St. Helena Media Tasting

On my last day of vacation, I had the pleasure of attending the Appellation St. Helena Media Tasting.  The St. Helena folks kindly invited anyone who went to the blogger conference and happened to stay around in town for 3 extra days to come…well, I fit that description, so bright and early I made my way over to the Culinary Institute of America where I was the first non-winery person to arrive.  So I snapped some pictures instead, chatted with some of the winery folks, and generally made myself comfortable waiting for the tasting to start.

To kick off the tasting, one of the vintners did a “state of the appellation” presentation and talked to everyone about the history and micro-climates of St. Helena.  I must confess, I wasn’t terribly familiar with the appellation, so I enjoyed the quick history lesson.

The tasting was the most organized event I’ve attended.  We tasted the wine in 4 flights, with a new set of glasses for each flight.  Everyone associated with the wineries poured the wines and immediately left us in the room, in complete silence…frankly, I found the complete silence unnerving! The tasting classroom at the CIA is state of the art…each station is equipped with  a personal sink, underlit desk panel to look at the color and clarity of the wine, and places to put all your stuff.

Pre-flight 1:

2007 Salvestrin Crystal Springs Sauvignon Blanc: I think it was oaked. Lemon, cream, grapefruit, orange rind, more lemon, nice finish.

Flight 1: (All Cabernet Sauvignon)

2005 Anomaly: Dusty baker’s chocolate, mocha, berries, red berries, bitters, peppery, mostly all chocolate.

2005 Casa Nuestra Winery & Vineyard: Much more reserved than Cab 1, blackberry, earth, smells hot, pie, tinge of tart red fruit, mouth drying.

2005 Charnu: Flowery red nose, pepper, herbal, black plums, cherries, tart fruit, nice finish.  One of my favorites.

2005 Crocker & Starr Wines Stone Place: Raspberries, caramel, forresty, mushroom, blackberry, violets, blueberry, anise.

2005 Duckhorn Patzimaro Vineyard: Leather, earth, peppers, roses, bitter chocolate, vanilla cream, beautiful blackberries, very fruity, red currants smoothy. Very nice, like this one a lot.

2005 Ehlers Estate: Heady chocolate. Juicy blackberries, mint, love the color on this one, bramble fruit, lovely black fruit, smooth, delicious. A favorite.

2005 Flora Springs Rennie Reserve: Peppers, eucalyptus, saddle, leather, not giving up fruit on the nose, cigarette smoke, dark, leather, blackberries, black currants. Different, nice.

2005 Hall Bergfeld: Fruit forward, blackberries, black cherries, chocolate covered cherries, al fruit and chocolate, thinner than I expected.

2005 Jaffe Metamorphosis: Red, leather, meaty, blackberries, vanilla cream, herbs, black fruit.

2005 Parry Cellars: Pepper, strawberry, blackberry, lighter, short finish.

2005 Raymond Vineyard & Cellar: Spicy, herbs, mint, cherry, nice fruit, red, bright cranberry, spice, oak, tannins.

Flight 2: (All Cabernet Sauvignon)

2005 Rockledge The Rocks: Blackberries, anise, chocolate, spice, herbs, heat, tannins.

2005 Salvestrin Estate:Violets, roses, very floral, black fruit, blackberries, herbal, tannic, spice

2005 Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery:Toasted caramel, smoke, oak, deli meat, tannins, oak, really meaty

2005 Titus: Cracked pepper, smoke, spicy, earth, violets, vanilla, red berries, anise, black plums, tannins.

2005 Vineyard 29 Aida: Chocolate syrup, blackberries, sugar plums, toffee, tannins, very fruity. Like this one a lot.

2005 Whitehall Lane Winery St. Helena: Eucalyptus, pepper, mint, throat lozenges, spicy blackberries, cherries, oddly, a hint of banana.

2005 Whitehall Lane Winery Leonardini: Saddle leather, forest, earth, spicy black fruit, cracked pepper, black plums, blackberries, very smooth. Like this one a lot.

2005 Wolf Family Vineyards: Peppered strawberries, violets, dried rose petals, peppery, black plum, cherry, dark , tannic. Yum.

2004 Corison Kronos Vineyards: Smoky, vanilla cream, meaty, berries, cherry candy, blackberry, dark, tannic, herbal, wild.  Delish.

Flight 3: (All Zinfandels)

2006 Benessere Estate Black Glass: Smoky, black cherry, pepper, spice, raspberries, clean fruit.

2006 Chase Family Cellars Hayne Vineyard: Blackberry pie, currants, brown sugar, cherries.

2006 Robert Biale Old Crane Ranch: Perfumy, roses, boysenberry, pie, nice red fruit, smooth. Liked this one a lot.

2006 Robert Biale Old Kraft Vineyard: Blackberry compote, jam, pepper, cranberry, tart fruit.

2006 Titus: Meaty, brown sugar, bramble, red fruit in the mouth, black berry, tannic, nice fruit.

2006 Vineyard 29 Aida Estate: Vanilla cream pie, brown sugar, caramel, light blackberry, tart, cherries, anise, red fruit. Loved this one.

Flight 4 (Mixed Reds)

2004 Benessere Estate Phenomenon: Leather funk, black cherry, earthy, tart red raspberries, dark, tannic, caramel.

2006 Benessere Estate Sangiovese: Red, meat, red cherries, cedar, tannins, nice, tight fruit.

2005 Jaffe Transformation: Chocolate, licorice, berries, coconut cream pie, gorgeous nose, lush, great red berries, chocolate, very good acidity/structure. One of my favorites of the tasting.

2005 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Franc: Currants, strawberries, herbal, nice fruit, earth, tannic. Nicely done.

2005 David Fulton Petite Sirah: Total toast, herbs, smoke, licorice, oregano, blueberry. This wine is a baby! Lots of potential.

2005 Robert Biale Thomann Station Petite Sirah: Meat, blueberry compote, cedar, vanilla, smoke, dark, tannic, another baby with lots of potential.

2006 Stanton Vineyards Petite Sirah: Fresh blueberry, cranberry, vanilla cream, tannic, dark fruit.

Overall, this was a great experience.  I really enjoyed getting to taste all he wines from the same appellation side-by-side.  Tasting in the Rudd Center was truly a cool event, and I thought the whole tasting was just set up great.