Lail Vineyards was established in 1995 by Robin Daniel Lail, though her family’s history of winemaking in Napa Valley spans much further back in time. Robin is the great-grandniece of Captain Gustave Niebaum who founded Inglenook Vineyards in 1879, and his dedication to quality not only yielded some of the greatest wines in Napa but in the world at the time. After Gustave passed away in 1908, Robin’s father John Daniel, Jr. picked up the reigns having grown up in the vineyards of Rutherford with an appreciation for the land and winemaking. During Prohibition, Inglenook stopped producing wine and sold their fruit to Beaulieu Vineyard who were selling sacramental wine to the church. Following Prohibition’s repeal, John Daniel, Jr. resumed winemaking at Inglenook and produced some of the greatest Cabernet Sauvignon throughout the world until he sold the property in 1964. Though there was a gap between the sale of Inglenook and beginning of Lail Vineyards, Robin never let her passion for winemaking wane. She worked alongside Robert Mondavi during the 1970s who helped mentor her and tell her of her family’s significance in the Napa Valley, and she co-founded Dominus with Christian Moueix in the early 1980s and Merryvale with Bill Harlan in the late 1980s and early 1990s. When Robin decided to take her passion and dedication to her family’s history further, she and her husband Jon established Lail Vineyards and brought along renowned winemaker Philippe Melka.
Today Lail Vineyards consists of two estate vineyards, Totem and Mole Hill. The Totem vineyard is 2.5 acres and was part of the original Inglenook Vineyards in Yountville. In 2006 and 2007, the Merlot planted in Totem was t-budded to Sauvignon Blanc. The Mole Hill vineyard, on the other hand, is 3 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon between 1600-1700 feet in elevation on Howell Mountain.
Today’s Wine: 2018 Blueprint Sauvignon Blanc
100% Sauvignon Blanc; 14.3% ABV
The 2018 Blueprint Sauvignon Blanc is completely transparent medium straw/yellow in color with water white variation. On the beautifully delicate nose I get aromas of lemon and lime zest, pineapple, mango, honeysuckle, freshly cut grass, saline mineral, and dried vanilla. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of apricot, grapefruit, peach, honeydew melon, white florals, dried herbs, white pepper, and mineral. This is medium-bodied with high acidity and a lush, well-rounded mouthfeel into a crisp and refreshing finish. 1,342 cases produced.
Price: $40 from winery (I paid $35 retail). This is an outstanding Sauvignon Blanc that certainly punches above its price-point. The depth, complexity, and quality of fruit here makes this a necessity to try and I see this drinking even better over the coming five years. Pair with Dover sole, oysters, or pesto chicken.
Spottswoode traces its roots to 1882 when a German immigrant by the name of George Schonewald and his wife Catherine purchased 31 acres at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountains with the intention of using it for a summer home. The Spottswoode name, however, did not come around until 1910 when Susan Spotts acquired the estate. As Prohibition dawned, the Spottswoode estate fell into disrepair but the family continued to sell grapes to the Christian Brothers Winery which made sacramental wines. The estate remained under ownership of Spotts family descendents until, in 1972, Mary and Jack Novak purchased the estate and moved their family to St. Helena. The Novaks quickly set about expanding with an additional 15 acres and replanted their pre-Prohibition vines to Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Sauvignon Blanc. Jack passed away unexpectedly in 1977, but Mary was determined to continue their dream and completed her first harvest while selling fruit to wineries including Shafer and Duckhorn. In 1982, Mary christened the estate Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery and produced her first Cabernet Sauvignon. Spottswoode started utilizing organic farming methods in 1985 and became certified organic in 1992 by CCOF. Today, Spottswoode remains under the watchful eyes of Mary’s youngest daughter Beth, who joined in 1987, and Mary’s oldest daughter Lindy, who joined in 1992.
To learn more about this historic and award-winning winery, check out their website here. You can browse their portfolio, read about specific farming and winemaking practices, or view pictures of the beautiful grounds and Victorian home which adorns the labels.
