Late in June, I was joined by Marie Keep (Skinner wine auctioneer), and Jim Esper (LFW alum - now Oregon winemaker) for a couple days in Napa.  Our visit overlapped with the tail end of Dany & Michel Rolland's trip so we were juggling appointments until just before departure.  [A sidebar thought.... One can only imagine how fascinating it must be to sit in on one of those tasting/blending sessions!]  That said, our party didn't lack for our own vinous fireworks. My initial visit to the Peter Michael Winery was in 1994.  All you can say is the operation continually goes from strength to strength.  Every subsequent arrival reveals some new facet or improvement.  To use the adjective "impressive" as a descriptor  is a vast understatement.  What winery anywhere in the world performs with such a white-red tandem?...

Matt Taylor at Araujo might just be the most affable, modest winemaker who is not (yet) a household name.  Call Matt the anti-LeBron.  A Sonoma County native, he has considerable "talents" of his own.  Tasting through the present and future releases, one really gets the sense that the NoCal wineries which excel at this level are really kicking into an as yet unseen overdrive gear.  We're talking DB 9 here.

I had never had the pleasure of meeting Claude Blankiet - he could be the most gracious host in Valley (a highly competitive category).  Here at his eponymous winery in Yountville, we were struck by a property owner who is comfortable taking the reins and directing the show rather than merely content relying on a consultant to call the important shots.

Across the way, Naoko Dalla Valle showed off her unique terroir.  How wonderful it must be to learn that after spending so much of one's life creating something, that your daughter is likely to enter the cellar.  These wines show a feminine grace that is both stylish and memorable.

A visit at Grace Family Vineyards always provides keen insights and inspiration. Old friends Dick and Ann Grace were headed back to Tibet the next morning so our timing was fortuitous.   After hearing Dick hold court, you pull off the hillside reminded that enjoying Napa cab is a treat - and not a necessity.

Finally we enjoyed a most professional reception at Harlan.  This was a profound experience on multiple levels.  Here is a New World "First Growth" bearing all the traditional trapping associated with said lofty mantle.  Many have, and will pay lip service to pursuing such a European-inspired ideal.  To inspect up close the attention to detail and recognize the constant effort that is required to orchestrate such a wine estate invites awe.

And as for those vaunted 2007 cabs, the ones we met are darned good!  They are plump, lush and show nicely resolved tannins.  Additionally, they have the extra boost of being deceptively "forward"- even suave - as well.

A notable time for sure.  Thanks for the tasty memories all.

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