Croze Wines is operated by Gary Wooten, a long time resident in the Napa Valley. He has worked as winemaker with several smaller area wineries during their formative stages and helped them become established. He currently runs two labels; Croze wines which includes a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Sauvignon Blanc and the second label, Smith Wooten featuring a 100% Cabernet Franc (he originally made a barrel of Cabernet Franc to use for blending purposes but after tasting, found this wine to be excellent as a stand along varietal and ended up bottling it) and a Syrah. All his grapes are sourced from several high end vineyards some of which he has been using for many years.
Gary tells of filling up his car with gas at the one expensive gas station in Yountville many years ago and the famed Robert Mondavi was also filling up his car at the same time. Mondavi who was already producing thousands of cases told him all the benefits of sourcing grapes rather than owning your own vineyards. Today of course, many area vintners source fruit which gives one flexibility on choosing types of varietals, terroir, no overhead etc. Croze ages their wines longer than many area wineries and as a result the current vintages are typically several years older than what you usually find on the market. The barrel aging program usually runs up to 40+ months and all the wines are tasted during this time and are removed from barrel when they are ready, in other words the barrel aging program is not locked into a certain amount of time like you may find with some of the larger wineries.
We tried the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a very well balanced wine between acidity, fruit and tannin structure. After 40+ months in oak you may think this wine would be oak driven, not at all. There is nothing harsh about it and it has great fruit flavors with exotic spices on the palate. The ‘Vin d’ Une Nuit Rose is a one of a kind wine you will probably not find from any other Napa winery (we haven’t seen it to date after tasting with over 500 commercial Napa wine producers). Its a wine with origins in a specific region of France and the translation is Vine of One Night. This wine is left in contact with the skins overnight which gives it a color darker than most Rose’s on the market.
We tried the 2004 – 3.5 years of aging would have destroyed the color and probably the flavors on lesser Rose’s but not this one. It is slightly off dry at 0.5% Residual sugar which is at a level where about only half of the people who drink this wine actually pick up on the sweetness. It is dark pink with great fruit driven aromatics and wonderful flavors of wild strawberry.
Not many Napa wineries make Port, and of the ones who do the most common varietal is Zinfandel. Croze being Cabernet Sauvignon driven makes what is in our research the most affordable Napa Port of any varietals (theirs is Cabernet Sauvignon). They fortify with barrel aged spirits which makes a huge difference in flavor and aromatics versus using the “raw” spirits. Time in ‘wood’ imparts a smoothness and richness just not found with the raw spirits. The 2005 is well layered with rich flavors of dark chocolate and blackberry. There are always interesting stories about winemakers who got into the wine business without having growing up in a wine making family.
Gary started making home wine in the early 1980’s and some businessmen from Texas tasted the wine and liked it so much they hired Gary to produce wine exclusively for their interests. Since then Gary has branched out and increased production significantly and his wines are found in select markets in select states. Locally you can find some of the wine at Backroom Wines in Napa. An interesting note about the name: Croze is the groove you find in the staves of a wine barrel where the head of the barrel fits in. Gary’s wife designs the labels – note the various images of crows! Visit: www.croze-cab.com