Thursday, March 15, 2012

Peju - Open Late

Photo by Sanae Burries
After Terra Valentine, Sanae and I headed back along Hwy 29 towards Napa and my car. We stopped at Peju a winery in the Rutherford AVA. We stopped at Peju for three reasons: we wanted to go to another winery, I had always meant to stop there but never had, and it is open until 6pm. The last one was key as I think we got there at about 4:30pm and most tasting rooms close between 4pm and 5pm.

The grounds are beautiful with well groomed hedges, statues, and fountains.  Peju is an art focused winery by which I mean the aesthetics are well thought out.  There is a lobby sort of area where we were asked what we wanted to do. Which seemed like a strange question at the time and still does. (Apparently there are many kinds of tastings and cooking classes which can be found on their website. The standard tasting fee is $15 per person which is waived with a purchase of $30 or more. There are more expensive options on the weekends with reserve wines.) The lobby has tons of books, mustard, t-shirts, chocolates, and other wine/Napa related souvenirs.

I said we wanted to taste some wines and we were taken to our host, Jeff, who escorted us through the first tasting room with it's large stained glass window to the back room that had these hanging umbrella-like art installations (pictured above) as well as tastefully displayed winery kitsch on shelves on the walls. Both tasting rooms had two tasting counters. The back room had smaller counters and is probably used for smaller groups like us.

Jeff is gregarious, likes to talk about his dogs, and is a very informative about his love of wine and Peju.

We tasted two whites, an off-dry rose, five reds, and a Zinfandel Port. Here is a selection of my tasting notes:

We started with a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley ($22) which was quite excellent if you like the tropical and floral style. It has aromas of guava, pineapple, and floral notes on both the nose and the palate. It was of medium weight for a white and tastes sweet from the flavors, but is actually dry.

Then we went to the medium bodied 2010 Chardonnay from Napa Valley ($28) had a bouquet of salt water taffy and vanilla which continued into my mouth and was joined by pear, nutmeg, and a touch of butter.

The 2007 Merlot from Napa Valley ($35) was also quite good. It exhibited cherry, mocha, clove, cinnamon, and slight vegetative notes on the nose. The cloves and cinnamon continued onto the palate along with the cherries which lessened in intensity and were joined by licorice and cigar box. The finish was long and the tannins were luscious and round yielding a full palate mouth feel.

According to Jeff most wineries in Napa Valley should be able to make a great Cab S because of the climate and soil. What really sets the bar for how good a vineyard and winemaking team are is the ability to make a great Cabernet Franc. I'm not sure I entirely agree with the statement, but they do make a delightful Cab F. The 2009 Cabernet Franc from Napa Valley ($50) has a fruity nose of cherry and raspberry. On the tongue the cherries are joined by white pepper and other spices. The wine had a long finish without any astringency. The tannins were soft on this medium bodied wine.

The 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from Rutherford Vineyard, Napa Valley ($105) is made from 100% Cab S. grapes that are organically grown (of course its not noted on the bottle because of the stigma of organic wine). It had a nose of licorice and cigars which continued onto the palate where they were joined by vanilla, cloves, and tertiary red and black fruits. There were plenty of soft tannins as well as astringency so although the wine is great now it will be amazing in 5 years.

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