Printer Friendly

Napa Valley wines.

Napa Valley, the brightest, most beautiful facet of the California wine world, is the soul of American winemaking. Starting 55 miles above San Francisco and cloistered on the east and west by mountain ridges, Napa Valley runs for 30 miles from north of the town of Napa up to Calistoga. Spanning only five miles at its widest point, the valley floor funnels to barely a mile at its northern end. Across the valley floor and up the foothills on both sides grow more than 33,000 acres of vines that hold more than 25 kinds of grapes. About a dozen of these varieties have contributed to Napa's fame. The two most famous varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, among red wine grapes, and Chardonnay, among white wine grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon is the grape basic to the fine red wines of Bordeaux's Medoc and Graves regions. Chardonnay is responsible for all great white Burgundies and is one of the great grapes of the Champagne region in France. It's not surprising that both are popular among the wine-drinking elite.

But by drinking only what we know well, we overlook other wonderful wines. We miss one of the great pleasures of wines--the thrill of discovery.

Consider Charbono. A red grape that arrived in California from France in the 1869s, Charbono has been made into wine in Napa Valley since Inglenook, one of the state's oldest continuous fine wineries, began producing wine in the 1880s. Today, only 75 acres of the grape exist in the entire state, almost all of them located in Napa. The wine is produced predominantly by Inglenook. While other wineries have produced Charbono at times, only Inglenook has succeeded over the decades,

Charbono is a deep-colored wine with a spicy aroma. It has an underlying berry quality and full-bodied, velvety, cedary taste with hints of fresh-roasted coffee. Among its attributes is its remarkable ability to age long and well. A recently tasted 1959 was still fresh and vivid, surprisingly young and forceful. Yet, because Charbono tends to have softer tannins than those found in a young Cabernet Sauvignon, it can be enjoyed at an earlier age. Currently on the market is Charbono 1985, one of California's great vintages. It retails for $9.50.

Among Napa's lesser-known white wines is Semillon. Semillon, one of the two basic grapes of white Bordeaux wines, is a relative latecomer to California, where it is primarily used as it is in France--to be blended with Sauvignon Blanc to temper that grape's herbaceous character. By itself, however, Semillon makes a wine of good character--richer, more complex and longer lived than most Sauvignon Blancs.

Ironically, no region in France produces a 100 percent Semillon. But in California, of the few pure Semillon available, the best is made by a Frenchman, Bernard Portet, winemaker of the Clos du Val winery in Napa Valley. The 1987 vintage sells for about $10.

In France's Loire Valley, the versatile white Chenin Blanc grape produces Vouvray, Anjou, Saumur and other wines in styles that range from crisp, fruity and dry to full, rich and off-dry to sweet and honeyed. In California, Chenin Blanc was first blended with other wines as jug wines, and much of it still is. But in Napa Valley, Chenin Blanc has been made as a fine, delicate, fruity, dry wine. Among the first to do this was the Chappellet Winery. Today, Chappellet Chenin Blanc remains a benchmark for what the grape can produce in California--an intense bouquet of fruit aromas reminiscent of fresh green apples and citrus, and a taste that blends melon and peach with spice and vanilla. The 1989 version retails for about $7.50.

The Colombard grape is rarely associated with California, even though it is the state's most widely planted white wine grape. The reason is that most Colombard is mass-produced and blended with other white wines to make inexpensive jug wines and sparkling wines. But some very fine Colombard is grown in Napa Valley, and a few of the state's top wineries have proven that Colombard can make a fine wine. To taste this wine at its absolute best, try Carmenet Colombard 1989, which retails for about $7.50. Although the Carmenet Winery is located in Sonoma County, it buys its Colombard from Napa. Few wines are as sprightly and refreshing as Colombard, with its clean fruit flavors and lively acidity. Drink it young as an aperitif wine or enjoy it as the perfect wine to serve with delicate fish dishes. These and other lesser-known wines are among the hidden treasures of Napa Valley. And who doesn't dream of finding hidden treasures?
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:unusual varietals
Author:Fried, Eunice
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Oct 1, 1992
Words:767
Previous Article:Exploring the wonders of wine country.
Next Article:A choice for the '90s.
Topics:


Related Articles
1999'S RISING AS GOOD YEAR FOR WINE.
WINE COUNTRY 101 COPIA CENTER PROVIDES GENTLE EDUCATION FOR NAPA VISITORS.
L.A. WINELINE THE KING IN A BOTTLE.
L.A. WINELINE FOR A TASTE OF D'ARGENZIO, HEAD STRAIGHT TO BURBANK.
L.A. WINELINE IN OXNARD, IT'S ALL KOSHER AT HERZOG.
L.A. WINELINE.
Don Sebastiani & Sons Adds Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc to Aquinas Napa Valley Line.
L.A. WINELINE CLOS DU VAL BOTTLINGS GOOD TO POUR.
Don Sebastiani & Sons' New Kono Baru Turns the Wine World Upside-Down.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters