Wine Tasting Notes: Ehlers Estate, St. Helena

The BioDynamic vineyard at Ehlers Estate comprises 43 acres in total. In order to help amend the soil for the upcoming season, rows of vibrant yellow mustard alternate with verdant rows of grasses, fava beans and vetch. With rain subsiding, these same cover crops will assume a monotone shade of golden brown over the next month or so.

In some ways, it’s almost embarrassing to heap lavish praise onto my favorite Napa wineries. I often feel as though I might be coming across as some sort of Napa Valley rah-rah, gushing with unbridled hyperbole, as if I were posting on Yelp. As far as I’m concerned, Yelp represents the absolute lowest of the low in online content. In fact, I resent Yelp much more than I’ve ever resented the Wine Spectator. At least the Wine Spectator — with its hopeless predictability and its overblown influence — still manages [… read more …]

Napa's Top 25 Wine Tours

Outside Quixote (left) and outside Schramsberg (right).

These types of lists are always debatable — if not questionable — because you have to wonder about the author’s credentials. Who really comes up with these lists, and much do they know about anything? It’s a fair question. Lots of travel writers have come to the Napa Valley and covered the wine scene, and there are plenty of opinions about all kinds of wineries.

My own perspective is uniquely local. I’ve lived in Napa for over 10 years and have spent most of that time as a professional chef (at the moment, I work as a chef-instructor at a local cooking school). Over the years, I have taken breaks from restaurant life to work as a wine educator. I spent a year at Grgich Hills pouring wine, and I spent three years at Nickel & Nickel hosting tours and tastings.

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Napa Wine Label Quiz: How Many Snippets Can You Identify?

The idea for this wine quiz struck me as I was rummaging through my wine locker today. I have a modest amount of wine in storage, but when as many boxes are crammed into one space as possible, there’s limited room to maneuver, especially towards the back of the locker. In many cases, I could only see the very bottom portion of many of my wine labels (being that the bottles themselves are stored upside down). And so, in that same spirit, I’ve compiled 25 label snippets below, each one representing a Napa Valley winery. For many of the people who work here in the wine industry — as I once did — this quiz will probably be a breeze. I’d expect many of my Napa friends to score 20 or better, and a good local sommelier would likely miss only one or two at the most.

If you […