[Sylvia Pestoni with Rutherford Grove]

Rutherford is the historic heart of Napa Valley. The Appellation was established in 1993; the Society was established in 1994. Their mission is to encourage and promote the highest quality standards in grape growing and winemaking in the Rutherford Viticultural Area, and to gain recognition for these grapes and wine qualities through educating their members and the general public. You can find more information at www.RutherfordDust.org.

Jose and I traveled to Napa to attend another tasting of these delicious wines… It was literally a day in the dust, as we got out of our car in an impromptu parking field, with the temperatures registering 107 degrees. (When we got back to our car, the inside of our car was registering 125 degrees… Needless to say, “turn the engine on and step away from the car for a minute” was what we did…) As we arrived, I was wondering why anyone would want to be out on such a hot day, but that attitude quickly changed as we entered Raymond Vineyards, where the event was being held.  I’ve already written what a unique place Raymond has become; so unique, in fact, I couldn’t even really get to write my thoughts about the wines and wineries that I enjoyed until I got the first story written.

That’s what this story is about; what I tasted and produced by whom…at that special trade tasting that was held in Raymond’s Crystal Cellar. The brands I enjoyed and why:

  • Rutherford Grove Winery & Vineyards

I had a really delightful day a few years ago at Rutherford Grove Winery. Rutherford Grove Winery for that Final PS. It had been day with my kids and my daughter Lyla’s dog Spike. I had a niece and nephew visiting from Maine, and I chased down a few of my Petite Sirah I Love You members, to taste their wines. I hadn’t been to Rutherford Grove, as many times as I had passed it, and it was just “time” to go there… Spike, I’d say, had as much fun as we did.

This Rutherford focused tasting allowed me to do two things… taste their wines and meet with the Rutherford crew, including meeting Sylvia Pestoni. Sylvia and her husband Bob Pestoni own Rutherford Grove. When we began talking, I didn’t realize who she was, but when I told her I was really appreciative of Rutherford Grove being such a great member PSILY member, she introduced herself. What a surprise and joy… I wasn’t expecting to meet her on this day. I got to taste their 2008 Cabernet, One Acre/Bella Oaks Lane Vineyard. Like their Petite Sirah, this Cab was very smooth with delicious black fruit.

At bit about the Pestonis: In the mid 1990s, Bob and his wife Sylvia were presented with a rare opportunity. A small winery adjacent to their family´s Rutherford property had become available for purchase. Over the years, Bob and Sylvia had always grown grapes on their land, but they had always sold their fruit to other wine producers. They hadn’t been interested in becoming vintners before, but the acquisition of this new property renewed Bob´s admiration for his family´s business – and for his heritage. In 1994, they opened the doors to Rutherford Grove Winery and resumed making the single vineyard, hand-crafted artisanal wines Bob´s father and grandfather had created there for more than a century before him.

[Kelly Barfield of Rutherford Grove Winery with trade.]

My contact at the winery is Kelly Barfield. Kelly was at another location pouring their Sauvignon Blanc. This was my opportunity to finally meet her and retaste their Sauvignon Blanc. having become familiar with it a few years before, an enjoying buying it over the years since, I was ready to just taste whites. (Jose and I began with the reds, and then realized there was a white section. After so many Cabs, we were ready to cleanse out palates… And it began with Rutherford Grove.

Before we hit the back area, though, I spied Julie Johnson, and we continued with the reds for a bit longer.

Julie, Jose, and my daughter Katie are all Bowdoin grads… following a long tradition in my family. It’s a tie that binds those who know and love that campus in Brunswick, Maine. Years ago, with my daughter Katie’s friends visiting from Arden, North Carolina, we visited Tres Sabores. We had our lunch there, celebrating another member of PS I Love You. I wrote about it, calling it Tres Sabores ~ Splendor in the Glass.

Seeing Julie is always great fun. Some day I’ve got to slow down long enough to visit one of her film nights.

Tres Sabores is a small, family-owned ranch that’s located on the western Rutherford Benchland of Napa Valley. They’re organically certified Zinfandel, Cabernet, Petite Syrah and Petit Verdot grapes, olives, Meyer lemons and exotic pomegranate cultivars make this a real working ranch. They craft wines from single-vineyard estate Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc from the Farina Vineyard of Sonoma Mountain.

