TN: Napa Visit 2016

NAPA VISIT 2016 - (7/10/2016-7/13/2016)

Annual jaunt to Napa…some really great visits with some really great people—and tasted some really great wines
Day 1
Visited Seavey. Dorie was a gracious host and made us feel welcome. It’s a long trek up to the winery but well worth it. After seeing the vineyards, I understand now why Seavey struggles with tannins. Stopped by Silver Trident on a whim before dinner.

Day 2 - Howell Mountain focus + Merus

Brent hosted us on a great tour and tasting. The front seating area has some of the best views on Howell Mountain. Interesting to see all that is happening up at Outpost, and the different wines made there.

2014 Grenache - not in my wheelhouse but good for what it was. No score
2014 Zinfadel - early acids still need resolution, but good anyway. Zin lovers will like this. No score


Nice newer facility, great cave, was able to tour private tasting area for Betty and her private collection. Tasted on the front patio with nice views and great weather.

2014 Chardonnay–not a Chardonnay fan, but this was good. No score.


Great facility, fun tour of the cave and well appointed tasting area. Fun host. Altvs is one the most underrated second wines in Napa. Foley seems to be missing out in that price range and could make a killing with more marketing–but don’t tell everyone!

  • 2013 Outpost Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (7/11/2016)
    -3 hrs decant, needed more. Pours dark purplish/black. Explosive fruit on a great nose. Dark fruit, heavy tannins. Still some wood. Let these infants rest 5-7 years for best results. A lot of promise here. 95+ pts. (95 pts.)
  • 2014 O’Shaughnessy Sauvignon Blanc - USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (7/11/2016)
    Tart without being overly acidic and sweet. Not for me. (87 pts.)
  • 2012 O’Shaughnessy Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (7/11/2016)
    -3 hr decant. Black fruit, medicinal notes, wood, tannins and heavy oak still predominate. 92+ but with more time or air can rise quickly. (92 pts.)
  • 2012 O’Shaughnessy Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder - USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder (7/11/2016)
    -20 hrs of air, and it showed beautifully. Poured dark, with black fruit-blackberry, chocolate, cola and cherry notes on the nose and similarly on the palate. Firm tannins without being chalky. Even with a lot of air, this needs to nap for 5 years. (96 pts.)
  • 2007 Altvs Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford (7/11/2016)
    PnP, could use some air, but was fantastic out of bottle. Good mix of tannins, oak, and red fruit, along with black plum liqueur, all mixed without being overdone. A lovely wine. Great nose of floral, fruit and perfume. Well integrated across the board. Can definitely see the tie to Merus. 93 pts (93 pts.)
  • 2008 Altvs Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford (7/11/2016)
    Subdued, lay down for a while to see if it gets its act together. Hints of black fruit, but still Got its ass kicked by the '07. 89 pts. (89 pts.)
  • 2012 Merus Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley (7/11/2016)
    2012 Merus Cabernet- has the structure and potential to be phenomenal, much more so than the 2009. Still a baby though, and will need to find its fruit. Like the '09 tannic with too many coffee and mocha notes hiding the fruit and too overbearing for now. Was better than the '11 I had a few weeks ago. Today it was just 91+ pts. Revisit 3-5 years. (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Merus Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley (7/11/2016)
    not ready, still needs to age. Too many coffee/mocha notes. Tannins subsiding but fruit is not showing through yet. Hold until after 2020. 90 today, expect a lot more later. (90 pts.)

Day 3 - A little bit of all over

Sierra hosted us on a quick tour of the relatively newer facilities. Tasting room and views are outstanding and have a relaxing feel.


Visited with Juan Mercado at the new site (formerly Hartwell). Juan filled us in on the plans for Realm going forward. Exciting things are coming. Juan is an engaging host and was willing to share his thoughts on a number of topics. We spent an hour shooting the bull, and we never felt rushed until we realized we were running late for lunch.

2015 Falstaff (barrel sample) - chocolate, toasty oak, tannic but smooth. After we tasted this, we were told it was a barrel sample. What promise. Can’t wait to get my hands on this when it’s released. 94+ pts.


Alex does a great tour, and the story is just fascinating. Give yourself 90 min to hear the story, walk the vines and sip the juice. Honeybee is a fun addition to the overall experience.


