May 18, 2015
Cuvaison is an iconic brand in Napa Valley and producer of beautifully crafted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Lesser known about Cuvaison is its ties to Mt. Veeder's Brandlin family; its green initiatives and commitment to the environment; and state of the art tasting room in the heart of their Carneros vineyards. Discover two incredible wineries in one very cool story!
For many years, Cuvaison has been regarded as an iconic winery and brand in Napa Valley, consistently producing beautifully balanced Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Located in the Carneros AVA (American Viticultural Area), the winery was originally founded in 1969 and purchased ten years later by the Schmidheiny family of Switzerland. At the time of purchase, the Carneros region was little known for grape growing and the newly acquired 400 acres was pastureland. Today, Cuvaison’s 250 acres “under vine” produce a portfolio of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah – all world class wines thanks to Carneros’ cool bay breezes and fog unique to the growing area. The majority of the winery’s staff has held long tenures; Jay Schuppert, the President and CEO of the winery, has been with Cuvaison for 17 years. The family itself reinvests all profits back into the business for its long term success – both testaments to the Schmidheiny family and its values.
Two lesser known facts about Cuvaison are their ties to Napa Valley’s Brandlin family and commitment to sustaining the environment through various initiatives.
In 1998, Cuvaison purchased a historic Mount Veeder property owned by Chester Brandlin. Located on a 1,200 foot ridgeline – this is one of Napa Valley’s most difficult but acclaimed mountain regions for grape growing. Dating back 140 years when the immigrant Swiss family first moved to Napa, they purchased various mountain properties instead of land on the Napa Valley floor; they began growing grapes as early as the 1870s. In the 1920s, Henry Brandlin purchased this estate and started planting zinfandel which are still producing great wines almost 90 years later. Cuvaison purchased the property from Henry’s son, Chester, who was very involved in grape growing until the age of 89 when he passed. It’s hard to believe, but after so many years of growing grapes on Mt. Veeder, the Brandlin family never produced a bottle of wine with their family name on a label. As a tribute and to pay homage to the family, the Mount Veeder wines – a Cabernet Sauvignon, a proprietary red Bordeaux style blend and two zinfandels – are marketed as an independent label called Brandlin Vineyards.
Both estate vineyards, Carneros and Brandlin, are certified Napa Green, meaning the company has been recognized for their work in reducing the impact on the environment. Both estates are certified sustainable, practice Fish Friendly Farming and the winery/tasting room have Bay Area Green Business certification. The winery is solar powered producing 85% of their power use; they have invested in a very sophisticated water recirculation/conservation program; and they spearhead a cork recycling program where wine club members and neighboring wineries bring their popped corks to be grinded for repurposing.
Winery Visits & Tasting Experiences
The staff at Cuvaison is dedicated to providing winelovers with a unique tasting experience at their recently built tasting room in the heart of their estate. Their original vision for the structure was to place their guests where they could get a true sense and appreciation for the vineyards and the picturesque, rolling hills of Carneros. All visitors enjoy sweeping, 270 degree views with 22 feet floor to ceiling windows all while enjoying a 2-in-1 tasting experience with both Cuvaison and Brandlin wines. Together, Cuvaison’s emphasis on lifestyle and celebration and Brandlin’s focus on exploration and discovery make for one unforgettable Napa Valley experience!
"When the Carneros American Viticultural Area, or AVA, was approved in 1983, it was a chance to capture the region’s distinct coolness, its ability to grow chardonnay and pinot noir - initially, in many cases, for making sparkling wine.
Like so much of the North Coast, Carneros is affected by the proximity of the Pacific Ocean. In its case, the within-view San Pablo Bay brings fog, wind and cooler temperatures to the AVA. Covering 37,000 acres overall, about 6,000 of them planted to wine grapes, Carneros is also the only AVA to span both Napa and Sonoma counties.
This year, the Carneros Wine Alliance, a collection of the region’s wineries, celebrates its 30th anniversary, established two years after the official AVA designation to bring together wineries and grape growers in a collective mission to up the quality of that which is grown and made in Carneros.
Today, so much has evolved in Carneros and yet it remains the home of mostly longstanding producers, household wine names that have earned their reputations over decades — Etude, Saintsbury, Donum, Schug, Bouchaine and Cuvaison — as well as many distinguished vineyards regularly designated by wineries within the region and beyond.
