Valley of the “Californian Wine” Kings … Small Interesting Wineries
Bright and early we arrived at Corison Winery a short 3 minute ride away. Cathy Corison is one indomitable lady. With over 25 years of wine making experience Cathy is certainly of the the Napa ladies to follow. Small winery run by Cathy and her team, this little gem is definitely a diamond found amidst the giants along the 128.
In her own words –
I handcraft my Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons, without compromise, from some of the finest vineyards in the Napa Valley – a region that is among the best places in the world for making Cabernet. These benchland vineyards are located between Rutherford and St. Helena, where deep, stony alluvial soils provide ideal growing conditions for the Cabernet vine. These vines regularly produce some of the most concentrated and superbly ripened fruit anywhere. My philosophy is to make complex wines that walk the fine line between power and elegance. I employ time-honored winemaking techniques, using only small French oak barrels sourced from several forests for complexity. Mine is a hands-off approach to winemaking; it is my job to let the vineyards speak.
– Cathy Corison
Fours wines, namely:
Kronos – Cabernet Sauvignon (single vineyard estate)
Napa Valley Classic Rutherford – Cabernet Sauvignon
Corazon Anderson Valley – Gewürztraminer
Helios Napa Valley – Cabernet Franc
A tour of the winery to show how carefully the wines are made and stored.
Next up was another small family owned gem. Hendry Wines. With 70 harvests under it’s belt, this winery is filled with rich history. This 2nd generation winery, has George O Hendry now at the helm with nephew Mike close in tow. 114 acres of vineyard setup in 47 vineyard blocks, growing 10 varietals gives Hendry the perfect platform to experiment and to produce fabulous wines. George, a trained Engineer true and true is invigoratingly meticulous. Every block has an different aspect (sun, hill, drainage, etc. etc) and rows of vines planted and grown calculated precisely to ensure best productivity for the varietal.
The Man, the Wine and the Tasting: an experience definitely worth exploring. Book ahead to avoid disappointment.
Third up was Grgich Hills Estate a winery well known for its “stickie” amongst its other wines. My third visit in 24 years. To prove it I still have bottles in the cellar labelled in the pre 2007 Grgich Hills. Croatian born Miljenko Grgich is the man behind this winery. He gained international fame from the celebrated and controversial “Paris Tasting of 1976” as the wine maker of the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, voted the finest white wine in the world. On Independence Day 1977, together with Austin Hills and his sister -of Hills coffee fame- created Grgich Hills.
A venture between Grgich (the master winemaker) and Hills (the business man) who also happened to own premium vineyards in Rutherford, Grgich Hills was off to a good start. Six wines including a Chardonnay on the product list. The aromatic, luscious, rich Violetta, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer is still my top choice for this winery.
Sadly the winery has changed from its quaint, unpretentious, friendly, informal educational setting in the late 1980s to a commercially viable conveyor belt ‘shift them along’ tourist attraction. The wines, well, try them and decide for yourself. there are three levels of tasting priced accordingly.
My “souvenir” glass was just pulled off a used (but clean) glass tray. It was chipped and the pompous educator didn’t even notice or check it before wrapping it and giving it to me.
I threw it away in the nearest bin.
A BIG “thank you” to Cathy Corison and George Hendry for your hospitality and a fab visit.