Inside wine country of Napa Valley, Part 2

Last week we took our readers through Part 1 of our latest journey in the hallowed wine country of  Napa Valley, that 30-mile stretch of the most traveled visitor attraction in California and home to the most exalted group of wineries in the state, and arguably the world.
It all came together for Napa Valley in 1976 at the now famous French tasting where Napa Cabernet and Chardonnay beat its French counterparts, led by Chardonnay winemaker Mike Grgich, then with Chateau Montelana. Grgich proceeded to strike out on his own, and now two of Napa Valley’s most delicious Chardonnays can be found at his Grgich Hills Estate just off Highway 29 in Rutherford. The family winery has now made the transition to certified organic and biodynamic grape growing, which richly endows their two Chardonnay vintages: the ’07 Napa Valley ($47) and the ’06 Chardonnay Carneros Estate Grown ($75). Fresh flavor and pleasing acidity, citrus flower and balanced minerality are hallmarks of these wines. See www.grgich.com.
The Carneros district, which encompasses the southern edge of both Sonoma and Napa Valley, is getting respect as an important wine country due to foggy mornings, warm daytime temperatures, the Petaluma winds in the afternoon and the naturally air conditioned cooler nights from San Pablo Bay. Chardonnay is picked way later in September than most, allowing sugars to develop while keeping a bright acidity.
Dotting the Napa Valley landscape, with an important vineyard in Mendocino, is the Duckhorn Wine Company, a collection of seven small winery estates co-founded by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 1976. 
They produce four Merlots, four Cabernets, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Bordeaux Blend under the Duckhorn and Decoy labels. Other labels include Goldeneye with its lovely Pinor Noir from the Anderson Valley of Mendocino, which I have reviewed into my most recent Top 10 Tastes. I was most impressed with the just-released 2006 Napa Valley “The Discussion,” an artful blend of varietals from six of their estate vineyards. The composition includes 53 percent Cabernet, 28 percent Merlot, 14 percent Cab Franc and 5 percent Petit Verdot. Duckhorn will quickly tell you that this is their highest acclaimed creation, and it’s true ($115). Learn more at www.duckhornvineyards.com.
The story of Tamber Bey Vineyards in the Yountville district of Napa Valley is a fascinating review of  a high-tech professional, who through hard work and perseverance, gets to live out his dream since childhood, raising Arabian horses and making estate wines. It began in 1999 when former Apple executive Barry Waitte bought 60 acres of prime Napa Valley land near Yountville and became a grape farmer. In quick order, he purchased an estate for his residence, as well as  acreage for prime cabernet and a set of stables for his endurance racing Arabian horses. In 2003, the Tamber Bey label premiered, named after his two favorite Arabians — Tamborina and Bayamo — and released a Merlot, a Cabernet blend and a Chardonnay. The family of wines has since increased to another blend, Rabicano, and a 100 percent Cabernet.
“I’m a marketing guy and I was having an incredibly hard time finding
a name for the winery,” Barry revealed. “One day Jennifer Nice, my winery manager and horse trainer and I were riding through the vineyards, and she says, ‘Why don’t you just call it Tamber Bey with an equestrian theme throughout?’” 
Barry agreed and quickly made a number of horse terms part of the Tamber Bey lexicon.  Tamber Bey was a major player in the annual Wine Auction Week, a charitable event held recently by the Napa Valley Vintners Association. His current 2007 Rabicano (and my Tamber Bey personal favorite, which made my latest Top 10 Tastes) was a stellar performer in raising a portion of the $8.5 million raised. Three hundred and seventy-five cases were made, and Barry vows the 2008 edition is going up to 1,000 cases. It sells for $48. 
Here’s a real comer to the Napa Valley wine scene and you don’t want to miss it. Find out more at www.tamberbey.com.
Wine Bytes
— Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas is pulling out some great Zinfandels for its Friday Tasting from 6 to 8 p.m. July 30. Call (760) 479-2500 for price and to RSVP.
— The WineSellar & Brasserie in San Diego is presenting a Flowers Winery Dinner with winemaker Darren Lowe on July 30. Reception starts at 6:30 p.m. Cost is $95. Call (858) 450-9557 for reservations.
— In Temecula Wine Country, Briar Rose Winery has a BBQ and Blues Fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. July 31. Four local barbecue entries will be judged as best ribs in town. Tickets are $48 per person. Call (951) 308-1098 for more information.
— Bacchus Wine Market in the Gaslamp downtown San Diego is having another Brown Bag wine event from 2 to 9 p.m. July 31. Cost is $15. Of the eight wines to try, if you are right on four of them, you will win a gift. Call (619) 236-0005 for more information.

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