Wednesday, March 3, 2010

2010 Mustard Season at Laird Family Estate, Silver Oak Cellars and Trefethen Family Vineyards

I hadn’t been out tasting and doing photography in the wine country since October ’09 and I felt long overdue so I decided to head out this past weekend despite the weather. This time of year can be one of the most challenging and yet also the most rewarding.

The months of February and March (January 30th – March 27th) are the Mustard Season in the Napa Valley and other wine countries in California.

It is also the rainy season.

So while the blooming wild flowers are spectacular, trying to find a free day from work in which there is enough sunshine to take pictures can is a challenge. It has been raining almost every day the past couple months and the few sunny days were spent at work.

Knowing the Mustard Season was half way over, after checking the weather forecast which predicted “showers in the morning, partly cloudy in the afternoon” I decided to head out with camera in hand.

A couple years ago I made a video of “Napa Valley Vineyards in Mustard Season” in which I covered a number of vineyards throughout the valley:


So, this time I just wanted to focus on one area and I decided on the Yountville / Oak Knoll district which are on the southern end of the valley, just north of Los Carneros.

Trefethen Family Vineyards


After snapping a few shots here and there my first stop was at Trefethen Family Vineyards. I had been to this winery before and had purchased previous vintages of their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and I have been a big fan of their very affordable Bordeaux style blend called “Double T Red Wine.”

Trefethen has two line ups for tasting, the “Estate Tasting” which offers four tastes from a lineup of 8 from the menu ($10) and the “Winemaker’s Reserve Tasting” menu which consists of five wines ($20). I did the “Winemaker’s Reserve Tasting” and the host was kind enough to try a three from the “Estate Tasting” as well.

From the “Estate Tasting” I tried the 2008 Viognier ($30), the 2008 Quandary 80% Chardonnay 10% Viognier 10% Riesling ($25) and the 2007 Double T Red Wine ($25) a Bordeaux Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.

The Viognier had a nice floral nose but otherwise seemed rather weak. The Quandary was light and refreshing but I think it would be more appreciated during the summer than on a rainy winter day. The Double T Red Wine has a medium body, firm tannins, plenty of plums, blackberry, a little fresh cracked pepper, black currant and cocoa on the nose and palate. This is a great wine for the price ($25), so I bought half a case.

From the “Winemaker’s Reserve Tasting” I first tried the 2008 Pinot Noir which comes from their Main Ranch Vineyard. This is a typical California styled Pinot with light cherry, a little cedar, root beer and just a touch of pepper. It was “okay” but for $48 I know I can find plenty better Pinots for a lot less money.

My second Reserve wine was the 2006 F·H·B Merlot which is made up of 95% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot. If you are a Merlot lover this wine is right up your alley. The wine has ripe plums, sweet cherry tomato, dark cherry, and subtle notes of anise with just a hint of smokiness. It has a fantastic nose with a prolonged finish on the palate. This was my second favorite in the lineup but it is a bit steep at $75 a bottle.

My final three wines were all Cabernet Sauvignon each of which was absolutely remarkable. There is no doubt that Bordeaux varietals are Trefethen’s strength as these were all top notch!

The first was the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon which is made up of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, 3% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. This wine is deep burgundy in color, on the nose there are layers of plum, blackberry and black cherry, cola, black olive and pepper followed by secondary notes of mushroom, forest floor and a little oak on the back end. It has a rounded mouth feel on the front, velvety on the mid-palate, and followed by a sensation of soft but firm tannins. This wine has plenty of fresh raspberry, cocoa, blackberry and currant up front followed by plum, black cherry, cola and blackberry pie on the mid palate followed by a lingering smoky finish. A great wine but a bit steep at $100.

The second was the 2002 Library Cabernet Sauvignon which is made up of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon 12% Merlot, 1% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot. This wine is deep purple and inky at the base. On the nose it has a moderate intensity with layers of cherry, raspberry, a slight floral rose, dried herbs, green pepper and anise with just a hint of tobacco leaf. This wine could probably use some decanting before serving in order to really get it to open up. It is full-bodied, dry, yet fruity with a very plush feel on the mid palate followed by supple tannins and well balanced acidity. Layers of black cherry, cassis, dried herbs and just a touch of minerality with a prolonged clean finish. The wine is ready to drink NOW at $80 a bottle.