Today’s Wine: 2018 Sauvignon Blanc
100% Sauvignon Blanc; 14.1% ABV
The 2018 Sauvignon Blanc is transparent deep straw in color with yellow variation. The expressive nose showcases aromas of Meyer lemon, cantaloupe, golden apple, lime zest, lemongrass, honey, saline mineral, white pepper spice, and cream. On the palate, I get notes of white peach, lemon and lime zest, grapefruit, green apple skins, freshly cut grass, brioche, white florals, and vibrant minerality. This is medium-bodied with high acidity and a lush, fully-rounded mouthfeel leading into a finish that lingers and lingers.
Price: $40 ($35 if you’re lucky). One of the better California Sauvignon Blancs I’ve enjoyed, though I tend more toward France. This bottle is crying for a hot summer’s day, and I’d be curious to try it on such a day with a few more years of bottle age. Pair this with oysters, Dover sole, or grilled chicken salad.
Guilbaud Frères is a family-owned winery and wine merchant established in 1927 by Edouard and Marcel Guilbaud in the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine appellation of the Loire Valley. Edouard and Marcel came from a long family history of winegrowers and took their culminated knowledge of the land, quality producers, and attention to detail in creating the principles of their new venture. Now nearly a century later, a fourth generation guides the Guilbaud Frères brand and, in addition to sustainably farming around 60 hectares of their own vineyards, purchases and produces wine from carefully selected growers. To check out their broad range of AOP wines, you can visit the link here.
Today’s Wine: 2018 Sancerre Les Chênes Vieux
100% Sauvignon Blanc; 12.5% ABV
The 2018 Les Chênes Vieux is transparent medium straw/yellow in color. The nose is quite expressive with aromas of tangerine, honeydew melon, lemon peel, honeysuckle, grass, slight smoke, and chalky minerality. On the palate, the wine displays notes of white peach, grapefruit, green apple skins, chamomile tea, finely crushed rock, brioche, and bright mineral. This is medium-bodied with mouthwatering medium (+) acidity and a lush mouthfeel into a crisp and refreshing medium length finish.
Price: $30. This is a very nice Sancerre for the price and drinks with beautiful precision while making me excited for a warm day outside again. Pair this with sole, lobster, or roasted chicken.
Favia was founded in 2003 by viticulturist Annie Favia and winemaker Andy Erickson, a husband and wife duo. Annie has experience working with John Kongsgaard and Cathy Corison, though her viticulturist expertise came working under David Abreu. Andy also has an extensive resume, which includes winemaking stints at Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Ovid, Harlan Estate, and Staglin amongst others. Andy also consults for Arietta, Mayacamas, and Dancing Hares Vineyard.
I had an opportunity to visit Favia for a tour and tasting back in September, and it truly is a special experience. Annie and Andy live on the property in a home built in 1886 for the Carbone family, who are believed to be the first Italian immigrants to Napa Valley. Though modernized, Annie and Andy restored the home using historical documents alongside other structures on the property. A very cool feature, the cellar sits under the family home and Favia stores their wine right where they live. Strong believers in biodynamic practices and caring for the earth, Annie and Andy planted fruit trees, an olive orchard, and a garden (which we got to try a tomato from) in addition to the existing walnut orchard.
I highly suggest a visit to Favia if you take a trip to Napa Valley, as it’s a very small, unique tasting experience and is not too far from downtown Napa. In the meantime, check out their website here to browse their wines and see incredible pictures of the property.
Today’s Wine: 2013 Linea Sauvignon Blanc
Unfortunately I cannot find the blend percentages for this wine, though other vintages have been both 100% Sauvignon Blanc or a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Musquet. 14.2% ABV
The 2013 Linea is pale straw yellow in color and almost completely transparent. The nose on this is very lovely and delicate with aromas of apricot, tangerine, melon, stone fruit, honeysuckle, and white florals (particularly wildflowers). Once in the mouth, I get notes of pear, apricot, white peach, melon, pineapple, lemon zest, and saline minerality. This wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity and a medium (+) length finish that is both crisp and refreshing.
Price: $85. This is a bit high for Sauvignon Blanc, and even though this bottle isn’t easy to come by I’d be more comfortable paying closer to $60. Pair this with oysters, sole, green vegetables, or goat cheese.