious, and while I scored them all between 91 and 95 points, my two favorites of the event were the Scalon and Covert.
The 2013 Scalon Cabernet Sauvignon drew four exclamation marks out of me, punctuating my notes. I loved the soft, sweet, sensual fruit, both on the nose and palate; I thought the wine was harmonious, elegant and at a suggested retail of $85, quite a steal.
I scored the Scalon 95 points and noted that wine writer Allen Balik, sitting to my left, rated the wine his top favorite of the flight, too.
Interested in obtaining some of this nectar? There were only 146 cases... and you will have to fight over the remaining 145, because napaman intends to get one before you!
To visit the winery, or purchase wine, go to scaloncellars.com, or call the winery at 707-666-2245.
I was also partial to the 2012 Covert Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, of which there are 350 cases.
I noted a wonderfully original hint of sour cherry at the core of a medley of red flavors; I loved the balance and finish, and scored the wine 93 points.
To visit the winery, go to covertestate.com, or call Julien at 707-812-4202.
Covert Estate vineyards
Entrance to the chai, or aging cellars, at Covert Estate
Go to coombsvillenapa.org to learn more about Coombsville area wines and to help you plan some off-road, appointment-only, winery visits in a part of Napa Valley that is what the valley used to be like before the California wine rush started – simple, tasty, understated.