Tres Sabores means “Three Flavors” in Spanish, and in each of their wines, deliver three equally savory, yet distinct tastes: the Terroir, the Vine, and the Artisan. Appropriately balanced, these three ingredients result in wines with intense, yet delicate, aromas and a structure that supports both long-term aging and immediate enjoyment. I love Julie’s wines, as much as I appreciate her. She takes being a steward of the land very seriously. Her unique and beautiful setting is very unexpected for Napa Valley, but oh so necessary in a land where most everyone is there to dazzle the next visitor. Julie’s space is quiet, serene, and earthy. Julie Johnson, Earth Mother… yeah.

This winery dates back to 1964, when Louis Honig bought a 68-acre ranch in the heart of the Napa Valley. He planted Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, selling the fruit to neighbors with the dream of retiring one day from his San Francisco advertising business and making wine from his vineyard in Rutherford. Before he could realize his dream, Louis passed away, leaving the estate to his children and grandchildren. In 1981, as a tribute to his legacy, the family rallied together to produce several hundred cases of Louis Honig Sauvignon Blanc in the vineyard’s old tractor barn. Winning a gold medal at the Orange County Fair, they knew they had something special going on and the winery was born. In 1984, at the age of 22, Louis’ grandson Michael Honig took over management of the vineyard and winery.

Jose and I tasted their 2011 Honig Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc, which was extremely refreshing on that hot, summer day. For me, it had three claws… which – in my world – means a perfect balance.

Family owned and operated, proprietors John and Kathy Chaix do all of their own PR and marketing. Chaix Wines is made in St. Helena at Terra Valentine by Sam Baxter.

In the mid-19th century, two brothers—Adrien Pierre and Jean V. Chaix—listened to many stories about the new world, the wonders of Napa Valley, and the unique terroir that was perfect for growing grapes. The two young men left their homes in Provence and emigrated to California. They settled mid-valley, and purchased prime vineyards in Rutherford, Oakville, and on Howell Mountain. Jean and his business partner Adolphe Brun built and operated the 13th bonded winery in California. (Remarkable to me…)

In 1909, John Chaix’s great-grandfather Adrien bought an 80-acre vineyard in Rutherford on the Rutherford Bench. He cultivated grapes with cuttings he brought from the Medoc. Over the past 100 years, grapes from Chaix Family Vineyards have gone into making many of Napa’s most distinguished wines. Now John, like so many other grape growers before him, decided it was time to put his own grapes into bottles that would bear his own name.

Still selling grapes to other Napa Valley brands, the Chaix are now producing and selling 300 cases a year of their own wine. If you’ve been to Napa, you recognize their tank house. For me, it was an “aha moment.” How many times have I driven through Napa, seen the house, love the sight, but didn’t take it to the next step of, “Who owns that tank house, anyway?” Now, we all know.

Their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Chaix Vineyard Rutherford is big and burly. This one can be aged for another 10 years, and not skip a beat. If you love tannins… enjoy now with a cut of beef that has a lot of marbleized fat in it, like a rib-eye, to round out the tannins.

Owned and operated by the Corley family. In 1969, Jay Corley searched for the best site to grow wine grapes, and settled on wine graped in the Napa Valley. Here he felt he would produce the best wine grapes possible in the US. His personal interest was in Burgundian-style wines. In 1970, he chose to focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and bought land in what is known today as the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. In southern Napa Valley just north of the town of Napa, the Oak Knoll District has cooler temperatures for grape growing, and  is ideal for growing these varieties.

Pleased with their results, the family today farms five different vineyards in the Napa Valley, including the Tietjen Vineyard, on Niebaum Lane in Rutherford… Hence their 2009 Tietjen Vineyard Cabernet, and their 2009 Corley Reserve Cab. the Tietjen Vineyard Cab was very soft… It tasted of crushed blackberries, cassis, tobacco, and a bit of leather, with a nutty finish. It was an excellent wine.