Sue was a gracious host. Gargiulo has a great site and some wonderful views. After a quick tour and discussion about some its neighbors, we tasted on the back patio with some wonderful views on a pleasant & breezy afternoon. It was good to taste the difference between the estate fruit and the Money Road Ranch fruit just a short distance away.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Stopped here to fill time before dinner. Apart from the view out of the back of the facility, not much to see here. Move on. Was disappointed in the wines below. I’ve had the Artemis on a number of occasions and thought it was better than anything below.

2014 Arcadia Chradonnay - sweet and sugary notes, overly so. 86 pts
2013 Fay - subtle fruit, some mineral notes-90 pts
2013 SLV - very earthy, minimal fruit - 87 points
2013 CASK 23 - combination of Fay and SLV. 89 points.

Girard Tasting Room - Yountville - no notes, had late reservation.
2013 Howell Mountain Cabernet - 91 pts, was much better than the…
2013 Oakville Cabernet - 88 pts.

  • 2013 BRAND Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley (7/12/2016)
    2013 Cabernet - mint chocolate, earthy tones, with graphite notes. Blackberries lurking ever so faintly beneath the tannins and wood. Not a lot of other fruit just yet. The potential is there. Parker got this one right. 96+ pts for now, with expectation to move up. Hold at least 5 years. (96 pts.)
  • 2013 BRAND Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon “BRIO” - USA, California, Napa Valley (7/12/2016)
    2013 Brio - 90 min decant - pencil shavings, minerals, faint mocha. Some black cherry hiding. Great structure with potential but not alot of fruit showing just yet. Needs 3-5 years, if not more. 93 pts (93 pts.)
  • 2014 Realm Cellars The Bard - USA, California, Napa Valley (7/12/2016)
    2014 The Bard - just bottled. Wow! Chalky tannins, red & black fruit, structured for the necessary cellar time this needs. 95+ pts for now. Try again in 3 years, will hit its stride in 5-7. (95 pts.)
  • 2015 Realm Cellars Sauvignon Blanc ibid.farella Farella Vineyard - USA, California, Napa Valley, Coombsville (7/12/2016)
    2015 Farella ibid–same as previous notes. Delicious. 92 pts (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Realm Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard - USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (7/12/2016)
    2009 Beckstoffer To Kalon - Wine of the Trip! Holy Cow! Where to begin. Nose, color, mouthfeel, taste all in harmony. Tannins are starting to pull back, red and some dark fruit blossoming like a fireworks show showing near perfect integration with oak and tannins. Long, lingering finish, had to revisit! Our group spent next two days gushing over this one. This is close to perfection! 99 pts. (99 pts.)
  • 2013 MacDonald Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (7/12/2016)
    2013 Cabernet-This is a beast, a monster in slumber, waiting its time to awake in the future. Dark and viscous without being thick. Powerful, edgy black fruit and mineral notes, predominately iron. The tannins are still thick and drying, but oh the potential! 94 points for now, has perfection in its sights within 7-10 years and could age 20 more years. Please let this rest to gain the full throttle of what this is capable of. (94 pts.)
  • 2014 Gargiulo Vineyards Pinot Grigio Money Road Ranch - USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (7/12/2016)
    2014 Pinot Grigio - usually not my thing, but this was delicious. Fruity and sweet without being sugary. Good start! 91 pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2013 Gargiulo Vineyards Merlot Money Road Ranch - USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (7/12/2016)
    2013 Merlot - very good, no notes. 92 pts (92 pts.)
  • 2012 Gargiulo Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Money Road Ranch - USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (7/12/2016)
    2012 Money Road Ranch Cabernet - compared to the '13 this lacked the depth and power. Still had red & black fruit tones, but a sharp back end. May just be in a dumb phase. 91 pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2013 Gargiulo Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Money Road Ranch - USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (7/12/2016)
    2013 Money Road Ranch Cabernet - Explosive nose and palate, concentrated in both areas with red and black fruit profiles. 93 pts with room to get better! (93 pts.)
  • 2013 Gargiulo Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon G Major Seven Study 575 OVX - USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (7/12/2016)
    2013 OVX G7 Cabernet - aromatic nose, with red and black fruit and earthy tones. Powerful beauty that already seems balanced even if young. 94 pts. Could be drunk now with a fair amount of air. My favorite Gargiulo of the tasting. (94 pts.)
  • 2013 Gargiulo Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 575 OVX - USA, California, Napa Valley (7/12/2016)
    2013 OVX Cabernet - compared to the G7 this youngin’ was not ready to come out and play. Similar notes to the G7, but an even more powerful structure that tells you a beauty awaits time in the cellar. 93 pts with room to grow. (93 pts.)

