Mark Herold Wines operates a tasting room just down from the Oxbow Public Market near the Napa River. A few years ago there were no tasting rooms in this part of Napa – today there a number within a block or two of each other. Visit one – visit several – they are all within easy walking distance of each other.
This is a unique tasting experience (by Napa standards) as nearly all of their wines are from non Napa sources (although they are made in the city of Napa). It is almost expected that when you walk into a Napa based tasting room you will find the obligatory Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. For several years you would visit this tasting room and would not be able to taste a Napa Cab – that has changed of course and now Mark Herold offers a number of Cabernet Sauvignons for tasting. A number of their wines are made with varietals you typically will be hard pressed to find in Napa. And the tasting room often has some select older vintages available for trying as well as purchasing.
Mark and his General Manager Mike Loberg (who has been working with Mark since his days at Joseph Phelps) scour a number of California’s wine regions sourcing the best possible fruit they can find. They source from Mendocino and Lake Counties in the north to Lodi further south and east. Some of these grapes include the Spanish varietals Albarino and Graciano and additional varietals such as Carignan and Grenache.
Mark was studying bio chemistry and aquaculture at UC Davis and learning how to as he puts it, “raise fish” when a professor convinced him to make a few barrels of wine. His initial professional foray in the wine industry was at Joseph Phelps where he studied phenolic profiles of grapes from all over Napa but kept coming back to grapes from the Coombsville region. This is a somewhat cooler growing region located just east of the town of Napa (but with its own number of unique micro-climates). Mark has been working with fruit from this region since the mid 1990’s and has identified some of this appellation’s top vineyard sources.
After working at Phelps, Mark started his own label with Erika Gottl in their garage and named it Merus, which in Latin means “undiluted, unmixed or complete” in regards to the wine. This name was an appropriate description of their wines right from the outset – their first vintage in 1998 earned remarkable scores from wine writers and acclaim both domestically and Internationally.
After selling Merus in late 2007 Mark needed his own “projects” to work on. He started a consulting business and now consults for a number of premium mostly Napa based producers. With the success of Merus, Mark also started his own wine label which today includes Acha, Flux and Collide. These labels give him the “fun” of having a wide “latitude of terroir” to source from, by selecting regions in the north part of the state to play with varietals that grow best in their respective location. These are varietals that most Napa producers never even touch.
With that said, Mark has long been a proponent of and worked with fruit from Coombsville (currently Napa’s newest appellation, just east of the city of Napa) and his Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, as expected contains fruit from this region.
Several of Mark’s white wines were fermented and aged in concrete including the fun Flux Blanc 2011 vintage. This is a wine made from Grenache blanc and Roussanne sourced from vineyards in both Lodi and Lake County. The Roussanne in part adds some nice mouth feel components including weight and softness. The aromatics are both floral and slightly tropical with notes of citrus blossom. The delicate finish lingers with flavors of Meyer lemon and hints of honey.
Another fun wine is their 2011 Flux Rose made from Carignan and Grenache – some of the vines are 80+ year old head pruned from a vineyard in Mendocino County. The juice had just a kiss of the skins before pressing giving it its delicate pink color. This wine was fermented in neutral oak – aromatically it shows both raspberry and strawberry – it is a clean, light and balanced Rose.
Acha is Spanish for “hatchet” and all the wines made under this label show two crossed hatchets on the bottle. The 2008 Acha is a unique Tempranillo based blend – it is dark in the glass and reveals an interesting mix of aromas including dark cherry, ripe blackberry and cassis. It is a ripe and expressive nose – blackberry and more cherry show on the palate. The finish has good length with well structured tannins and notes of toasted oak that linger.
The 2009 Collide is aptly named – a collision of varietals you normally don’t see blended together – Petite Sirah, Tempranillo, Graciano, and a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has a very unique and interesting nose – somewhat musty, earthy and with dark fruit aromas present. Its the softest of the red wines we tried up front but quickly gains good structure that is present in all of Mark’s red wines.
A visit here is a bit eclectic yet certainly one of Napa’s funner tasting room experiences – a giant Marlin that Mark purchased on eBay hangs on the wall (the paint job alone on this giant fish cost thousands). A over sized rat trap is located in the bathroom with a bottle of wine as the “bait” on one side of the trap. Their ‘sexual chocolate’ pairing is quite popular.
Mark Herold Wines are distributed nationally in select states including Texas, which has been on of their most popular markets. You can also purchase direct. For more information visit: www.markheroldwines.com