Tasting No. 230 (Virtual) – May 24, 2021- Red Blends from California Central Valley and Napa

Tasting Overview

Each year, California produces millions of liters of good quality table wines with a growing number producing high quality vintage wines. In 2017, the U.S was the 4th largest producer of wine in the world, and 90% of the wine produced by the U.S. came from California.  Major grapes include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Sauvignon Blanc.  A wine tradition going back to the early 19th century, California has some of the oldest continuing vineyards in the country. Many historians generally agree that the first California vines were planted in 1769 at the Mission of San Diego de Alcala.

This tasting focuses on two red blends: one with grapes harvested from California’s Napa and Sonoma Counties, and a second from Lodi in the Central Valley.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine presenters: Michelle Fryer, Claudia and Agilson Perazza

The wines are:

2018 Chappellet Mountain Cuvee Proprietor’s Blend, Napa Valley

2017 Bogle Phantom, Central Valley, California

 The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Clara Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán, Michelle Fryer, Orlando Mason, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Pedro Turina, Ricardo Zavaleta, German Zincke

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2018 Chappellet Mountain Cuvee Proprietor’s Blend, Napa Valley 

The Wine: Winemaker Notes: Blended from the traditional Bordeaux varietals, including our own coveted grapes, the Chappellet Mountain Cuvee Proprietor’s Blend builds on our five decades of experience crafting great Napa County mountain-grown wines. Each component varietal in the cuvée contributes to nuances that complement each other. The result is a complex array of aromas and flavors that deliver pure pleasure in a glass. Made for more near-term enjoyment, this is the wine to choose when you’re looking for vivid, mouthfilling fruit flavors. Alluringly dark and spicy, this wine displays beautiful aromas of currant, cassis, sage, and thyme, as well as hints of cinnamon and clove from barrel aging. On the palate, the tannins are impeccably balanced, adding depth to the lush ripe berry flavors, with layers of cola and grenadine emerging as the wine evolves in the glass. Blend: 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 10% Malbec, 8% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc

The Winery: Chappellet Winery is a wine producer based in the Napa Valley. Spurred by the notion that mountain fruit would make superior wine, Donn and Molly Chappellet started the winery in 1967 by purchasing land on Pritchard Hill at the advice of legendary California winemaker André Tchelistcheff. Pritchard Hill, in St. Helena, was an appealing site for a vineyard due to its steep aspect, high elevation, and east-facing slopes. Chappellet remains family-owned and in 2011 bought the Sonoma County-based producer, Sonoma-Loeb, who had made its wines at the Chappellet winery for over two decades.

The estate vineyards on Pritchard Hill have an altitude that ranges between 800-1800ft (245-550m) above sea level. The Chappellet family were the first to plant vineyards exclusively on high elevation hillsides and the second winery to be established in the Napa Valley after Prohibition. Their specialty is red Bordeaux varieties, especially age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon, which accounts for 25 of the vineyard’s 34 individual plots. Its flagship wine is the critically acclaimed Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon which is sold mostly to members of its wine club by allocation. The rugged terroir of their vineyards produces wines with great intensity and depth, qualities that define the world’s finest wines.

Chappellet prides itself on its commitment to its land and the environment. Only 16 percent of the estate is under vine, the rest being uncultivated land. Furthermore, the entirety of the Pritchard Hill vineyard is organic and in 2008, solar panels were installed that generate enough energy to completely offset the winery’s needs.

As one of the first wineries to pioneer high-elevation hillside planting, and one of the few remaining great family-owned Napa Valley wineries, Chappellet Vineyard and Winery has influenced generations of vintners. Throughout its history, Chappellet has also established an enduring legacy as one of California’s most acclaimed producers of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Since being founded by Donn and Molly in 1967, Chappellet has earned acclaim championing the robust power and complexity of wines crafted from mountain grapes. At the same time, Chappellet has helped to establish Pritchard Hill as one of California’s most revered winegrowing sites. To honor the mountain’s rich, expressive character, the winemaking team focuses on creating extraordinary, age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignons that embody the intensity and finesse of fruit from Pritchard Hill.

The Region: Geographically speaking, Pritchard Hill fits between the official AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) of Oakville, Howell Mountain, the Stags Leap District, Rutherford and the Chiles Valley, not far from the town of St. Helena. The Chappellet family chose to trademark the name “Pritchard Hill” instead of going through the formal AVA application system. 

