It’s been a long, prosperous journey for this now world famous wine growing region, since Charles Krug established Napa Valley’s first commercial winery in 1861.
His success opened the door to a wave of growth, and by 1889, there were some 140 wineries cranking out bottles including well known names that we are familiar with like Beringer, Inglenook and Schramsbrerg.
Beaulieu Vineyards (better known as BV) was founded in 1900 by George de Latour, one of the early pioneers who recognized the Napa Valley’s potential to make great wine, especially in and around Rutherford.
In 1938 Latour traveled to France to find a winemaker who could bring the expertise of European style winemaking to the Napa Valley. He found Andre Tchelistchef, an aristocratic Russian, who would revolutionize winemaking in the valley with techniques that are still used today.
Jeffrey Stambor, the third and current winemaker for BV, recalled his time with Tchelistchef, who had created the Georges Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the most revered Cabernets in Napa Valley.
I sat with Stambor at a private Reserve Retropective Tasting of six vintages of these wines starting with the most collected of the Lartours, the 2002.
“The greatest benefit of aging wines is the development of complexity,” he said. “The style of the wine by the winemaker is passed on with time and vintage improvement.” See BVWines.com.
Of the 700 or so wineries in Napa Valley, 95 percent are family owned. None reach out more to the greater world than the Staglin Family. On day five of my journey to the valley of the greatest grapes, I found myself in the middle of a miracle: the 21st Music Festival for Brain Health.
Experiencing its 21st year, it’s an event that has raised $221 million for the research and treatment of brain illness.
Most wineries raise a glass of their wine and see a lovely liquid that they could grow with. The Staglins saw it as a means to grow a national movement to improve life for people with brain disorders, making a difference in making the road to recovery a possibility.
The Staglin Family, Shari and Garen, with son Brandon and daughter Shannon, presented to guests: a Brain Symposium, a wine reception of only the very best of Napa Valley in their Caves, a Concert Performance by Melissa Etheridge and a VIP Dinner. This year they would raise $4.1 million from this event. See staglinfmily.com.
Another remarkable winery to place on your must see list next time you visit Napa Valley is HALL Wines, a high end producer of premium wines. It has a sister winery, WALT Wines in Sonoma with some of the best Pinot Noir I have ever tasted, that come from the Willamette Valley in Oregon and the Anderson Valley, Sonoma Coast, Napa Valley and the Central Coast of California.
My recommendation would be the 2013 WALT “Gap’s Crown” from the Sonoma Coast ($75); fruit forward, bountiful berry flavor with along finish.
HALL Wines in Napa Valley is an art lover’s delight with modern art and architecture. The wine to enjoy and fall in love with is the 2012 Kathryn HALL Cabernet sauvignon, names after the owner ($150). It is rewarded with a stunning 97 points — perfect balance and elegance. hallwines.com.
Castello di Amarosa is a city within a winery. Built as an Italian renaissance castle, it has eight stories of stone, including a great hall and grand barrel room, most of it underground.
On the night I visited, it had a Grape Stomp Competition with dozens of six member teams squashing those poor little grapes, to be the first ones to fill a bottle with juice. It was hilarious. See castellodiamarosa.com.
Some readers have asked that a list of favorite Napa Valley wines be presented at a future column. We will do that soon. You can learn lots more about the 2015 harvest by visiting napavalleyvintners.com.
Tuscany Restaurant La Costa has the Peter Marin Jazz Quartet Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $25 in advance; $30 day of show. Call (760) 929-8111.
Firenze Trattoria in Encinitas welcomes Grgich Hills Estate Wines for a wine dinner Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. Master winemaker Kevin Vecchirelli joins with a presentation. $95. RSVP at (760) 944-9000.
Chandler’s along the coast in Carlsbad presents its executive chef and a truffles five-course dinner experience Nov. 5 through Nov. 7. Chef Fabrizio Facchini presides. Call (760) 683-5500 for an RSVP.
Encinitas Wine Merchants, in the Kohl’s Center in Encinitas, has a 20 percent off on all wines in the bar, on a six bottles mix or match program. Get the details at (760) 407-4265.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View his columns at tasteofwinetv.com and reach him at [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook.