Even though it’s the middle of January, and the rest of the country, and much of the Northern Hemisphere is still coated with snow (the ski season is probably at its peak right now) it is Spring in Northern California. The hills are greening, some species of Magnolia are blossoming, and mushrooms are popping up on the forest floors as the rains become more intermittent and we start to get days of sunshine.
Mushrooms aren’t the only things popping up, seemingly out of nowhere. So are new wine labels. Many are new ventures by new people, but occasionally a label is started by people whose names make you sit up and take notice. The newly launched Parallel Wines certainly qualifies.
The two names most visibly attached to this brand are the young and much acclaimed winemaker Philippe Melka and the veteran vineyard manager Jim Barbour. Thirty-year-old Melka, who learned his trade at Chateau Petrus, Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau Haut-Brion in Bordeaux before moving to Napa in 1994 was just named Winemaker of the Year by Food and Wine magazine. Melka is now one of the most sought after consulting winemakers in Napa Valley whose clients include Marston, Seavey, Constant, Lail, Caldwell, Quintessa, Hundred Acre, Vineyard 29, Bryant Family, and his own label, Melka Wines. Barbour’s family has been managing and farming vineyards in Napa since the mid-century. Barbour himself spend countless afternoons in the Sixties pruning grapes and other family crops as he grew up very much a country boy in the then quiet Napa valley. Barbour is still pruning vines, nearly 40 years later, but for some of the finest vineyards in Napa. His firm manages over 600 acres of Napa’s upper echelon vineyards, and he himself has recently started his own winery.
Behind these two superstars, are eight people whose intertwined and parallel lives have given both the impetus and the name to this new wine. Parallel is an interesting construction when it comes to a winery. Steve and Val Chin, Mike and Toni Doilney, Mac and Ann MacQuoid, Joe and Paula Sargetakis have known each other for decades. In particular, they have come together because of their mutual love of skiing and of great wine. All longtime residents of Park City, Utah their friendships have been forged through their role in the making of Park City the world class resort that it is today, presumably with a healthy dose of Cabernet to help during the stressful times. Together, these eight decided that more than anything, what they wanted to do together was build a winery, and once the decision was made, they didn’t waste any time.
Rather than just investing in a venture, however, these friends dove in headfirst. To start the winery, the Doilneys made the decision to leave Park City and move to Napa, serving as the front line troops for the new venture. They, with help from the others, selected a vineyard site and enlisted the help of Barbour and Melka to bring their new venture to life and to round their numbers to an even ten. Together these ten have worked together, hands-on even through the harvest for the past several years to craft a vineyard and a wine that in its inaugural release bears the image of overlapping parallel ski tracks, a fitting metaphor for their venture and the relationships that have brought them together.
This wine is a mix of fruit from Howell Mountain and Calistoga, and is a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon and 18% Merlot. It was destemmed and tank fermented, then aged for 22 months in 100% new French oak before bottling. 965 cases were produced, plus 100 cases of half-bottles.
Full disclosure: I received this wine as a press sample.
Medium garnet in color, this wine has a Bordeaux-style nose filled with aromas of blackberries, cherries, tobacco, and wet chalkboard. In the mouth it is full and round with sweet, fine tannins supporting primary flavors of vanilla, bing cherries, and notes of pencil lead, oak, and spices through the moderate finish. It is a pretty wine, that drinks easily and pleasurably now, but will likely support some cellar age as well.
This wine would be a great accompaniment to an increasingly trendy comfort food revival of meatloaf. Try it with these individual meat loaves with bacon crisps.
Overall Score: 9
How Much?: $44
This wine is currently only available to purchase through the winery’s web site.