Above: milkweed beetles in the insectary at the Groth winery in Oakville (Napa).
From Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon to Corison to Groth…
As I led my bromance Giovanni Arcari and team sparkling wine on a tour of California wine country, we had visited the radical and the insider. And now it was time to visit one of California’s great legacy estates.
Why Groth? Because our friend and favorite Napa-based wine blogger, Joanne Farrell aka VinoGirl, author of Vinsanity, works there.
Above: the winery’s insectary lies adjacent to the estate’s top vineyards.
As VinoGirl, one of the tasting room docents, led us on our tour, she told us that Groth was the first wine for which Robert Parker, Jr. awarded the elusive 100-point score, thus making Groth the Nadia Comăneci of Napa, as it were.
There is a tendency in the indy wine community to be distrustful and even disdainful of wines like Groth. And this is due in part to the way that the wine establishment (viz., Parker et alia) has embraced the wines.
Many among us assume that these wines are highly manipulated in the cellar and we often conjure images of lab-coat-donned technicians tinkering away, crafting gold-scoring wines like alchemists.
Above: the Spanish-colonial-inspired architecture at Groth evokes power and opulence.
But as VinoGirl led us outside to walk through the winery’s top growing site, we learned that the winemaker’s focus is in the vineyard, where organic and conventional growing practices are applied in harmony.
VinoGirl holds a degree in viticulture from Napa Valley College and I was humbled as she and team sparkling wine compared notes on the finer points of grape growing.
Above: there is no official “reserve” designation in Napa, VinoGirl explained. But the term is often used to denote a winery’s flagship wine like the Groth Oakville Reserve.
When we sat down in the lovely tasting room, I was impressed, once again, by the caliber of the tasting room guides and their superb hospitality and congeniality. They seemed to make everyone, including us, feel like a rockstar.
VinoGirl was keen to pour us the 2004 Groth Oakville Reserve. And I have to say: I found the wine to be balanced and delicious. Its wood was well integrated and its red fruit evolved.
Even the hypercritical Italians liked it and they were not an easy crowd to please by any means.
Above, from left: Giovanni, me, Nico, and Andrea in the Groth insectary. Photo by VinoGirl.
I must be honest: Groth isn’t exactly my speed in wine. The wines don’t align seamlessly with my personal taste.
But I was excited to learn more about this supreme expression of Napa and to share it with my fellow travelers.
In the wake of this experience, there’s no doubt in my mind that Napa is peerless when it comes to wine tourism. We were there as friends of VinoGirl, of course. But our tour, including the excellent presentation, was the same as that of other guests (including the jolly middle-aged lady who wished the Italians buon natale from across the room).
After the tour, VinoGirl led us to the Norman Rose Tavern in downtown Napa for beers, burgers, and fried pickles.
Referring to the prevalence of red wine production in Napa and citing a local aphorism, VinoGirl joked that “it takes a lot of good beer to make good wine in Napa.”
When we ordered, Giovanni asked me to get him a burger and to choose the type of cheese.
The burger arrived and when Giovanni took a bite and realized that I had ordered him blue cheese, he expressed his disappointment.
Bromance, I learned, isn’t always easy.
Thank you again, VinoGirl, for a wonderful tour of the winery-where-you-are-gainfully-employed and the delightful afternoon in your town.