August Briggs literally doesn't appear on most maps of Napa Valley that show wineries. I'm not sure if this is because they prefer to remain under the radar and off the lists of the major marketing associations that normally create such maps, or if they are just new enough (opened in 2003) that the maps of the valley haven't caught up with their little hillside nook on the Silverado Trail, just across from Silver Rose. I suspect its a little of both. Owner and winemaker Joe Briggs says he has no desire to push his production over its current levels of ~4,500 cases. That hasn't stopped this boutique winery from becoming immensely popular to the point at which their wines are now showing up on prestigious restaurant wine lists and on savvy collectors' shelves.
Joe Briggs enrolled in Fresno State's Enology program with no prior experience in the wine industry, and after graduating in 1984 he spent the next 11 years working as a consulting winemaker. After stints at La Crema and Alpine Vineyards in Oregon, in 1995 Briggs decided to start his own label, releasing two Pinot Noirs and a Zinfandel.
Currently August Briggs has around 11 wines in their portfolio, ranging from Chardonnay to Zinfandel.
I stopped by last weekend to say hi and do a tasting of their current releases. Here's what they were pouring in the tasting room:
2002 Napa Pinot Meunier
Medium garnet in color, this wine has an earthy nose of tobacco and redcurrant with a bit of coffee thrown in there. In the mouth that coffee flavor persists to mingle with raspberries and redcurrant with a slight green wood taste on the finish that significantly marred what was a nice beginning. Score: 7.5 $32.
For those unfamiliar with Meunier, please see my review of Chandon's Pinot Meunier.
2002 "Hunting Vineyard" Russian River Pinot Noir, Sonoma
Also medium garnet in color, this wine led with aromas of cedar smoke, and raspberries while in the mouth it had nice fruit flavors of raspberries and blackberries with a little dry earth thrown in. Score: 8 $32
2001 Page-Nord Vineyard Napa Syrah, Yountville
Dark purple-black in the glass, this wine has a powerful nose of blackberries and farmyard with lush plum and blackberry flavors on the tongue and a lusty finish. Score: 8.5 $48.
2002 Napa Zinfandel
The grapes for this wine come from two vineyards, a secret one in Calistoga planted in 1904 and the Frediani Vineyard, planted in 1950 and located near the winery on the Silverado Trail. Dark garnet in color, this wine has a surprisingly sharp nose of pine and cedar overlaying cherry and blackberry aromas. In the mouth it is peppery with primary flavors of blackberry and cherry, finishing with distinct black pepper notes. A bit thin. Score: 8. $32
2001 Napa Cabernet (Spring Mountain and Diamond Mountain)
Dark ruby in color, this wine sports aromas of looseleaf tea and black cherries. In the mouth it is incredibly smooth with well integrated tannins surround a lush core of black cherry and an opulent finish. Wow. This is definitely a find. 10 cases left at the winery. Score: 9/9.5. $48.
All of these wines are available in limited quantities from the winery, which can be reached at the address and phone number below. They are also well represented in Internet Retailers. Try Wine Searcher.
August Briggs Winery
333 Silverado Trail
Calistoga, CA 94515
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