Luis Ochoa Family – We recently sat down with Luis Ochoa to try his family’s wines. Luis has been in the Napa Valley since December 31st, 1966. He remembers arriving in California from Michoacán Mexico on December 29th and two days later he was in Napa working at Beringer for the going rate for newly hired vineyard workers at the whopping salary of $1.40/hour. Luis remembers when his daily paychecks were only $11 or $12. With only 10 or so wineries operating commercially in the Napa Valley at the time you didn’t have much choice of where you worked. For the next few years he spent his time either at Beringer or Charles Krug.
He developed his vineyard management skills over the years and helped plant or manage a number of high end vineyards in the valley – including the the Crocker Vineyard in St. Helena. He also was instrumental in developing a large vineyard in Carneros in the late 1970′s for Cuvaison Winery. Today he operates his own vineyard management company as well as his own small Chardonnay vineyard in Carneros where he sells much of the fruit to another winery for making sparkling wine but keeps certain blocks for his own Chardonnay.
Luis started making wine in 1998 with his first commercial release dating from 2002. All Ochoa’s wines are made in small lots – usually only 250 to 500 cases per wine.
The 2009 Chardonnay (current release at the time of our tasting) has pleasing balanced aromatics including notes of honeysuckle, melon (somewhere between a cantaloupe and a honeydew) as well as wet straw. As the wine breathes hints of graphite creep into the bouquet. The wine is golden in color. This Chardonnay was fermented entirely in stainless steel but it has a nice weight on the palate and actually some spice on the finish.
The 2005 Chardonnay is noticeably darker golden in color than the 2009 – this wine was fermented in oak rather than stainless steel tanks. It doesn’t have quite the weight as the younger 2009 vintage; ripe melons, honeysuckle and even a hint of lemon show on the nose.
The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon initially shows lots of dusty brown chocolate on the bouquet as well as enticing aromas of vanilla bean – with ripe red fruit including plum, cherry and raspberry. More red fruit than dark fruit shows on the palate including notes of red berry. This balanced wine has a clean finish and shows moderately structured food friendly tannins.
A beautiful classic rich display of a Napa “red wine” is the 2006 Ochoa Red Wine or as Luis calls it, “My New Love”. Its easy to see why! This wine is all about the fruit; it is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc & Merlot. The palate is rich yet focused – with a soft entry that builds in complexity and power. The finish is slightly spicy with good structure. You can find value at many levels of wine pricing, including higher priced wines. This wine is certainly priced reasonably for the quality of vineyard sources and expression of fruit and flavor profile.
Ochoa’s wine can be tasted exclusively by appointment only. If your tasting with Luis, you will be greeted with an “Hola” regardless of your primary language! Look for his trademark white sombrero.