There are few Napa tastings that can top the Taste of Oakville for premium wines. This annual invitation only event is usually held at the end of April and showcases some of the appellation’s finest wines. If there was a ground zero for Cabernet Sauvignon in the Napa Valley, Oakville fits that bill. The owners and winemakers are often present at this tasting. In 2010 The Taste of Oakville was held in the To Kalon Cellar of Robert Mondavi Winery.
While Oakville as an appellation is geographically fairly small the diversity in terroir is great – even within a span of just a few miles. Take for instance eastern Oakville. The vineyards are located on hillsides and this region boasts rocky, red volcanic shallow soils with long sunlight exposure. It can certainly get warm here on a summer’s afternoon. Compare this to just across the valley on the western side (Mayacamas Mountains) where the sun exposure is less due to the eastern facing hillsides and the land is much more wooded and covered with vegetation. In the middle lies the valley floor.
As a result there are a wide variety of flavor profiles and types of wines coming out of Oakville and it is a unique experience to taste this diversity under one roof. The power players of this appellation’s best producers always pour their wines and there are usually several new producers on hand.
Two wineries with lines in front of their tasting tables were Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate. No surprise there! Based on their popularity its best to taste these wines early in the tasting as they typically will stop pouring at some point. Both wines deliver of course but for different reasons. Harlan’s 2006 is an extremely layered “masculine” wine that is built to age. Upon tasting the latest release of Screaming Eagle, the word “balanced” seemed to be the best descriptor that immediately came to mind.
Another extremely balanced wine that we tried for the first time was Dalla Valle’s 2007 Collina (a new wine for this producer). This wine is ready to drink now – showing soft fruit, elegance and balance.
The 2006 Tierra Roja is every bit as good as the 2004 vintage, both stellar vintages from this small vineyard. Linda’s 2007 vintage will be released in September of this year. Winemaking starts in the vineyards and Linda is as detailed a vineyard manager as you will find in the valley. Her focus is on a single Cabernet Sauvignon each year from her hillside vineyard in the eastern hills just above the valley floor.
Oakville is not the appellation for white wines but a few were being tasted including Mondavi’s reserve Fume Blanc. Good acidity and notes of green melon, green apple and pear on the palate. A fairly new producer to the Oakville scene is Kristine Ashe Vineyards, the only winery to be pouring 2 whites, a Sauvignon blanc and a Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2009 Rose is light in color but shows a rounded somewhat rich mouth feel for this type of wine.
Their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is slightly herbal but not herbaceous on the nose and the palate is crafted in a lighter elegant style. Keep an eye on this producer. All their wines are estate grown.
The 2007 Materium from Maybach Cellars is also nice by itself – it is a very rich luscious wine.
For more information about Oakville and its member wineries, please visit: www.oakvillewinegrowers.com