Some of these marquee vineyard sites include Hyde Vineyard, a historic source of Old Wente clone chardonnay; Grace Benoist Ranch, a sprawling hillside estate farmed by Etude; Stanly Ranch, a pinot spot long associated with Saintsbury; and many of the Sangiacomo family’s sought-after vineyards, including Green Acres, the family’s first parcel in Sonoma, purchased in 1920, which Saintsbury sources for chardonnay, also Old Wente clone.
Cuvaison was selected as one of the 7 wineries to be 'discovered' in Carneros.
Julie Fadda Powers, March 2015
“Cuvaison” is the French term for the period of time during alcoholic fermentation when wine is in contact with the solid matter—such as skin, pips and stalks—to extract color, flavor and tannin.
Not sure if you’re in the mood for silky Pinot Noir and Chardonnay or robust mountain reds? How about something in between? No worries, Cuvaison has you covered. With two distinctly different Napa Valley locations (we visited the Carneros estate; see the website for details on the Calistoga location on Silverado Trail), the winery offers both convenience and individual attention.
Cuvaison’s estate vineyard, in the Carneros region of Napa Valley, is 400 acres of rolling hills along San Pablo Bay. There are 240 acres planted to predominantly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as a smaller amount of Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. Its onsite, solar-powered winery was completed in 2004, and its sleek, modern tasting room opened its doors in 2009. All Cuvaison wines are grown on the certified Napa Green Land and Winery programs.
The tasting room itself is unique in that it’s set up as a sit-down, intimate experience. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can enjoy either a simple tasting in the room (or on its expansive deck, which has beautiful views of the vineyards and the valley below—you also can take in the view from inside through the expansive windows that, on warm days, open to let the outdoors in) or you can schedule a tour (they take place at 9:30 a.m. Fridays through Mondays, April through October, and require 24-hour advance notice), where you’ll step into the vineyards and learn about them in detail. On a clear day and from the estate’s highest point, you can see all the way across San Francisco Bay to the City (binoculars are recommended; you also can see Mt. Tam and even Mt. Diablo). Tastings include four wines, which vary by season; you’ll also learn about the winery, its history and the surrounding area at a level that best suits your interests. Ask the right questions and you’ll learn all sorts of interesting things. The Brandlin gallery (there’s all sorts of artwork throughout the tasting areas) is an ideal spot for private tastings and wine and cheese pairings.
The estate was established in 1969 and, in 1979, was purchased by its current owners, the Schmidheiny family of Switzerland. The family planted the vineyard in 1980 but phylloxera was discovered in the late 1980s, which required replanting that started in 1991 and was completed 13 years later. The estate and vineyard are locally managed by a team headed by Jay Schuppert (president) and Steve Rogstad (winemaker).
Because of its size and varied terrain, the vineyard is farmed in small blocks that vary in row direction, spacing, trellising and training. This means they’re all farmed uniquely according to what best works for the variety and location. Rogstad oversees the entire vineyard and was also fortunate enough to help design the state-of-the-art winery. He included an extensive fermentation program where he tries out different types of barrels, and concrete and stainless steel fermenters.
In 1998, Cuvaison purchased the historic Brandlin vineyard on Mt. Veeder. The Brandlin family first moved to Mt. Veeder from Switzerland in the 1870s, and the vineyard was originally planted in 1926 by Henry Brandlin. It was later tended by his son, Chester, who lived and farmed there with his brother, Richard. Chester continued to live on the property until passing in February 2013. Ten acres of the original Zinfandel planted there is still on the property, which has plantings ranging from 900 to 1,200 feet in elevation. The newer vineyards, planted by Cuvaison, consist of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with traditional Bordeaux blending varieties of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. The wine from this estate is labeled under the Brandlin name as a nod to its history and the family who farmed it for so many years.
When we visited, we first tasted the 2012 Cuvaison Estate Chardonnay, which is the most widely available offering. Crafted from 44 different bocks on the estate, this crisp offering features stone fruit and just a hint of butter with great acidity. Next was the 2012 Kite Tail Chardonnay, which is made from a single block on high ground that’s planted with the Wente clone. It goes through malolactic fermentation and the result is a silky, well-balanced wine with vanilla and crème brulée elements. The 2012 Estate Pinot Noir is an elegant ride with red and black plum flavors and hints of cherry and allspice on the nose. The 2012 Spire Pinot Noir is from the block viewable just outside the east-facing window of the tasting room (the top is the highest point on the estate) and is a smooth, well-rounded and balanced wine with a hint of spice.
From the Brandlin vineyard, we sampled the 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (earthy, masculine with dark fruit and a strong structure). Since the vineyard’s fruit is thick-skinned due to its cool temperatures and high elevation, Rogstad crafts it by incorporating air into the wine to help it become more lush and develop better tannin structures (the results are outstanding). We also tried the 2011 Henry’s Keep, a proprietary red blend made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Its name is in homage to when Henry Brandlin kept the best barrels for his family, and the result is a super complex, lush wine with dark fruit, a strong backbone and a classic Mt. Veeder profile. We enjoyed every one of these wines, along with the view, to the ultimate last drop."
Sophia Markoulakis, March 13, 2015
"In the heart of Carneros off Highway 12 is Cuvaison’s newer tasting room, completed in 2009 by Gould Evans Architects. It’s a modern wood-and-steel structure that juts out from its perch overlooking the winery’s 400-acre property.
The sustainable design with wraparound terraces, seamless glass window and door openings, and native-grass landscaping, creates a Northern California vibe that’s complemented by the youthful energy of the guests who come to sample the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon for a $20 fee. There’s cohesion between the tasting room and barrel building, one of the goals of the design. The design also reflects the winery’s green initiatives such as rainwater collection, solar energy, waste management and water recycling. Reservations recommended."
|San Francisco Magazine|
|February 2015, Rachel Ward|
Cuvaison Estate Wines' Carneros Tasting Room recently made it on WhereSF's short list of Napa Valley Tasting Rooms with a View!
|February 2015, Hayley Hamilton Cogill|
|"I met Jay Schuppert several years ago at an event in Napa Valley but didn’t have a chance, at the time, to understand the history of the land he manages everyday as President of Cuvaison. Established in 1969 and purchased by current owners, the Schmidheiny family of Switzerland, in 1979, Cuvaison is dedicated to sustainable farming, precisely managed Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines in the rolling hills of the Carneros AVA. With a focus on individual, block by block vine management, the specific clones of each variety are allowed to shine, some adapting better to one soil type, sun exposure or elevation verses another. Forty different Chardonnay blocks and 20 different Pinot Noir blocks are planted on their certified sustainable estate in Carneros, each managed by hand and hand harvested each year, ensuring that the hand crafted wine is the best of the best, setting a standard for quality in the region."|
Our 2012 Kite Tail Chardonnay was selected as one of the "Winning Wines For Thanksgiving Dinner" by Bayou City Magazine's food writer Robin Barr Sussman.
Read the entire article here.
|2012 Cuvaison Estate Pinot Noir
"No surprise that this selection, priced one tier above the others, wins favorite in a blind tasting—I, er, didn't even look at the tech sheet before assembling the lineup. The hint of smoky, incensey oak has a high-quality savor to it; the fruity potpourri aroma has depth; the plum and cherry flavors are intensified with cola character; and the finish is firm."
October 8, 2014, Bohemian.com
By now most of you have heard the news about the 6.0 magnitude earthquake that struck South Napa Sunday morning. Above all else we feel incredibly fortunate that the earthquake hit during the early morning hours and that no one from our team was injured.
Some members of our community endured greater loss and we extend our heartfelt sympathy to them.
The Carneros region where our winery and tasting room are located was hit hard however damages were minimal and isolated to our barrel rooms. After some clean up on Sunday, our Tasting Room reopened Monday morning. Our amazing and skilled cellar crew
continues to steadfastly return order to our barrel rooms, and we should be in prime position for the start of harvest!
Click the image below to watch a short video produced by CNN that features our winery and tasting room, and a short interview with Cuvaison Estate Wines’ President Jay Schuppert. This video also features Mike Drash, a winemaker who produces wine in our winery.
We are grateful for all your positive thoughts, good wishes and interest.
2012 Cuvaison Estate Chardonnay
Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
2012 Kite Tail Chardonnay
Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide
"From an organically-farmed hillside vineyard planted to the Old Wente clone,
"Lush and juicy with spice, toasty oak,vanilla and ripe pear fruit; rich and dense."
Decantress Wine Diary
August 16, 2014
"A sense of place. This phrase was echoed throughout my recent visit to Cuvaison and truly embodies the philosophy behind the winery. On my first visit, I found myself there at 6:45 am on a Sunday morning in July surrounded by nearly 3,000 other people. A layer of fog kept the temperature cool but the air still, and all of us in racing gear, arms and legs exposed to the cool morning air, were stirring about to stay warm. The grapes, however, were undisturbed. What on earth was I doing at a winery so early in the morning? I was lining up for the best half marathon I have ever experienced, the Napa to Sonoma 13.1 mile race, whose starting line happened to be at Cuvaison. Cuvaison’s location in Carneros, just a short detour off of Highway 121 had made it a winery on my “must visit” list for a while. So as the gun went off and my fellow racers and I ran through beautiful vineyards from Carneros to a finish line in the Sonoma Square, I knew I would return to Cuvaison for a proper tour of the winery, vineyards and taste the impressive portfolio of wines. A “carrot” always helps with motivation and speed, and racing towards a finish line that promises an impressive line up of wine even helped me to PR!
After enjoying a glass of sparkling wine at the finish line, and the festivities on the square, my husband and I were too exhausted to visit a winery and opted to soak up some the gorgeous Napa sun, poolside. However, I couldn’t keep Cuvaison out of my mind, and we wasted no time, returning the following weekend for a proper tasting. The team at Cuvaison, from the winemaker to the hospitality director, to tasting room staff, go above and beyond to create an environment for people to come, relax and enjoy wines in the same environment that bears the grapes. Which is certainly striking - rolling vineyard-covered hills, cooled by fog from San Pablo Bay in the Carneros Region of Sonoma. The tasting room is clean, modern, with floor to ceiling glass windows and a viewing deck intended for guests to relax and taste while looking out over a nearby lake and the vineyards; which produce the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes that have made Cuvaison famous.
Not to be overlooked is the profound influence the Schmidheiny family of Switzerland who purchased the winery in 1979. When Thomas Schmidheiny's mother visited the Carneros region in the late 1970's, she was so taken with the land and its potential for winegrowing that she brought a small bag of soil home in her suitcase. A year later, Thomas purchased the Carneros estate where Cuvaison now makes its home. In the years since, the family has thoughtfully re-invested all profits in the vineyard and winery, consistently providing the support needed to produce the highest quality grapes and wines. Winemaker, Rogstad, joined Cuvaison in 2002, and oversaw the construction of the new winery, ensuring it was "purpose built" to optimally handle the fruit from Cuvaison's estate vineyard. We toured the winery and barrel room and observed first hand the care that is taken to separate each wine by block and allow it to ferment in perfect conditions. Each vineyard block has a home in a vessel specifically meant for that wine (from French Oak to cement egg to stainless steel), and are designed so they can actually be moved into different environments within the winery as needed to ensure the wine develops perfectly. The result is high quality wine that is integrated and complex.
Rogstad manages the certified sustainable vineyards at both Cuvaison and Brandlin, Cuvaison’s sister winery, with vineyards on Mt. Veeder, that produces bolder wines like Cabernet and Malbec that require the warmer climate in Napa. At Cuvaison, you feel a shared pride about the sense of place, as well as a concern about the environment and genuine will to reduce Cuvaison's impact on our environment. A few of the initiatives practiced at Cuvaison include solar power, water conservation and energy efficiency; the winery is also certified Napa Green. It’s hard to imagine that a winery this dedicated to maintaining the environment also produces
some of the best wines Carneros has to offer and maintains friendly staff to make the experience personal and relaxing. If you’re looking for the perfect winery to stop at on the way back from Napa, this gem off Duhig Road (neighbor to the stately Domaine Carneros) is ideal. This isn’t a normal tasting experience with guests overcrowding a tasting bar. It’s recommended to call ahead and schedule an appointment as the tasting room and patio are petite and the experience is tailored to be able to accommodate guests at their own private tables, each with a sweeping view of the picturesque landscape. You’ll get a tasting of both Cuvaison Pinot and Chardonnay and the wines in the Brandlin portfolio, including an impressive Zinfandel and Cabernet.
My favorite wines are listed below with tasting notes provided by the winery:
2012 Estate Chardonnay - $25 per bottle
From a truly classic vintage, the 2012 Estate Chardonnay displays lovely aromatics of honeysuckle, lily, acacia blossom and clove spice. Upon tasting this wine, it demonstrates a charming mix of white peach, apricot, nectarine and lime zest all tied to a bright, long, refreshing finish
2012 ATS Chardonnay - $56 per bottle
An opulently styled wine, the 2012 ATS Chardonnay is richly perfumed with notes of honeysuckle, jasmine and orange blossom. The fruit is focused around a lovely core of melon, peach and lemon chiffon with a hint of vanilla and toasted almonds. It’s this interplay between the bright, floral components and the dense fruit with a long crisp finish that sets the ATS apart and pays homage to the art of blending.
2012 Spire Pinot Noir - $48 per bottle
A classic vintage, 2012 enjoyed near perfect weather and ideal conditions at harvest. The Spire Pinot was harvested over a 15 day period, rigorously selecting the best fruit with each pass. The result is a multi-layered wine with opulent fruit, intriguing spice, lush tannins and brilliant acidity. Cherry, plum and wild strawberry notes with rose petal, violet, clove and ginger spice on the nose. Round and full-bodied for Pinot Noir the Spire showcases the plush tannins and rich mouthfeel typical of this site. Aged for 16 months in French oak puncheons, this is a rare wine from a singular place.
2011 Diablo Syrah - $40 per bottle SOLD OUT
Named after the formidable Diablo soils from whence this wine springs, this wine is a lover and a fighter, with gorgeous black cherry, boysenberry, sandalwood and cardamom spice notes backed by some bare knuckle tannins. Forged in a cool and challenging vintage on unforgiving soils, this wine demonstrates that the best things are born of struggle. Both powerful and graceful, this wine should reward you with intriguing spice, ample dark fruit and a long, persistent finish.
2012 Brandlin Estate Zinfandel - $38 per bottle
The 2012 Brandlin Zinfandel captures the essence of Old Vine Zin, where delicate floral tones (rose petals) mingle with crushed red berries and dark, jammy plums. The wine also has a nice spice element, star anise and a hint of bay leaf. On the palate the flavors of raspberry, blackcherry and boysenberry jam come to the fore, while texturally the wine is quite lush with medium-bodied tannins and a silky, long, bright finish."
Ian White, August 14, 2014
San Francisco Magazine
"Openings, uncorkings, and more from Wine Country."
"Few places host a good picnic in Napa Valley, so Cuvaison's [Calistoga Tasting Room] is answering the call. They are offering a tasting flight of four wines, followed by a healthy picnic lunch in their tree-shaded picnic grounds. Make sure to try their Pinot."
"Ladies and gentlemen… the weekend arrived. The wine country half marathon I’ve been going on and on about for the past four months has finally come, and now gone.
I’ll bring you the race day details later (including how I did!), but now I want to introduce you to two of the optional race extras offered by Destination Races: the Welcome Reception at Cuvaison Winery, and the Pre-race Dinner in the Vineyard at Ceja Vineyards.
Can you think of a better way to kick off a weekend?
Welcome Reception at Cuvasion Winery | Friday, July 18 6pm to 8pm
Let’s just start with that view… does is get any more idyllic than that? Seriously. When people say it’s absolutely stunning out here, they aren’t exaggerating. In fact, they may be understating how awesome it is to keep the crowds to a minimum (unsuccessfully, might I add).
The Napa-to-Sonoma flagship event began with hors d’oeuvres and wine tasting at the beautiful Cuvaison Winery. This would later be the “scene of the crime,” also known as the starting point of the race on Sunday. But tonight, it was all laughter and conversation heard over the cheerful clinking of glasses. A consistent chorus of, “Ooooh… this one is good!!” complimented the cool evening breeze. This was purely a social event – a chance for attendees to celebrate the weekend finally arriving, and for soaking in the atmosphere of wine country while making friends with those who share the appreciation.
I was one of the first to arrive, hence the photo ops without people. Trust me, by 6:15 this patio was pleasantly packed with other enthusiastic wine lovers and runners. Professional runner Lauren Fleshman was present, which was (for a lack of a better phrase) really damn cool. The whole event was perfectly informal, making it an ideal setting for a solo traveler such as myself to mingle and make friends. And mingle and make friends I did.