St Helena is one of the Napa Valley’s key subregions, located in the shadow of the 4345ft (1325m) Mount Saint Helena, from which the small town takes its name. The AVA, given in 1995, specializes in rich red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon and, to a lesser extent, Merlot. The AVA covers 9000 acres (3645ha) of densely packed vineyards and is home to more than 30 wineries, including  Chappellet and Beringer, one of California’s oldest continuously operating wineries, founded by Jacob Beringer and his brother Frederick in 1875. In recognition of the contribution the Beringer family estate has made to Napa Valley and its wine industry, the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. Next to Beringer Vineyards is the Charles Krug winery, established by the German-American who is often credited as being the “father of Napa wine”. 

The town of St. Helena and its vineyards are located where the valley narrows substantially, about 15 miles (25km) north of Napa, and receives little benefit from the cooling effect of the San Francisco Bay fog and ocean breeze. Consequently, St Helena is one of Napa’s warmer appellations, and well suited to producing rich, structured red wines from the key Bordeaux varieties.  

  2017 Bogle Phantom, Central Valley, California

The Wine:: Winemaker Notes: Intriguing, beguiling…this mysterious apparition of ripe berry and relentless spice returns to haunt wine lovers. Enveloped in shadow, this wine’s intensity and concentration will entice you with every sip. Full-bodied and jammy, Phantom’s origins of Petite Sirah and Zinfandel emerge from the glass. Spicy pepper and juniper tantalize your senses, while black plums and blueberries emerge on the palate. Notes of pipe tobacco and clove settle around the finish, long and lingering, like the Delta fog. Blend: 52% Petite Sirah, 48% Zinfandel.

This California wine has received good scores from various critics. Numerous prizes have been won by this wine: the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition awarded the 2015 vintage Gold and the 2014 vintage Double Gold. Based on critic scores and price, this wine represents great value.

The Winery: Although the Bogle family has been farming since the 1800’s, it wasn’t until 1968 that the father and son team of Warren and Chris Bogle planted their first 20 acres of wine grapes in Clarksburg, California. Clarksburg is a small farming community nestled in the Sacramento Delta. Initially selling grapes to other wineries, Bogle Vineyards became a winery in its own right, in 1979.  Since then, the winery has grown tremendously along with the vineyards. According to tracking by the wine-trade magazine Wine Business Monthly (2021), this family-owned vineyard is currently the 13th-largest winery in the United States, with an annual crush of approximately 39,000 tons of grapes and an annual production of from 2.5 million – 2.7 million cases of wine.   In fact, no winery in the country makes more Petite-Sirah wine than Bogle, some 130,000 cases a year. Chardonnay, their top-selling varietal wine, accounts for more than half of Bogle’s estate vineyards and about a quarter of its sales.

While the Bogle signature brand is a mass-market wine that is widely available in grocery stores, Costco, and Trader Joe’s, these value-priced wines have achieved a consistently high quality-to-price ratio, having earned the Wine Enthusiast’s Best Buy selection more than 40 times from 2015-2020, and the magazine’s Wine Star Award for “American Winery of the Year 2019”.  More recently, Bogle has expanded its portfolio to include several upscale wines, specifically the higher-priced Juggernaut (a name inspired by the surge in growth at the winery over the past decade) and Phantom programs. Twenty Acres, a new brand developed solely for on-premise and restaurant consumption, was rolled out this year.

Most of Bogle’s wine is made at a newer facility, with a 200,000 sq ft. barrel cellar large enough to accommodate Bogle’s 90,000 oak barrels and a veritable forest of fermentation tanks.  Estate acreage — 1900 acres mostly in the Clarksburg and Lodi AVAs — provides about 80% of the grapes needed by the winery, and the balance of fruit is brought in from growers across California and Nevada. First and foremost farmers, the Bogle family subscribes enthusiastically to a program of sustainable farming that adds a premium for each ton of certified grapes they process. As of 2018, this investment totaled $2.8 million in bonuses paid to local growers.  To be a certified grower, the program — “California Rules,” a spin-off of Lodi’s pioneering “Lodi Rules” — requires participants to adhere to water, soil, pest and other management standards. As part of this practice, Bogle installed high-efficiency drip irrigation on its estate vineyards and all water used at the winery is reclaimed and reused to irrigate on-site crops and landscaping. Consequently, in 2018, Bogle received California’s Green Medal Award, for being the vineyard that best demonstrates leadership in environmentally sustainable wine-growing practices.  While the family is proud of its sustainability efforts, a methodical approach to wine quality is also key to Bogle’s success.  The winery takes extra steps that many large wineries do not.  For example, each vineyard lot, whether gown by Warren Bogle or by partner growers, is processed separately to improve quality control throughout the winemaking process.  All red wines are aged in oak, while Chardonnays are barrel-fermented, and 96% of Bogle’s grapes are sustainably certified.  In recent years, corporate wine companies have bought several similarly successful family wineries, but Jody Bogle says their massive new winery and their sustainable farming practices are meant to keep the operation in the family “for future generations.”

The Region: Lodi AVA is located directly east of San Francisco Bay between the cities of Sacramento and Stockton. The AVA proclaims itself as the Zinfandel Capital of the World. Over 40 percent of California’s premium Zinfandel vineyards are located here. Lodi is known for old vine bottlings, with some plantings dating back as far as 1888. Many of these are on their own roots and naturally low-yielding.

Modern-day Lodi vineyards are planted with a broad portfolio of California’s favorite varieties, over 100 in total. Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and the Southern Rhône varieties are all represented.

Other key varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot for reds, with Chardonnay, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc for whites. Although less common, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Tempranillo, Graciano, Riesling, and Albarino are among the supporting cast.

One of Lodi’s former stalwarts was the unusual Flame Tokay, otherwise known as Ahmeur bou Ahmeur. Of North African origin, this robust red variety had traditionally been used around Lodi to make fortified wines and brandy. There are no commercial plantings anymore.

Read more about this winery here: 






Technical Notes 

Compiled by Claudia Perazza, Michelle Fryer and Agilson Perazza

The Napa Valley.

It could be said that the history of Napa Valley begins when Joseph Osborne started planting vines on a 1,800 acre tract of land he named Oak Knoll, in the 1850’s. George C. Yount was the first person to seriously plant vines, but Napa Valley history was made by John Patchett, who gets credit for creating the first official vineyard and winery in the Napa Valley. John Patchett began planting vines in 1854 and started producing wine just three years later. He constructed his cellar in 1859, and the following year his wine received an official review. History shows that the Napa Valley region really gets its start when the Charles Krug winery in Napa was founded in 1861. Other wineries quickly followed. But it is only since the 1960s that wine of any particular quality has been produced.

Napa County is the best known county (in wine terms, at least) in the larger North Coast AVA of California, largely because it includes the world-famous Napa Valley AVA, which covers most of the region. The region is located 50 miles north of San Francisco and is known around the world as the premium wine-growing region in North America. Its Mediterranean climate and the skill of its winemakers contribute to its popularity for wine. In most parts, Napa Valley is only a few miles wide with low volcanic hills defining its sides. As one of California’s smaller counties, Napa County covers a total of 485,000 acres (196,275ha) with less than 10% of the land under vine. Perhaps surprisingly, despite its formidable reputation, the Napa Valley represents just 4% of California’s total wine production – but it accounts for 30% of the state’s wine economy.

Napa Valley comprises 16 sub-regions or AVAs where more than 500 wineries are located, making it the most densely concentrated wine region in the world. The Napa Valley is home to Beringer Vineyards, the region’s oldest continuously operated winery, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Robert Mondavi, who established his winery in 1966, is considered to be one of the pioneers of Napa’s modern wine industry, as well as being one of the first proponents of varietal labeling.

Can see map here: https://winefolly.com/deep-dive/napa-wine-map/

Although a number of grape varieties are grown in the valley’s vineyards, the area is particularly known for its Cabernet Sauvignon. The classic “Napa Cab”, the archetypal Napa Valley wine, is a rich, oak-aged red with aromas of blackcurrant, boysenberry, licorice, vanilla, and smoky, bittersweet chocolate. There are several reasons for Napa Valley’s global renown as a wine region. Most obvious is that the wines are produced to high standards, in a popular style, and are very well marketed. But no less important (even after almost four decades) is the triumph of Napa Valley wines over their rivals from Bordeaux and Burgundy in the 1976 Paris Judgment.

Enter Robert Parker, who started his career as a wine writer in 1978, when he founded The Wine Advocate.  His call for harvesting ripe fruit, lower yields, more sorting and selection, cleaner facilities, more new French-oak barrels, planting the right grape varietal in the correct soil, and producing more vineyard-specific wines was heard by many California winemakers. Consequently, the late 1980’s ushered in the first wave of high-end vinyards and was seen by many as the first golden decade for California wine.  It became clear that making better wine earned you better scores from critics, and higher scores quickly translated into more money.

In recognition of the uniqueness of the soils and the myriad of different vineyard sites, in 1983, a system of American Viticultural Areas, (AVA’s) was created; however, the California AVA system has its quirks.  For example, wines are allowed to come from multiple AVA’s as long as the grapes from the AVA’s and that the percentage of each AVA is listed on the label. The first AVA was granted to Napa Valley, and the system expanded over the years. Today, the Napa Valley alone consists of 16 unique AVA’s.

Climate, geology, and topography are three essential components in what makes Napa Valley such a first-rate viticultural area. The combined influences of San Pablo Bay and the hills of the North Coast Ranges are responsible for the valley’s very particular mesoclimate. The bay generates morning fog, and the hills channel it inland, up into the valley. Without this fog that comes rolling in from the bays, the valley’s climate would be substantially warmer than it is, making it difficult to achieve structure and balance in the wines. The fog does not reach the higher parts of the valley, however, leaving these to rely on the cooling effects of altitude to keep their vines in balance.

Various parts of the Napa Valley suffered in the wildfires of October 2017. One fire began on Atlas Peak, requiring the evacuation by helicopter of vineyard workers. Signorello Estate’s winery was destroyed, and Stags’ Leap Winery was among those which were damaged.

The Central Valley 

Central Valley, in the center of California, is the engine room of the state’s agricultural output. It supplies all manner of foodstuffs to almost every part of the United States, from tomatoes and asparagus to almonds and apricots. Inevitably, the grapevine has found its way into this highly productive area. There is no Central Valley appellation per se, but the valley is home to a number of lesser-known AVAs. The most notable AVA is Lodi, just south of Sacramento, and others are Diablo Grande, Fresno County, Madera, River Junction, Salado Creek, Tracy Hills, and Yolo County.

The Central Valley is vast, running parallel with California’s Pacific coastline for more than 400 miles. Located about 100 miles inland, it swallows up the northern two-thirds of the state, with its spread halted only by the Coastal Ranges in the west and the Sierra Nevada mountains in the east.

See map here: https://vineyards.com/wine-map/united-states/california

Technically speaking, the Central Valley it is in fact two valleys: the Sacramento Valley in the north and the San Joaquin Valley in the south. They converge at the extensive and hydrologically complex Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. This might be viewed as a natural extension of the San Francisco bays, and brings the meeting point of the salt and fresh water some 50 miles (80km) inland. The presence of all this water not only contributes to lowering temperatures, but also provides all-important irrigation.

The Central Valley is the workhorse of California’s wine industry, producing more than half of the state’s grapes. The hot, dry conditions which prevail here are conducive to high yields, with the majority of the harvest going into the bulk wine market. In selected sub-regions, increasing quantities of high-quality wines are also being produced. Grapes with higher natural acidity, such as Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Barbera and Chardonnay, are the best performers.

Nestled among the Sacramento Delta waterways just east of the San Francisco Bay Area, the fertile Clarksburg AVA extends into three counties. Most of its wine-growing areas are contained within Yolo and Sacramento counties, with a small southern portion in Solano County. The over-fertile, poor-draining soils found across Clarksburg are more suited to high yields than high-quality, refined wine styles. Because of its ability to produce cool-climate wine styles in vast quantities, Clarksburg is popular with wineries from other AVAs looking to buy in grapes for bulk wine bottlings, meaning the vast majority, up to 90 percent of Clarksburg grapes are vinified in other parts of the state and other states across the US. So, relative to the AVA’s prolific production levels, very few wines actually bear the Clarksburg name, leaving it among the lesser-known Californian AVAs.












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2 Responses to Tasting No. 230 (Virtual) – May 24, 2021- Red Blends from California Central Valley and Napa


    Very informative! Ginger

  2. VIrginia Smart says:

    Very informative! Ginger

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