Finally I tasted the 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon which is made up of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, and 2% Petit Verdot. Their Hillspring vineyards provides 82% of the grapes and the remaining 18% comes from the Main Ranch. This wine is a mouth full red-cherry, subtle notes of black olive and spice in the nose, with a little tannin bite on the back end and on the wine’s finish. This wine will greatly improve in the next 5 years. A fabulous example of a Napa Valley Cab but a bit pricy at $100 a bottle. 

You can find Trefethen Family Vineyards at 1160 Oak Knoll Ave. Napa, CA 94558. They are open daily from 10:00 am – 4:30 pm. You can call them at: 1-866-895-7696 at check out their web site at:

Laird Family Estate Winery

Just across the highway from Trefethen Family Vineyards you will find the Laird Family Estate Winery. This was my first time to visit and taste at this winery and while I though all of their wines were generally fine I was particularly impressed by their syrahs, especially the 2007 Suscol Ranch Syrah.

My first taste was the 2008 Napa Valley Pinot Grigio. On the nose this wine has ripe pear and apple and with fresh, lively acidity on the palate. I probably would have appreciated this wine more if it was a hot summer day, but for $18 I thought it was a descent wine.


My second wine was a red, the 2007 Jillian’s Blend which consists of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Syrah. It is garnet color with aromas of tobacco, blackberry, plum and black cherry with hint of black pepper and cocoa. It is medium bodied with a nice balance of oak and black berry fruit with chewy tannins on the back end. It is a nice wine a bit steep at $38 a bottle.

My third tasting was the 2004 Dyer Ranch Syrah. This wine is dark and tar-like in color; spicy nose of dark dried fruits and smoke followed by luscious boysenberry and maple on the palate.

My fourth wine was the 2007 Suscol Ranch Syrah. The color is deep inky purple with a fantastic nose of intense cranberries, pomegranate, cocoa and what reminded me of IHOP’s boysenberry syrup and Boo-Berry Cereal. On the palate, the concentrated red fruit lingers with a hint of bay leaf and clove on the backend and a prolonged finish. I loved this wine so I brought bottle home for $42.

My fifth and final red wine was the 2006 Mast Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. A great wine that definitely benefits from being decanted. At first the server poured me a sample from the bottle and when I suggested that it be decanted he poured it into a decanter there was a remarkable difference. This full bodied wine has upfront aromas of black currant, dark plum, dark chocolate and tobacco with additional cherries on the palate with pronounced tannins on the finish. A truly remarkable wine at $65 a bottle.

The tasting room and winery of Laird Family Estate can be found at 5055 Solano Avenue Napa, CA 94558. Check out their web site at:

Silver Oak Cellars

After eating lunch I headed north to Oakville. I have been to Silver Oak Cellars several times before, the first time back in 2000 and three years ago I opened a bottle of the 1997 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for my 40th birthday. A couple years ago they rebuilt the winery after a fire caused by hot coals from the fireplace being put in the dumpster had destroyed much of the winery. I hadn’t been back to see the new winery so I thought I’d venture a little further north into Oakville, take some pics and taste their latest releases.

The first wine was the 2005 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon which is 100% Cabernet. This wine is deep ruby in color with light dill, oregano, black cherry and anise on the nose, with mild hints of currant, plum, tobacco leaf and slightly charred Marshmallow with a touch of vanilla oak. A little bite of tannin on the finish but not overwhelming. I enjoyed the wine but I know of many better for far less than $70.

My second taste was the 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon which is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot. Like the Alexander, it has is ruby red in color. However, this wine is tight and could have benefited from a decanter rather than being poured from a freshly opened bottle. But after swirling it for some time in the glass I picked up, followed by mushroomy aromas of cassis, anise, wild game, tobacco leaf and with a little spice. On the palate, the wine has a velvety mouthfeel and an elegant, long finish with a slight tannic grip. But, for a lot less than $100 I know of some finer wines.

The tasting room and winery of Silver Oak Cellars is at 915 Oakville Crossroad Oakville, CA 94562. You can call them at (707) 942-7022 or check out their web site at:

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