Click here to read the entire article on the Creatrice Mondial blog site.
|By Amy Hayes, July 22, 2014 Creatrice Mondial Blog Site|
GAYOT.com website is an internationally renowned and professional guide to dining, hotels, travel and lifestyle, including spas, movies and automobiles. They recently published an article on their website where they share their "Top Summer Wines" of 2014 - and Cuvaison's 2012 Estate Chardonnay was selected!
Read the article here.
We are thrilled to read what Steve Heimoff says about our 2012 Estate Pinot Noir in Wine Enthusiast's June 2014 issue, rated 91 Points.
“With a light, silky mouthfeel and mouthwatering acidity, this Pinot satisfies for its rich array of raspberries, cherries, spices, cola and smoky oak. It defines the Carneros style: tart, a little earthy and ageworthy. Drink now - 2019.”
And we agree - it’s delicious!
2012 Estate Pinot Noir
Julia Hollister, Northern California Wine Examiner
April 14, 2012
Winemaker Steve Rogstad explains:
'When phylloxera hit Napa Valley in the 1980s, that calamity offered a silver lining. Like many of our neighbors, we were faced with the task of replanting entire vineyards. From 1991 through 2004, our estate was completely replanted to reflect an updated understanding of growing wine in this site. Since then we’ve continued to tinker with grafting and replanting to create further distinction on the property and to maximize the expression of our terroir.'
The chardonnay selection ($25) showcases this unique region. Aged in French oak, this straw-hued wine opens with honeysuckle, sweet pear and a hint of ground clove. Pause a few moments, swirl and sip. Kiwi, ripe apricot and juicy peach flavors round out the tasting experience.
Cuvaison winemaker knows pinot noir and where the grapes can thrive. The selected vineyard blocks result in a graceful, exceptional vintage. One whiff reveals a bright middle and long finish highlighted with black cherry and raspberry aromas and whispers of baking spices. The best – the taste – is the reward of patience. Juicy dark fruit and subtle berry flavors showcase the smooth tannins that linger on the palate."
Introducing Cuvaison's 2013 Solitaire Sauvignon Blanc
New Release | *New Blend | Winery Exclusive
A very dry, early season added concentration to our 2013 Solitaire Sauvignon Blanc. This singular wine is crafted from a diamond shaped parcel within our Carneros Estate Vineyard. The 2013 Solitaire was picked in two passes. The earlier picked fruit was fermented in stainless steel, the later was *vinted in our concrete egg. The concrete egg softens and enriches the wine over time. The egg’s thick walls have the effect of softening any bitterness and giving the resulting wine a warmer, more unctuous tone. Fresh notes of gooseberry, melon, kiwi and apricots are braced on the palate with shimmering acidity and crisp minerality which serve to lengthen the flavors and let them linger on the tongue. - Winemaker Steven Rogstad
|2013 Solitaire Sauvignon Blanc||23.00||18.40||276.00||220.80|
Club Cuvaison Members save more than 20% off.
Not a Club Cuvaison Member? Click here to learn more.
Introducing two Cuvaison NEW RELEASE, limited production wines from our Single Block Series!
These two wines are born from our most prized and distinctive blocks, illustrating the most complete expression of fruit from our Carneros Estate Vineyard.
|2012 Kite Tail Chardonnay||42.00||33.60||504.00||403.20|
|2012 Spire Pinot Noir||48.00||38.40||576.00||460.80|
On our Carneros Estate Vineyard bud break began in earnest the first week of March, which is a few weeks earlier than the norm. This is the first stage of the annual growth cycle of the vine, using energy stored in its root system, the vines' sap begins to flow and the buds burst with the growth of this year’s shoots. Once the buds have pushed, new leaves will began to unfurl on the newborn shoots and photosynthesis will take over as the engine for the vines.
Here you can see mustard growing up between between the rows of vines in our Carneros, Napa Valley vineyard.
"Visiting Cuvaison Winery in the Heart of Carneros"
A range of excellent wines from Napa Valley
Gabe Sasso, The Daily Meal
** Click here to visit the article on The Daily Meal's website:
For a number of years now, I’ve been drinking Cuvaison wines and last year I even had dinner with their affable winemaker, Steve Rogstad. However, until recently I’d never been to their facility, so it seemed like high time to change that on my most recent trip to Napa Valley. Cuvaison is best known for making chardonnay and Pinot noir. Their core wines are made using fruit sourced in Carneros, where the winery sits amongst their vineyards. Cuvaison also has a label called Brandlin that is focused on making Estate Cabernet from Mt. Veeder fruit. All around they’re very much the embodiment of an estate producer.
