Friday, February 11, 2011

Mustard Season in the Napa Valley - Cardinale Winery, Rutherford Grove Winery

I hadn’t been out to the wine country since September 2010 (5 months ago), which is probably the longest I have been absent in ten years. California has been getting more than average amount of rain fall this winter and it rained every day that I was on vacation at Christmas time, so I’ve been anxious to get out.

The Mustard Season (February - March) is my favorite time of year for doing photography as the yellow mustard, orange poppies and purple lupines are in bloom and there is no better place to see them than in the Napa Valley. Eagerly anticipating the first sunny weekend in the valley, with clear skies in the forecast for Saturday February 5th I headed out with camera in hand.

Cardinale Winery – Oakville, Napa Valley California

My first stop was at one of the premier wineries in the valley - Cardinale Winery – which focuses on their attention on producing one very high end Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I first visited this winery about ten years ago with a couple friends so I was due for a return visit.

After snapping a few shots around the vineyard and winery, the very kind and hospitable host poured me a large portion of their 2007 Cabernet, which had just been decanted and was a little on the cool side so it took a while to open up. 

So I continuously and vigorously swirled it in my hand, cupping it in my hand on occasion to warm the glass. Once the wine opened up, a full bouquet of black currants, black berries, cocoa, coffee and vanilla with just a hint of anise in the back end could be smelled from across the room. Yet, it was clear that this wine not only needed some warmth and aeration to fully display its character, it was also an extremely youthful wine that would greatly benefit from another decade or so of aging. On the palate the nose is confirmed with a prolonged finish that was enjoyed at least a minute after the first sip.

This is truly a Cabernet lover’s wine which is truly reflective of what the Napa valley is all about! But…. it comes with a stiff price tag - $300 (750mL)

Cardinale Winery is located at 7600 St. Helena Highway in Oakville California. This is a “by prior appointment only” winery so if you want to visit, call ahead and make reservations or check out their web site:

To see more pictures, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

Rutherford Grove Winery – Rutherford, Napa Valley California

My next winery was a little further up highway 29 in Rutherford. This was the 102nd winery I have been to since the year 2000.


My first wine was the 2009 Pestoni Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($18.00).This wine is aged six months in stainless steel, 40% in 70 gallon Stainless Steel Barrels sur lie, the French term for “on the lees” in which spent yeast remains in contact with the wine. The wine has a classic of Sauv Blanc profile of crisp grapefruit, lemon zest and slight chalky minerality. I’m short on good Sauv Blanc’s in my cellar so I brought a bottle home.

My second wine was the 2009 Quackenbush Mountain Vineyards Zinfandel ($18). The grapes are sourced from their Estate Vineyard on the eastern shore of Clear Lake. This is a lighter style zin that reminds me of sort of like the smell and taste of liquid raspberry jello with just a hint of cinnamon on the back end. It has 14.6% alcohol which moderate in comparison to a lot of zins from Lodi or the Serria foothills.

My third pour was the 2007 Estate Merlot ($32) and the final two were the 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($45.00) and the 2007 Estate Reserve Howell Mountain Merlot ($50.00). Of these, the Howell Mountain Merlot was the best, with more layers of complexity with black cherry, red currents, and olives.

Rutherford Grove Winery is located at 1673 Hwy 29 in Rutherford, California in the heart of the Napa Valley. They are open for tasting 10 am to 4:30 pm daily and no reservations are required. You can contact them at (707) 963-0544 or check out their web site for more information: