With so many events using the Napa Valley as a hosting venue it is easy to discount many or even most of them simply due to the limited time in our days and schedules. Individuals have only so much space on their calendar for work, personal responsibilities, and events in any given year. However, I would like to call attention to a specific event that I recommend should be highly considered when setting schedules. The annual Napa Valley Film Festival, just concluded in November, is a really classy experience offering multiple opportunities that should not be overlooked for several specific reasons.
This Festival brings together independent filmmakers who make and produce motion pictures, and of course the fans who view and appreciate these films. That being said, I want to begin here with the vinous aspects of this Festival, because Napa Valley certainly has its share of wine appreciators. Those who want to discover and taste wines that they might incorporate into their lives would do well to check out the offerings of the Festival, and I can see that many already have. Wine aficionados will find that numerous wineries uncorked volumes of high quality wines for tasting at a variety of Festival segments during the several days of this event. The wines poured at the Festival tastings that I attended were of notable quality, and more than a few were uncommon but available in the marketplace. Many were quite intriguing, and I am very glad that I had the opportunity to taste them.
When it comes to the overall umbrella of offerings, the Festival’s choices included culinary events, parties, Vintner Circle Dinners, celebrity tributes in which actor John Travolta participated, and the wine tastings. Food experiences were plentiful with cooking demonstrations, food and wine pairings, and discussion panels with headliner chef Bobby Flay a panel member. Finally, and not least, the parties were numerous and glitzy, both big and small, and were topped by the Gala celebration.
After all, this is a film festival, and as such placed a large array of films on screen. Throughout the five-day span of the Festival in 2015, from November 11 through November 15, films were screened at five different locations daily throughout Napa Valley, from the town of Napa all the way to Calistoga at the Valley’s northern extreme. The schedule was ambitious with film start times ranging from 9:00 in the morning to 9:00 in the evening. Subject matter was diverse offering a kaleidoscope of themes, life situations, and messages, both fiction and non. As such, this massive number of intriguing films created an introspective, reflective dimension to the Napa Valley Film Festival.
I believe I have made my point about the wine offerings of this event, which were notable notwithstanding the fact that the site was located in wine country. If there is any doubt, just read my tasting notes that follow. To use a cliché, hopefully the Napa Valley Film Festival offers something for everyone, or almost everyone. At the very least, there are many benefits to attending this event, including cultural, social, and the world class culinary and vinous attractions. Not to forget the beautiful Napa Valley.
My tasting notes
The Bottle Party
94, Cabernet Sauvignon, Freemark Abbey, Boche, 2004
This eleven-year-old displays precise, textured aroma that emerge from the wine. The depth and quality of the superb black fruit in this 2004 Cabernet completely engulfs the palate. Plenty of superlatives here, including the explicit, chiseled impression of this fine, aged effort!
93, Chardonnay, Capensis, Jackson Family Wines, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2013, $80
This light-gold 2013 from the Stellenbosch region of South Africa is a wonderful representation of the Chardonnay grape. Well delineated characteristics with great purity of ripe fruit, the wine glides seamlessly across the palate. The aromas are complex offering pineapple, pear, and a hint of musk, and the acid level is just right. This is a truly exceptional effort showing suppleness with a great touch and feel, and excellent balance.
89, Riesling, Homage, Maestro, Los Carneros, 2013, $25
This 2015 Riesling by Homage comes from a grape we do not see often near the Napa Valley. This delightful wine offers aromas of apricot, peach, and green apple. Firm, crisp, and showing some acid, this wine is should work well with food. The alcohol is moderate at 12.8%.
89, Cabernet Sauvignon, Freemark Abbey, Sycamore, 1999, about $170
Dark red with brown tinges. After 16 years, this Sycamore Vineyard remains big, muscular, and full bodied. Notes of leather and earth with notable fruit on the palate. The wine shows personality and has a lingering finish.
89, Cabernet Sauvignon, Freemark Abbey, Sycamore, 2002, about $125
Complex, grippy, and intense. This dark red-purple, aged Sycamore still evidences plenty of good structure and extract with a nice vein of acid running through. Displaying notes of peony, leather, and dark fruit, this one has a way to go.
90, Chardonnay, Freemark Abbey, 2014, Napa, Valley, $30
Very light gold in color. This invitingly accessible Chardonnay exhibits a striking, chiseled character with fine delineation of its features, and purity of fruit. Shows pear, apple, and a buttery note, while reminding clearly of Burgundy. I mean Burgundy with a California suntan.
89, Cabernet Sauvignon, S.R. Tonella Cellars, Rutherford, 2012, $74
Deep ruby-purple and sized medium-heavy weight. Delicious dark fruit with notes of black cherry and vanilla on the palate. Smooth in texture with good balance, the sound structure and acid level should permit aging.
The General Store Tasting
93, Zinfandel, Chase, Hayne Vineyard, 2012, $45
This exquisite Chase Zinfandel is from the Hayne Vineyard located near the southwest border of the city of St. Helena, and is within the St. Helena Appellation. The vineyard, registered by the Historic Vineyard Society, consists mainly of ancient, 112-year-old, dry farmed, head-trained Zinfandel vines. The light, floral aromas of this splendid Zin are quickly followed on the palate by profuse, thick, sweet, red and black fruit with notes of mocha. The finish not only has length but intensity. This full-bodied, ruby -colored wine possesses considerable extract, and displays a finely-textured touch and feel. Great complexity is patent, along with superb balance in this remarkable old vine Zinfandel.
91, Petite Syrah, Chase, Barberis Vineyard, 2012, $55
This lovely and complex expression of Petite Syrah shows aromas of luscious blueberries with a savory, spicy touch. This heavy-weight wine asserts itself with a core of intense extract and ripe fruit. Thickly textured and coating, this wine also exhibits impressive balance. The medium-mild tannins will subside with time.
92, Syrah, BOS Wine, Phoenix Ranch, 2012, $48
David Bos has believed in organic and biodynamic farming practices from the start of his ten-year vineyard manager career. This luscious Syrah, from an organic/biodynamic vineyard, is a member of the BOS single vineyard program produced at custom crush facilities. A smooth, velvety texture, and bursting with violet and cranberry aromas. The loads of gorgeous, dark fruit display well in the full body of the wine. Offers ripe tannins, and is structured for aging.
91, Riesling, Wharton, Trefethen Vineyard, 2013, $28
The aroma of this extraordinary Riesling from Napa Valley surprisingly shows petrol-like notes, which usually appear only with age, intertwined with pear in this youthful wine. The flavor profile is complex with apricot predominating. This unique and delicious Riesling is not only full bodied with intensity and substance, but is also supple and well balanced with a refreshing vein of acidity. Residual sugar is 6.0 g/l and alcohol is a moderate 12.5% in this 75-case effort.
The Mexican American Vintners Tasting
90, Chardonnay, Ceja, 2013, $42
There are plenty of superlatives in this tropically styled Chardonnay from Ceja. Aromas of honeysuckle and pineapple fill the glass. Honeyed fruit flavors and jackfruit, with creamy overtones greet the palate. The exotic character notwithstanding, this Chardonnay is also supple, elegant, and has a delicate dimension.
89, Chardonnay, Rentieria, 2012, $40
Light gold in color. Aromas of pear and apple are framed by notes of toasty oak. On the palate, sweet fruit is nicely intertwined with hints of spice. This wine offers plenty of intensity with fine purity of fruit.
93, Chardonnay, Mi Sueno, Sonoma Mountain, Pugash Vineyard, $54
White-gold in color. Boasts a rich palate of luscious golden apple and orange marmalade. Full-bodied with tears running down the glass and a supple feel to this rich white. A vein of acidity keeps the balance intact. Intense in character, this delicious Chardonnay is California in style. This 147-caqse effort produced a unique wine that is very well made.