Cuvaison, in fact, has a couple of tasting rooms: one up on Silverado Trail in Calistoga and another that is also gently nestled among their vines in Carneros. Wanting to get to the heart of things, I scheduled my recent visit with them for the Carneros location. One of the biggest practical differences between the two tasting rooms is that you can simply walk in to the one in Calistoga and belly up to the bar. The Carneros location offers a couple of options which are available by appointment. One option is a vineyard walk and tasting which occurs four days a week at 9:30 AM. The walk lasts approximately 20 minutes and is followed by a tasting. The other option is a seated tasting, which is what I participated in when my group visited. The facility is on the intimate side and it has both indoor and outdoor seating. In good weather, the glass doors can be opened so even those who are inside get to enjoy the beautiful climate.
When we arrived, the staff greeted us and asked if we preferred to sit inside or out. After, we were guided through our tasting, as they brought over one wine at a time. They told us a bit about each one and were available to answer any questions about the selections they poured, as well as the winery. In a sense, the depth of the tasting from an informational perspective can go as deep or as shallow into things as your party desires. This ability to gauge where each group wants to take it is one of the keys to bringing intimate, seated tastings to the next level. My group wasn’t in a hurry, so we spent a couple of hours enjoying our surroundings and luxuriating in the Cuvaison wines. As a piece, their wines are well made, site-specific offerings which also speak of vintage conditions. That said, a handful of them particularly stood out to me on that day:
Cuvaison 2012 Solitaire Sauvignon Blanc ($23) — Produced from vines planted to the Musqué clone of Sauvignon Blanc, this wine doesn’t see any oak treatment or undergo malolactic fermentation. Anjou pear and yellow delicious apple aromas emerge from the nose of this sauvignon blanc. The palate shows off citrus zest, flinty mineral notes, and white pepper spice. Bits of pleasing green herb emerge on the finish which is clean, crisp and refreshing. This is a lovely example of sauvignon blanc that works as well by itself as it will with lighter foods.
Cuvaison 2011 ATS Chardonnay ($56) — The fruit for this wine comes from some of the oldest planted blocks on the Estate and are planted to the Dijon 809 Clone. Bits of linseed oil, toast, and baker’s spices emerge from the nose of this chardonnay. This is a bold chardonnay loaded with tropical and orchard fruit aromas throughout a full bodied palate. Tons of mineral and spice emerge on the finish which has excellent length. This chardonnay will complement rich cream sauces and soft cheeses quite well. It’s a somewhat extravagant example of chardonnay, which aims to impress and it does.
Cuvaison 2012 Estate Pinot Noir ($38) — The fruit for this Estate Cuvee came from 20 distinct blocks on their property: each block is handled separately and the final blend takes place prior to bottling. Black tea and bing cherry aromas leap from the nose of this fresh and exuberant Pinot noir. Red fruits dominate the gentle but firm palate, with bits of black fruit weaving in and out of the picture. Cherries, strawberries, and hints of plum are of particular note here. Leather, black pepper, and wisps of green savory herb are all part of the finish which has terrific length. This is a nice Pinot noir which will pair with a truly wide array of foods. It would also be a nice wine to sit in the corner with as you sip it slowly and contemplate life. In either case you can’t go wrong. This is a terrific Pinot at a very fair price for the quality.
Cuvaison 2011 Estate Syrah ($38) — The Syrah vines that are sourced for this wine are located on hillsides, and the exposure to greater sun in the hills allows the Syrah to ripen more evenly. Lots of anise leads the massive nose on this 2011 Syrah. Black cherry and raspberry fruit flavors are in full effect on the weighty and friendly palate. Blackberry and plum notes emerge on the finish along with smoked meat characteristics and a hint of chicory. The tannins here are firm, but yield with some air. This Syrah will excel when it’s paired with bold, full flavored foods.
The two Estate wines above and their Estate chardonnay are all widely available all over the country. Their other selections are more limited in availability; some are only available directly through the winery. Steve Rogstad has been crafting some really fine wines over at Cuvaison for a long time now. Across the board these are approachable, proportionate wines with depth. If you’re not familiar with Cuvaison, spend your money on their offerings with the confidence that you’ll get a quality artisan product.