The Napa Valley Vintners Association was the very generous sponsors for a spectacular tasting at the most recent course day for European students of the Institute Masters of Wine.

The course was conveniently held in Düsseldorf on the 23rd of March, cialis making it quite opportune for many students who were attending the ProWein either as visitors or exhibitors. The morning was spent in mock exam conditions for a practical paper of 12 wines. The paper and the wines were then discussed in depth with Fergal Tynan MW and Frank Roeder MW who did quite a fine job of illuminating those of us still in the dark. They were quite motivating and able to give us useful tips on how to pass the tasting exams. The biggest challenge for most of us is simply getting the paper finished and if you don’t answer all the questions, your chances of passing are quite slim.

Our afternoon session was absolutely spectacular! Larry Stone Master Sommelier, the only American to have won the title of French Matre Sommelier from the Union de la Sommelerie Francaise, was our lecturer. Larry gave us an in-depth seminar on Napa Valley and led us through a tasting of truly exquisite wines from 14 of the 15 Napa Valley sub-appellations. In Larry’s two decades of experience as a wine educator and master sommelier in California, he has gained a reputation not only for his profound knowledge, but his ability to share it in a very unpretentious manner. He was incredibly generous with his knowledge and we had the opportunity to pick his brain for an entire 5 hours!

Here are my tasting notes from the afternoon tasting sponsored by the Napa Valley Vintners Association:

Saintsbury 2007, Pinot Noir, Los Caneros

Transparent ruby red. Dark cherry and plum fruit. Powerful 14.5% alcohol is not fully integrated and heats the finish. Liquorice and plenty of oak spice flavour loosely knit, velvety tannins. 89 points.

Cuvaison Estate 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Brandlin Vineyard, Mt. Veeder

Dark black red. Rich cassis with graphite and floral components. Abundant firm, velvety tannins. Muscular, very tightly knit. Very long mineral finish. 93 points.

Blackbird Vineyards 2006 Illustration Propriety Blend, Oak Knoll

Dark black red. Aromas and flavours of rich sweet vanilla, coffee and cassis with a hint of leather and dark spice. Plenty of supple, round tannin. Warming alcohol on the finish. 90 points.

Kapcsandy Family Vineyard 2006 State Lane Vineyard, Yountville

Dark dense black red. Blackberry and black currant with a hint of cedar. Soft and fleshy with medium high tannin content, velvety mouthfeel and nicely integrated acid. Rich plum fruit and liquorice t on the finish. 96 points.

Clos Du Val 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap

Very dark ruby Black currant and cayenne pepper comprise a very spicy nose. Rich fruit draped over a slightly stalky tannin spine and laced with pencil shavings and leather. Capsicum on the finish. 89 points.

BOND 2005 St. Eden Proprietary Blend, Oakville

Very pronounced, well-defined and focused cassis and black cherry fruit with hints of oleander and graphite. Boisterously fruit-driven, yet not over the top. Sweet and rather confectionary milk chocolate and blackberry liqueur remain long on the finish. This wine has a lot of everything, including 14.5% a.b.v. 94 points.

Rubicon Estate 2006 Proprietary Blend, Rutherford

Dark deep ruby. Dark forest berries, liquorice and chocolate with mineral firmness. Abundant fine-grained tannin, well-integrated alcohol and plenty of generous fruit. Black currants, blueberries, cedar and tobacco linger on the finish. 94 points.

Note to Francis Ford Coppola: This wine is packaged in an obnoxiously heavy bottle that requires a body-builder of a sommelier to pour and a million carbon footprints to produce and ship. What were you thinking? Such a sensitive wine and certified organic to boot and then this?

Salvestrin 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena

Dark ruby. Rich ripe black cherry and cassis fruit. Smoky aromas like coffee and charred oak flavour abundant soft tannins. Black currant and cedar remain on the finish. 91 points.

Cain Vineyard & Winery 2005 Cain Five Proprietary Blend, Spring Mountain

Deep dark black. Black cherry, leather, and floral notes make a slightly exotic impression. Abundant very fine-grained tannins wrapped in rich glycerine-laced black fruit on the palate. Warming cassis liqueur and cardamom on the finish. 92 points

J. Davies Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain

Dark ruby with violet highlights. Intense yet elegant black currant and well-integrated alcohol. Medium full-bodied and very well-balanced with plenty of soft supple tannins and vibrant acid. Elderberry and spice linger deliciously long on the finish. 95points

Storybook Mountain Vineyards/Seps 2007 Estate Zinfandel, Calistoga

Transparent dark ruby-violet. Rich brambleberry fruit with vanilla, orange zest, and cinnamon spice. Medium full-bodied with fleshy tannins. Warm, dark-berry compote finish. 90 points

Viader Vineyards 2005 Proprietary Blend, Howell Mountain

Dark ruby. Discreet yet perfumed with floral components reminiscent of violets. A very fine-boned linear structure lends focused elegance to cassis jelly, raspberry and graphite. Abundant, extremely fine-grained tannin. The finish is discreet yet very long and persistent. 93 points

Brown Estate Vineyards 2008 Estate Zinfandel, Chiles Valley District

Transparent ruby-violet. Jammy blackberry fruit with coconut and tangerine flavour soft chewy tannins. Full-bodied and expressive with plenty of spicy rich fruit on the finish. 90 points

Antica Antinori Family Estate 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Single Vineyard, Atlas Peak

Dark youthful opaque ruby violet. Intense freshly roasted Arabica coffee beans on the nose. Lemony acid gives lift to crème de cassis fruit which is supported by fleshy tannins. Opulent fruit on the slightly warming finish. 91 points

The Institute Masters of Wine offers single-course days throughout the year for MW students. The European course days have historically all been held in London, often in rather tight quarters. Participants are always required to bring their own set of 12 glasses, a water cup and a spittoon. It is difficult and expensive for an MW student to get to these single-day courses in London for several reasons:

  • Inexpensive flight usually fly to one of the periphery airports requiring about an hour’s travel from the airport to the course venue
  • Flight times often make it necessary to stay at least one night in London
  • A set of 12 wine glasses must be carried as hand baggage to avoid breakage which leaves little room for overnight necessities in the allowed carry-on piece for most airlines.
  • Lunch is not provided at course days
  • Hotel rooms in London rarely have a sink large enough to clean your wine glasses
  • In the end it costs a continental student 2 ½ work days and 250-350 Euros to visit a course day in London.

For these reasons it was really great to have a course day in Düsseldorf. Many students were already present at the ProWein, either as exhibitors or professional visitors and thus travel expenses were not completely extra for the course day. The VDP invited students the evening before to a fine restaurant for dinner and a tasting of extraordinary German wines. In addition to this a very nice soup, sandwich, dessert and beverage buffet was provided for no extra cost at lunch on the seminar day. AND a set of 12 tasting glasses, a water glass and a spittoon were provided for each student. The entire organization of the Düsseldorf course day was superb and must be highly praised. Many, many thanks to all those who made it such a worthwhile learning experience!

Share →