Beth’s Smart Sip: 2014 Highlands Winery Zinfandel

2014 Highlands Zinfandel
2014 Highlands Zinfandel, Oakville, Napa Valley

My passion for zinfandel made the way it ought to be was reignited when I tasted this sample from Oakville’s Highlands Winery. It is not often that I use the word lovely and elegant when describing a zinfandel, but this is just that. Black cherry fruit and mouthwatering acidity lead into a subtle peppery finish. Structured, yet restrained, all of this wine’s components, if you will, are woven together quite nicely, resulting in a zinfandel that will complement food, not overpower it. Sharing it with new friends from California, Illinois, and New York was the icing on the proverbial cake. I was delightfully reminded me why I moved to the Napa Valley to follow my dream of working in the wine industry.

Only 200 cases made and a handful of bottles remaining of this 2014 vintage. Winemaker: Bradley Smith. SRP $45. Available at the end-of-vintage price, $30, at this link.

Ten Questions for Gary Lipp of COHO Wines

2018-09-15 12.03.52-1

Recently I had the opportunity to attend one of Sommelier Christopher Sawyer’s first Somm Sessions, an intimate tasting experience with winery owners, at Feast It Forward in Napa. After the tasting, Gary Lipp of COHO Wines graciously allowed me to ask him questions about his winery and wines. Below are his answers in his own words.

What is the history and story of COHO Wines? Why did you choose the name COHO?

I started COHO in 2002 with winemaker and former COHO partner Brooks Painter. The goal was to produce balanced, supple wines, priced to be relevant for the market. Both of us had been working for other California wineries since 1980-81 and wanted to use the expertise we had acquired into producing our own wines. The name was inspired by an old Celtic legend, “The Salmon of Knowledge.” It is about the wisdom to do the right things in the vineyard to promote the long-term health of the soils and all the creatures with which we share the vineyards.

What do you think makes COHO Wines different than other wineries in the Napa Valley?

Our approach to extended maceration, post-alcoholic fermentation is a bit out of step with many of the highly regarded wines produced in Napa Valley. It has become popular to leave the wine in contact with the skins and seeds for two to four weeks, drawing out color, tannin, and varietal character. At COHO, we are pressing the wines six to eight days after the completion of the alcoholic fermentation. I feel we achieve all the elements we need without the density.

How much wine does COHO produce? How many wines and what grape varieties?

The biggest crush we had was in 2012 and we made a little more than 5,800 cases. The last few vintages due to the loss of some vineyard (some our choice, some the vineyard getting a lot more money per ton) we are making between 2500-3000 cases. The current wines we produce are Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a red blend comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.

Do you have a favorite grape variety? If so, why?

I guess it would be Merlot, but Pinot Noir is a close second. As to why, it is two-fold. Firstly, I love that when grown in the right conditions, Merlot can have the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon with more finesse and elegance on the palate, displaying blue and red fruit flavors. The second reason is that in the United States, Merlot is still a stepchild. Many consumers and some retailers do not want to hear about it. As a producer of what I consider an exceptional Merlot, I love the challenge of changing their minds and delighting the palates of those that do appreciate how delicious a Merlot can be.

What are your favorite vineyard sources in the Napa Valley and why?

All the vineyards with which COHO sources are in the cooler-climate areas of Napa Valley: Coombsville, Los Carneros, and the hillsides southeast of downtown Napa. I love the spicy flavors and aromatics, and resolved tannins are characteristics of the cool climates in which our fruit grows.

Do you have a wine club or allocation model?

No. With only four wines, there is not enough choice to make for an interesting club. Instead, we send newsletters several times a year that offer our new releases to our direct customers.

Tell us about Feast It Forward and why you decided to become a partner.

Feast It Forward has so many interesting components: a nice lineup of wineries, a cooking studio that broadcasts on their internet station, lots of music, the charitable component, and a fun place to enjoy it all. Also location, location, location: being across the street from The Oxbow Market in Napa has the potential to expose our wines to several million visitors per year.

In addition to Feast It Forward, where does one find and purchase your wines?

COHO wines can be found in fine wine shops and restaurants in fifteen markets around the country and directly from us through our website.

Are there any new wines on the horizon?

I hope to revive a second label wine that we produced in 2012-2014 called Old Poodle Dog. The Old Poodle Dog is named for a notorious San Francisco restaurant of the same name that dates to the city’s Barbary Coast days. We made a Cabernet Sauvignon using the fruit that did not quite fit into the other programs. The wines were very good and would sell quickly. Unfortunately, because of the small harvests in 2015 and 2016, there was not enough fruit to pull from the COHO wines to make any. By 2017, prices for Napa Cabernet Sauvignon grapes have gotten too expensive to make the wine. I am searching for appropriate vineyards and a winemaking facility outside of Napa where we can revive Old Poodle Dog again.

How do you envision the future of COHO Wines?

In 2014, Phillip Carollo-Titus began making the wines, giving us access to several new, exceptional vineyards that are already elevating the quality of the wines. The other side of it, though, is that the price of quality fruit in Napa Valley continues to rise. As a small winery that tries to keep our retail prices accessible and reasonable, I have decided to reduce the total quantity of our wines to be able to pay my growers and not bust the bank. However, I really like the quality of what we are producing and am convinced that our friends will continue to enjoy the wines we are offering.

Frank Family Vineyards: Drink Pink for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Medium
Photo courtesy of Frank Family Vineyards

The last Saturday in September, a friend and I hosted a brunch for six people with seven sparkling wine producers. One of the producers who so generously provided samples was Frank Family Vineyards, a beautiful vineyard and winery in the Calistoga AVA of the Napa Valley owned and operated by three generations of Frank family members. This sample was facilitated by Jarvis Communications.

Without letting the cat out of the bag completely for future articles related to this brunch, the 2014 Frank Family Vineyards Brut Rosé, Carneros, was one of the standouts of our gathering. I may have accidentally set the tone of anticipation and excitement by thinking aloud, “I know this is going to be one of my favorites!”

Medium2
Photo courtesy of Frank Family Vineyards

However, in addition to the fact that this is a lovely brut rosé replete with juicy, red berry flavors enveloped with yeasty creaminess, I discovered during my writing research that during the month of October, Frank Family Vineyards is offering a Drink Pink for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) Package for $75, which includes a bottle of this brut rosé (SRP $55) and a T-shirt, and will donate 10% of each purchase to the BCRF, a foundation whose mission is to prevent and cure breast cancer by advancing the world’s most promising research. BCRF recently announced a $63 million commitment to fund breast cancer research for 2018-2019.

As the sister of a breast cancer survivor, this is a cause near and dear to my heart, so I wanted to share this with my readers immediately, with a thank you to Frank Family Vineyards. To order your package, please call Jennifer Higgins at 707-942-2314.

Cheers to drinking pink!
Elizabeth

Ackerman Family Vineyards

Ackerman_correspondent_main

I am sure that during my commutes around the city of Napa, I have passed the Ackerman Heritage House at 608 Randolph Street before, the hospitality and tasting home of Ackerman Family Vineyards. However, on this rainy February day, nothing was more inviting as my co-workers and I entered by way of a back door.

*CLICK HERE TO READ*

Robert Biale Vineyards

Robert_Bial__correspondent_main
Robert Biale Vineyards

Not long ago, I had lunch with Maggie Pramuk Mazotti, daughter of the co-founder of Robert Biale Vineyards. Being a recent transplant to Napa, I had heard of Biale, but really did not know their story. After our lunch, I returned to work and suggested we schedule a staff tasting there.

*CLICK HERE TO READ*

Lightning Wines

Lightning_wines_correspondent_main
Tasting with Lightning Wines

Three years ago, I reviewed the movie American Wine Story, a documentary that follows the story of Oregon’s Brooks family (Brooks Wines) as well as others in the United States who have decided to leave their secure careers to follow their passion for winemaking. Such is the story of former Texas natives and owners, Randy and Brooke Hester, who decided to take their own leap of faith to create Lightning Wines.

*CLICK HERE TO READ*

Hendry Ranch Wines

Learning from George O. Hendry
Learning from George O. Hendry

By far, Hendry was the most comprehensive tour and tasting I have ever experienced. Those who are new to the Napa Valley, grape growing, winemaking, how to taste wine, and wine and food pairing would benefit greatly from a morning spent with second-generation vintner and winemaker, George O. Hendry.

*CLICK HERE TO READ*