Day 4 - By happenstance, Andy Erickson focused in the morning

Jessica was a gracious host at Chateau Boswell. After a quick tour, we were led back to the Arietta tasting area, which was simple, yet beautifully appointed.

2010 Variation One - I didn’t like this, but two others loved it. Green coffee notes. Dark in the glass with clear edges. Smoky, olives, bacon, Italian meats, saline. Not fair for me to score.


Tasted in Central Napa while the new facility is finished. Kimberly is a great host, knowledgeable about the wines, and was a hoot to visit with. We started with the Amador wines. They were good but not for me. I didn’t write formal notes for the Cabs, only the scoreboard. Kimberly introduced me to the Linea, and I’m glad she did.

Lewis Cellars

Nice to visit and hear the history and sourcing for the cabs. Tasted 2 Chards which were smoky and buttery. Tasted the '13 Mason’s and the 13 Cabernet Reserve with 60 min of air. Both show promise but were served a bit too warm so it was hard to really gauge. No notes written for this reason and no scores. The '12s were smooth and luscious, and the '13s seem to swing to the other side. The '13s need significant time or a ton of air. Have both and will visit in a few years at the proper temperature. Look forward to other perspectives while I wait on these.

  • 2013 Arietta Merlot Hudson Vineyards - USA, California, Napa Valley (7/13/2016)
    2013 Merlot Hudson Vineyards - dark thick wine, heavy tannins, floral/perfume notes, cherries on the palate with a short drying finish. 90 pts (90 pts.)
  • 2014 Arietta On the White Keys - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain (7/13/2016)
    2014 On the White Keys - beautiful SB/Semillon blend. Viscous. Fruity and acidic without being tart or sweet. 91 pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2013 Arietta Red Wine H Block Hudson Vineyards - USA, California, Napa Valley (7/13/2016)
    2013 H Block - earthy mineral nose, seemed locked down. Not as expressive as the Merlot. Drying tannins. 90+ pts. Seems like this has room to grow. (90 pts.)
  • 2013 Arietta Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley (7/13/2016)
    2013 Cabernet - silky tannins, somewhat chalky, hints of cherry, graphite & minerals. Oak is still powerful, medium-long finish. 93 pts and room to climb (93 pts.)
  • 2012 Favia Cerro Sur - USA, California, Napa Valley (7/13/2016)
    No formal notes, but delicious. Cabernet showed better on this day. (93 pts.)
  • 2012 Favia Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley (7/13/2016)
    No formal notes, but delicious. Showed slightly better than the Cerro Sur. (94 pts.)
  • 2013 Favia Sauvignon Blanc Linea - USA, California, Napa Valley, Coombsville (7/13/2016)
    2013 Linea Sauvignon Blanc - Wow factor in play here! Game changer for me on the SB playing field. Unlike any other I’ve had. Full bouquet of tropical notes that fill the nose and explode on the palate. Fruity without the sweetness. Acidic feel without the tartness. Love the absence of grapefruit and green apples. Smooth texture, flows evenly across the palate with a long finish. 96 pts. (96 pts.)
  • 2014 Favia Sauvignon Blanc Linea - USA, California, Napa Valley, Coombsville (7/13/2016)
    2014 Linea Sauvignon Blanc - not as good as the '13, similar notes but more acidic and less velvety. 92 pts. (92 pts.)

Bodies and palates are tired, ready to go home
Posted from CellarTracker

Fantastic trip. I tried the '15 Falstaff recently as well and was totally blown away.

Great notes. Thank you for posting. I need to get to Realm this year.

We visited Seavey 9 months ago and recall them saying the vines are down to 1/2 ton per acre. Agree with your comments.

great notes. I keep meaning to holla at Juan when I’m in Napa. Next time i’m definitely dropping by.

Visiting Realm this Sat. Oh man I’m getting excited.

Michael…Thank you for taking the time to post a fulsome report. Big fan of Outpost and MacDonald.

Seeing Realm for first time in 2 weeks and very excited. Rest of lineup includes:

The new Realm property is great. Absolutely beautiful spot. I was up there over the JUly 4th weekend and enjoyed a fantastic tasting with Juan. He’s got some big plans for the winery and vineyard onsite…you’ll enjoy yourself immensely.

Same goes for the trip to VHR. Bruce is the MAN. Walking the vineyard and hearing the story behind his family’s involvement in Napa for 5 generations is pretty special.

Great notes, Michael! Thanks so much for posting - I am visiting a few of the same places next month and am super excited!