Napa Valley Vintners invade Chicago!

Napa Valley Vintners AssociationThe Napa Valley Vintners Association was in Chicago on Wednesday, September 16, ready to bring a full array of Napa Valley wine to our taste buds.  I was invited to an intimate luncheon held at Bloomingdale's, and then a walk across the street to Fleming's, where over 80 wineries were pouring some excellent Napa juice.

There was alot going on in the Bloomingdale's demo kitchen.  Fleming's chefs were onhandChef at Bloomingdale's Demo Kitchen to make us a fabulous lunch, members of the press were ready to taste some great food and wine, and some of Napa Valley's best wineries were pouring premium selections.  I started off by talking to Hugh Davies of Schramsberg.  He and his family helped turn a rundown winery into the finest producer of sparkling wine in the US.  He was pouring his 1999 vintage Brut sparkling wine out of a magnum, which was aged eight years "sur lie" before bottling.  It had bright acidity, a myriad of fruit flavor, and a touch of creaminess.  A great way to start out a tasting.

We were then directed to our seats, where I was fortunate to sit next to Lisa Broman Augustine of Broman Cellars, and Diana Schweiger of Schweiger Vineyards.  We shared innovative insights to wine and Napa, and tasted some great wines.  Three different Sauvignon Blancs were being passed around:

  1. Broman Cellars.  This was my favorite, as the round ripe fruit, especially melons, filled my palate, while the flavor endured with a slightly creamy finish.

  2. Honig Vineyard and Winery.  The wine was pleasant and bright, but a bit hot, and had some oakiness to it.  I am not a big fan of oak with this varietal, though it is used alot in California Sauvignon Blanc.

  3. Cakebread Cellars.  This had mineral, citrus, and a touch of vanilla, but did not last on the tongue.

We also tasted Cakebread Chardonnay, which was a rich, buttery, extremely oaky version.  Next it was time for some food and red wine.

Mini Wellington and WineWe kicked off the red wine with David Graves introducing us to Saintsbury Pinot Noir.  We were also served a mini beef wellington, which was small and delicious.  It went well with the large collection of Cabernet Sauvignon we were tasting.  Cakebread, Oakville Ranch, Honig, and Broman Cabs were big, round, and great.  Schweiger Dedication, a blend consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot,Fleming's Filet Burger Malbec, and Cabernet Franc, is an extremely complex wine with big fruit flavor. 

Our burgers came just in time, as tasting all these wines can take a toll.  They were prepared with an au poivre sauce, served with au gratin potatoes.  I was delighted to finish off the tasting with my favorite wine of the day, the 1997 Signorello "Padrone", a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, and 7% Cabernet Franc.  It was so elegant, but yet strong- this wine could easily last another 10 years.  This ended the luncheon, and it was time to go to Fleming's and taste more wine!

As soon as I walked in, I was surrounded by wine, producers, consumers, and total atmosphere.  That place was rockin'!  I sampled many wines: Gemstone, Lail, Grgich Hills (I always have to sample their wine!), Celani (thanks for the laughs Gary!), and Baldacci (an awesome, affordable, small production wine from Stag's Leap) were some of my favorites.

It is hard to deny that Napa Valley holds some of the world's greatest wines.  They are always a pleasure to taste, great with food, and not hard to find.  Go out and grab yourself a few bottles and let me know what you think!