Good friends, the Dunns, Harrises and Witts, asked us to join them in a new experience – checking out Napa Valley wineries to which we’ve never been.
“We always get asked by visitors to our winery, where else should we go?” explain Mike and Treva Harris, the ebullient proprietors of Harris Family Vineyards, “so we decided to assemble a small group of family winemakers to inspect what’s out there that we’ve never seen and might recommend.”
You’d think that in a small valley like Napa Valley, we’d know all the players, but, in fact, there are 500 wineries in our small valley.
So we sneaked off our porch and joined the group, visiting Bouchaine, in the Carneros, last week.
What a lovely spot!
Bouchaine is the oldest, continuously operated winery in the Carneros, according to tasting room host Lisa Brown, who poured five different wines for us.
“The winery was built in the late 1920s, “ she said, and has only ever had three owners – first Johnny Garetto, an Italian immigrant, then Beringer, and now, it is owned by Gerret and Tatiana Copeland.”
The winemaker is Michael Richmond, who has crafted some delicious wines.
We sat on the slat-covered patio at the back of the tasting room, overlooking the sculpted vineyards, which roll off into the distance. The standard tasting room fee is $15 per person inside, and $30 per person on the deck, where you get much more personalized service and a chance to have some nibbles with your wines, as well.
Our three favorite wines of the tasting were:
A gorgeous, beautifully balanced, Chardonnay, which is 90 percent oak-fermented, and topped with 10 percent of the house’s stainless steel–fermented Chardonnay. As only 50 percent of this blend has been put through malolactic fermentation, the beverage has a refreshing acidity. Really liked this wine. Even bought some to bring home; you can’t get a stronger commendation than that.
Pinot Meunier is one of the three grapes used to make Champagne (along with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay). It is rarely used by itself to make a varietal wine, which makes this Bouchaine offering unusual. But which also makes it tasty.
Cool nights and a rolling fog, which envelopes the Carneros on many summer nights, help the Pinot Meunier mature gracefully. The result is a delicate, floral, rose petal-scented, wine with a beautiful robe. The alcohol is under control and this is one of those times when it is absolutely right to call this “a pretty wine.” I bought this one to take home, too. 91 points.
Here’s the real deal, a strikingly delicious Pinot Noir with luscious berry fruit in the middle palate and a hint of cocoa on the finish. None of that sometimes hot Russian River alcohol, or over-extraction; this Pinot has roots in Napa Valley but has a DNA that hints of France, which you can taste. Had to buy some of this, too. 92 points.
The Bouchaine setting is beautiful, the wines are delicious (we now have a winery in the Carneros where we are comfortable sending guests) and summer is here – so what are YOU waiting for?
Bouchaine is at 1075 Buchli Station Road, Napa, 94559.
Tel: 800-654-WINE or 707-252-9065 to make an appointment for a tasting group if you are six or more in your party. Go to www.bouchaine.com for more details.