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Untangled Vine

An attempt to sort through all things wine. Specifically of, and about, but not limited to: Food and Wine in Toledo, Ohio. Plus the day to day musings of a Wine Distributor...

Napa Trip Part 2- still day one

Monday, August 21, 2006

One of the main reasons for our Napa/Sonoma trip was for the world premiere of Matt (henceforth known as Mat’tulio) Bonanno’s custom crush Napa Cab. This is a wine made at Steltzner Vineyards according to Matt’s specific instructions and ideal style. Matt and his family are very involved in our company, and this is an exciting time. So we were taken in by the extraordinarily hospitable Steltzner family, and treated to a Michael-Chiarello-eat-your-heart-out-Napa-Valley-get-together.
I can’t begin to describe the generosity and love that is Dick Steltzner and his clan. Every member of the family is the ideal host, buzzing around, connecting people, and most importantly, serving kick ass food. Their’s is not a typical Napa the rich get richer story either. This is a story that dates back 40 years, when buying a swath of land in The Stag’s Leap District seemed like a questionable business move at best. But Dick grew up not too far from the bay area, and had a bit of faith in the potential. You can tell from his demeanor and large, tough hands that this winery was built on sweat equity, and perseverance. This winery was also built on humility and respect for the product and consumer. This is why their wines are priced the way they are, fairly. Stag Leap District Cabs typically retail for double the price of a Steltzner bottling, which is usually better than the competitors version. The Winery isn’t some sort of monument, or Chateau, but rather, a building offset, with a non-descript cavern.

The wines themselves display a consistent style. Since they are mostly Bordeaux Varietals, all of the reds share a common thread of a fine-grained, fruit driven tannin, which can only come from the vineyard. The wines are all balanced, with delicious dense fruit, and incredible complexity. The star for me is the Merlot, which I personally rank in the top 5 Merlots I’ve ever had from the US (along with Pepper Bridge, Larkmead, Medlock Ames and Del Dotto). The Cab is the calling card, and is not to be missed, but one of the outright best values in the whole world of wine is the Claret, which unlike other California Appellation Claret’s at the same price, is 70% Stag’s Leap District, 30% Oak Knoll District.

Napa Trip Part 1

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Last week, the whole team from 55 degrees went on a pilgrimage back to the Motherland (at least of wine in this country). We visited, well, too many Wineries to recount, and a few that I can’t discuss. But we drank some amazing juice, and chatted with some very cool folk, and a few that weren’t all that cool. This is my little chronicle of what went down.

Part 1- L’Uvaggio di Giacomo & Renard at Zuzu

We met with 2 of our geekiest (endearment) suppliers immediately after traveling (and fasting) for 11 hours. Jim Moore of L’Uvaggio di Giacomo must reaaly like to make things difficult. He is one of the best producers of Cal-Itals, well, in California. A tough marketing niche is an understatement. Problem is, everything he makes is excellent. He has opted for an esoteric label, and a very esoteric name. Both of which are probably changing in the not too distant future. He makes Barbera, Rosato, Arneis, Vermentino, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Vin Santo. We tasted all that day except the Vermentino, he’s sold out of that little gem. Moore has worked in Napa for about 40 years, and was pretty important with Mondavi (remember the La Famiglia & Luce projects? That’s him.). He is, as we like to say, Salty. That means he’s like Quint’s (from Jaws) occasionally charming, brilliant, and slightly disaffected offspring. But we love him nonetheless.

Bayard Fox of Renard hits us in our sweet spot. He makes incredible Terroir driven Rhone Varietals mostly from the North Coast. His wines showed great, and we fell in love with a few rarer selections, especially the Truchard Vineyard Syrah, The Santa Rita Syrah (Cote Rotie Anyone?) and the consensus fav. The Cappelli Vineyard Syrah, which was so old world, with it’s nose of raw meat, that we just wanted to cry. Bayard is a Barrel Salesmen by day, and not just any salesmen, he sells some of the best French Oak to guys like Jean Louis Chave. Renard is , French for Fox, which obviously explains the name of the winery. Bayard is also a tremendously cool guy with hilarious opinions and gossip about all sorts of things you don’t read about in the average lifestyle magazine.

If you don’t know either of these guys wine, well, get with it…

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