Serious wine lovers in the San Francisco Bay area get several opportunities each year to indulge their passions for wine. Large, themed tastings like the ZAP Zinfandel Festival or the recent Pinot Days are great opportunities to get a sense of a certain varietal and the quality of the recent vintage in California and events like the upcoming Family Winemakers are an opportunity to taste wines from smaller producers.
It is quite rare, however, despite the nearness of the appellation and the saturation of wine in the Bay Area, for consumers to get the opportunity to get an in-depth or comprehensive look at the wines of Napa Valley. Perhaps it’s just because Napa wines don’t need much marketing help, or perhaps it’s because the Napa Valley Vintners association exhausts itself with its two major events each year, but there just isn’t a real good opportunity for members of the public to survey the breadth and depth of wines from the Napa valley.
Unless, that is, you happen to be a member of the Napa Valley Wine Library Association.
The Wine Library is just what it sounds like: a library with books about wine. Started in the early Sixties by a group of winery owners that realized the irony of having a public library in the heart of Napa Valley that possessed virtually no literature or resources about wine, the library association was built on donations of money and books from Napa’s wine families over four decades. Now occupying a special section of the St. Helena public library and even owning a small vineyard out behind the building, the Wine Library Association is a membership organization that gives its members access to these materials, some of which are rare and historic, as well as to annual tasting events.
Each year the organization hosts a two part event: On Saturday they offer a full day seminar on a specific topic, often a certain AVA or certain varietal, and then on Sunday they offer a tasting event showcasing a specific varietal as represented by nearly 100 wineries in the valley.
This year’s event will feature an all-day seminar on August 15th at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena entitled, “On the Other Hand, Discovering Other Reds.” Led by wine educator Allen Balik and French Laundry Sommelier Dennis Kelly, the seminar will also include tasty bites from the French Laundry kitchens during the seminar, and a lunch in the CIA’s teaching kitchens afterwards, coupled with a retrospective on Stags’ Leap Petite Sirah led by Carl Doumani.
The following day, Sunday the 16th, around 80 wineries will pour their recent vintages of wines other than the traditional Bordeaux varieties in the grove at the Silverado Country Club. Petit Sirah, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Dolcetto, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, and various proprietary blends of these and more will be on offer. The grove at the Silverado Country Club is an idyllic place for a wine tasting, even during a hot Napa day.
“That’s all well and good,” you may be saying, “but this is a members-only event and I’m not a member of the Napa Valley Wine Library Association.” That’s true. But a check for $60 sent in advance, or a check for $80 on the day of the tasting will do the trick. Membership is available on the spot, and covers the tasting plus any others that you choose to go to for the rest of the year. If you’d like to attend the seminar on the 15th, there is an additional cost of $150. Or, if that is the only part of this event you’d like to attend, then you can just go to that for $165.
Sound like a steal? It is. Unless you’re a member of the trade that attends Premiere Napa Valley, or someone willing to pay in the hundreds or even thousands for a package at the annual Auction Napa Valley, there is generally no other way to get the opportunity to taste so many Napa Valley wineries in a single setting. If you’re serious about learning more about Napa wines, especially if you’re interested in some of the less famous wines of the valley, this is an event you don’t want to miss. I’ve provided an initial list of the wineries scheduled to pour at the bottom of this post along with the wines they’ll be showcasing.
Napa Valley Wine Library Association Member Tasting
Sunday August 16th
Silverado Resort and Country Club
1600 Atlas Peak Road
Napa, California 94558
Annual membership dues for the Association are $60, or $80 if purchased at the door. Only checks and cash will be accepted, I believe, so stop at an ATM or bring your checkbook. Additional details on how to get membership in advance and on the event can be found on the Association’s web site. Please note that the location for the Saturday event is the Greystone Castle in St. Helena
My usual tips for such outdoor public tastings apply: wear loose fitting but dark colored clothing (but keep in mind that it may be very warm for the outdoor tasting). Eat a good meal before going and drink lots of water while tasting. Decide in advance which wineries you would like to visit, and make sure to spit rather than swallow the wine to make sure you get a chance to enjoy (and remember) a number of wines.
The wineries and the wines they are currently scheduled to pour are as follows:
Adastra: Pinot Noir, Syrah
Astrale e Terra: Syrah
Ballentine Vineyards: Petite Sirah, Zinfandel
Cakebread Cellars: Pinot Noir, Syrah
Carrefour Vineyards: Pinot Noir
Ceja Vineyards: Pinot Noir, Proprietary red, “Vino de Casa”
Clos du Val: Pinot Noir
David Fulton Winery: Petite Sirah
Diamond Oaks Winery: Pinot Noir
Dominari: Petite Sirah, Syrah
Duckhorn Vineyards: Proprietary red, “Canvasback”
El Molino Winery: Pinot Noir
Folio: Petite Sirah, Zinfandel
Forman Vineyard: Rossi-Wallace Pinot Noir
Green & Red Vineyard: Zinfandel
Grgich Hills Estate: Zinfandel
Guffy Family Wines: Petite Sirah, Syrah
Heitz Wine Cellars: Grignolino, Zinfandel
Hendry Hill Family Estate: Pinot Noir, Primitivo
John Anthony Vineyards: Syrah
Joseph Phelps Vineyards: Syrah
Judd’s Hill: Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir
Keenan Winery: Syrah, Zinfandel
Krupp Brothers: Black Bart Syrah, Black Bart Bounty Syrah
Laird Family Estate: Pinot Noir, Syrah
Madonna Estate: Dolcetto, Pinot Noir
Mahoney Vineyards: Pinot Noir, Syrah, Tempranillo
Markham Vineyards: Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir
Miner Family Vineyards: Proprietary red, “Odyssey”
Monticello Vineyards: Proprietary red, Corley Proprietary Red Wine
Neal Family Vineyards: Petite Sirah, Zinfandel
O’Brien Estate: Proprietary red, Romance of the Heart
Orin Swift: Zinfandel
Patz & Hall: Pinot Noir
Peju: Syrah, Zinfandel
Prix Vineyards: Pinot Noir, Zinfandel
Raymond Vineyard and Cellar: Petite Sirah, Zinfandel
Robert Biale Vineyards: Petite Sirah, Zinfandel
Robert Foley Vineyards: Petite Sirah
Robert Pecota Vineyards: Petite Sirah
Rocca Family Vineyard: Syrah
Rombauer Vineyards: Zinfandel
Schoolhouse Vineyard: Pinot Noir, Proprietary red, “Mescolanza”
Schramsberg Vineyards: Querencia, Brut Rosé
Sedna, Kate’s Vineyard: Syrah, rosé of Syrah
Seps Estate, Storybook Mountain Vineyard: Zinfandel
Shafer Vineyards: Proprietary red, “Relentless”
Silverado Vineyards: Sangiovese, Zinfandel
Spring Mountain Vineyard: Pinot Noir, Syrah
St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery: Syrah
Stags’ Leap Winery: Petite Sirah
Summers Estate Wines: Charbono, Zinfandel
Swanson Vineyards and Winery: Petite Sirah
The Hess Collection: Petite Sirah, Syrah
The Terraces: Petite Sirah, Zinfandel
Trefethen Family Vineyards: Pinot Noir
Truchard Vineyards: Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Zinfandel
Tulocay Winery: Syrah
V. Sattui Winery: Pinot Noir, Syrah
Vincent Arroyo Winery: Petite Sirah
VinRoc: Proprietary red, “Enjoie”, “Enjoie” rosé
White Rock Vineyards: Syrah
Whitehall Lane Winery: Pinot Noir
Zahtila Vineyards: Zinfandel
ZD Wines: Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir