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 one would visit this tasting room and not be able to taste a Napa Cabernet – 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 varieties 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 scours a number of California’s wine regions sourcing the best possible fruit he can find. He sources from Mendocino and Lake Counties in the north to Lodi further south and east. Some of these grapes include the Spanish varieties Albariño and Graciano and additional varieties such as Carignan and Grenache.
Mark spent his formative years in Panama and then moved to California where he went to school in Orange County (Southern California). He moved north for college to UC Davis.
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 varieties that grow best in their respective location. These are varieties that most Napa producers never even touch.
With that said, Mark has long been a proponent of and worked with fruit from Coombsville (still Napa’s newest appellation, having been founded in 2011 – located 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 Rosé made from Carignan and Grenache – some of the vines are 80+ year old head pruned from a vineyard in Mendocino County. The juice sees 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 rosé.
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 varieties 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.
The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc was sourced from the Blau Vineyard in neighboring Sonoma County. The bouquet is inviting revealing tropical aromas with an underlying flinty or mineral note. The mouth feel is pleasing – it is creamy and rounded. One might think this wine is going to show a riper profile on the palate based on the aromatics but in actuality it has good acidity showing citrus notes. It was fermented in a concrete egg.
The 2013 Uproar is a blend of three vineyard sources in Napa (Atlas Peak, Coombsville and Oakville). A darker fruit aroma shows on the boquet – plum along with a pleasant smokiness and ripe blueberry. The wine shows a satisfying texture on the palate – a good density of flavor if you will. The tannins are dusty and fairly well integrated lingering with notes of toasted oak on the finish. While not as robust as some of the other Cabernets produced, this wine over delivers in quality based on the price.
The 2013 Herold White Label Cabernet Sauvignon is from vineyard sources in both Oakville and Coombsville. Like the other Cabernet Sauvignons we tasted, this wine is very dark – showing a dark ruby color in the glass. On the nose it is highly aromatic with aromas of wet rock, a dustiness, tar and brooding deeper darker fruit notes including ripe plum. This is a robust wine both in flavor and structure and higher alcohol. This wine needs to breathe – it continues to show additional fruit layers on the palate as it opens – nice vanilla and mocha notes show mid to end of palate. Mouth filling robust tannins anchor a long finish.
And there is even another wine for serious hedonists to look for – a wine so rare that Mark only chooses one or two barrels of his best Cabernet Sauvignon lots from all his vineyard sources. He then exclusively bottles this wine in Magnums called the Mastodon.
This tasting space was originally furnished with an eclectic feel and continues to offer one of downtown Napa’s more enjoyable 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 complete renovation of the tasting room was completed in 2018 providing a cleaner and contemporary feel.
For a short while, Mark Herold operated two tasting rooms in downtown Napa – this one and the Reserve Room by Mark Herold. The Reserve Room has since closed. Mark Herold Wines are distributed nationally in select states including Texas, which has been one of their most popular markets. You can also purchase direct. For more information visit: www.markheroldwines.com