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Wine Review: Napa a good starting point on wine journey

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I believe I have found an interesting way to start off the New Year: Wine 101.

While winter is still upon us and we are more or less homebound, this would be a good time to learn more about wine. I have often written that one of the great joys of wine is trying beverages that you may have never tried, have never heard of or have tried once but you were turned off by the variety.

To remedy this situation and expand your wine horizons, I would like to introduce you to the wines of Napa Cellars.

Napa Cellars 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ($26)
The wine was made from grapes grown in various parts of the Napa Valley, an area that produces the best cabernet sauvignon grapes in California. Some of the grapes, which came from the famed Rutherford Bench area, impart to the wine a dusty, mineral element found nowhere else in the world. The wine displays a berry and black cherry aroma all wrapped in the haunting mineral sensation of the Rutherford Bench. As the aroma opens, one can detect vanilla, oak and spice. The flavor concentrates on a black cherry, licorice, cocoa and oak. The tannins are restrained and modestly soft, but not too soft. The finish, too, is based on cherry with the signature Rutherford minerals still in evidence. This is a grand wine and truly a treat.

Napa Cellars 2017 Merlot ($25)
This merlot is a blend of grapes grown in the Carneros, Oak Knoll and Atlas Peak districts of the Napa Valley, so there is no specific area signature. It’s a great improvement over lackluster merlots that have been in the marketplace for many years. The aroma is dominated by ripe cherry and black plum with suggestions of herbs, chocolate and espresso. The flavor is mostly cherry with a hint of vanilla and oak. For a modern merlot, the finish is rather long and kaleidoscopic. If you have been turned off by the variety in the past, this offering from Napa Cellars may change your mind.

Napa Cellars 2017 Chardonnay ($20)
An excellent growing season has endowed this chardonnay with bold and obvious fruit flavors and aromas, as well as a traditional creamy texture. The most obvious aroma is that of Fuji apples, intermingling with Bosc pear and vanilla. The mineral element imparted to the grapes grown in the Napa Valley becomes very obvious with the first sip and helps to amplify and enhance the fruit flavor of the wine. This wine, too, is well-balanced and easy to drink.

Napa Cellars 2017 Zinfandel ($22)
The classical style of winemaking adopted by Napa Cellars does wonders to the zinfandel grape. This is a full-bodied, subdued zinfandel with the usual pronounced strawberry flavor and aroma held tightly in check. The wine presents a totally new view of the zinfandel. It offers an aroma prominently featuring coffee, chocolate, plums, blackberry, licorice and pepper. The flavor of this wine mirrors the aroma with the addition of a berry jam element. The finish, that is exceptionally long, also reflects the cherry and berry flavors. This is a zinfandel of a different turn and it deserves your attention.

Napa Cellars 2017 Pinot Noir ($25)
This wine is one of the bright stars of California’s Napa Valley and is definitely a wine you will remember. The color is a deep cherry/ruby and the aroma is a complex of fruit flavors featuring cherries, mushroom and blackberries mingled with oak. Below the surface there is a swirling array of dark summer fruits and berries along with that indefinable incense-like aroma found only in truly great pinot noirs. The flavor is as multifaceted as the aroma, displaying dark summer berries, cocoa and cinnamon. The finish is long and as interesting and complex featuring spices such as black pepper allspice, thyme and sage that remain on the palate for a long time.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at


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