Like Labor Day and the start of the football season, Mt. Veeder’s annual Appellation Tasting occurs each September.
This year’s tasting, which featured 24 wineries, was held this afternoon at The Hess Collection (winery), on the outskirts of Napa town.
The appellation tasting is held under a green canopy, which runs the perimeter of The Hess Collection courtyard.
Most participating wineries poured 2011 wines, a vintage to which the wine press has given a resounding Thumb’s Down.
What is wrong with all these gonzo wine writers? They taste way too many wines at the same time to ever be able to note subtle nuances among them. They also think power, high alcohol and excessive oak are positive hallmarks of a properly made wine. When I think of these elements, I think of disjointed, out-of-balance wines.
Make no mistake. 2011 wasn’t a Blow The Doors Off Their Hinges vintage.
It sure as hell wasn’t a Vintage of The Century, either.
The season was wet, cold, and wetter still, producing mold, small fruit, small clusters in small quantities.
But talented winemakers rallied. They produced wines of grace, charm, lower alcohol (yay for that!), elegance, and poise.
And, oh, yes, by the way, for a change, many of the wines were Food Friendly. Remember that concept? You actually make a wine that complements food, it doesn’t fight food with exaggerated extraction and high levels of oak and alcohol.
The back of a T-shirt worn by one of the guests at the tasting. I thought the slogan could easily have been about the vintages in Napa Valley, from 2004 to 2014... because really, they’ve all been helluva special. But no.... it was a tenth anniversary T-shirt for....
The wines I tasted this afternoon were, for the most part, delicious. Softer than normal, feminine, graceful, and pretty – that was a word that reappeared many times in my notes.
Steve Lagier and Carole Meredith, owners of, you guessed it – Lagier Meredith.
One of my favorite wineries on Mt. Veeder is Lagier Meredith, a winemaking venture of two of the industry’s leaders:
Carole Meredith, is the former UC Davis grape detective who led the world’s DNA gumshoe-ing to track down and identify the parent grapes of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon to name a few; her husband, Steve Lagier, is a former Robert Mondavi winemaker who has a total of 35 harvests behind him. These people know something about making great wine.
Their 2011 Syrah is no exception.
“Our 2011 Syrah is the most northern Rhone-like Syrah we’ve ever made” Steve told me.
“This is a wine that has the spice and floral notes of a lot of those Syrahs from around Hermitage (site of the world’s best and most respected Syrah),” Steve adds.
I loved the wine. It exhibits some of those coffee and young leather notes that you find in a Rhone Syrah.
“It’s the first Syrah that we’ve ever made which comes in under 14 per cent alcohol,“ Steve adds. Another reason I like this wine: it’s food friendly.
“Make no mistake about 2011,” Steve says, putting the vintage into context: “In my 35 harvests, the two hardest were 1989 and 2011. You had to know what you were doing in those two vintages to make decent wine.”
Steve and Carole only made 350 cases of the 2011 Syrah. $48 a bottle.
There were other wonderful 2011 discoveries at the Tasting:
Tanya Beers, marketing manager for Mount. Veeder Winery, pours for guests at the Appellation tasting. She is joined here by Curtis Ropp, “brand ambassador” for Mount Veeder Winery.
2011 Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Franc
A blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec exhibiting delicious top notes, and great blue fruit, which I always think is a hallmark of well made Cab Franc. Only 150 cases made, available only at the winery. $50.
Samantha Hansen, wine educator for The Hess Collection, pours for guests.
2011 The Hess Collection Mt. Veeder Cabernet
A blend of 85% Cabernet and 15% Malbec, this wine is closer to the “simple” end of the graph axis than the “complex” end, but it delivers good flavor, is very pretty and certainly approachable right now. $50.
Estate manager, Brooke Gadke, at Mt. Brave, explains the geology of the winery with large, loopy visuals. Helluva good wine.
2011 Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon
From a vintage which the wine press said was horrible, comes this impressive, big, well structured wine which you want to swallow, not spit. Lots of purple fruit, very approachable, and a discernable hint of licorice on the finish. $75.
Betty O’Shaughnessy of O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery.
2011 O’Shaughnessy Estate. Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon
Pretty, elegant, feminine – describes Betty herself, as well as her 2011 effort. What’s not to like about either?
Betty admits that her 2011 wine has less stuffing than most years, but she has turned out an admirable win. $100.
Paul and daughter Laura Woolls, of Progeny. Laura calls herself “the Progeny elf,” helping her dad when she has free time from studies. Paul did not make any wine in 2011, so there are no comments.
Jimmy Hayes, estate director at Mayacamas Vineyards, tells guests about the winery and the very, very good 1999 and 2009 Cab Sauvignons he poured today. Jimmy did not bring any 2011 wines to pour
What you need to know about Mt. Veeder:
In 1981, Napa Valley became California’s first officially recognized wine Appellation. Or in wine-speak, an American Viticultural Area, or AVA.
Over the years, sub-sections of the lager parcel, Napa Valley, have become sub-appellations, where there is demonstrable change in soil or climate. Today, there are 16 sub-appellations, Mt. Veeder being one of them.
Mt. Veeder is a peak in the Mayacamas Mountain range, which mostly runs south to north along the western edge of Napa Valley. It has an elevation of 600 to 2100 feet, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah and Chardonnay are grown here.
My favorite shirt worn by one of the men attending this year’s appellation festivity.