There’s a first time for everything.
As much as I regret it, I have to confess that I had never attended a tasting/tour at any of the Napa marquee wineries.
Yes, of course, while a student at UCLA, I had traveled to Napa and Sonoma with friends to taste. But that was long before my interest in wine had blossomed. And the wineries I visited were the usual suspects, for the most part forgettable (even for a wine neophyte).
So when it came time to set up an appointment for my tour last week with Giovanni Arcari and team sparkling wine, I reached out to Hawk Wakawaka, a favorite writer and friend who lives in Sonoma and follows California wine closely (in case you missed it, btw, yesterday she published a much-talked-about interview with Robert Parker, Jr.).
When she suggested that she help me set up a tasting at Corison, I was thrilled: I first began following the wines in the early 2000s after reading about them on Alice Feiring’s and Eric Asimov’s blogs.
And I had actually tasted a lot of older vintages. Back the heyday of my French band Nous Non Plus, we used to rehearse around the corner from Keens, my favorite NYC steakhouse, where a vertical of Corison stretching back to the early 90s had been cellared unnoticed. Evidently, the prices hadn’t been augmented since acquisition and the bottles lay in affordable reach of me and my bandmates.
I had always been impressed by their balance and elegance.
Above: how not to be impressed by the 1998 Kronos, the winery’s flagship label? This wine was vibrant and delicious, with notes of earth and ripe and dried red fruit. The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon remained my favorite but this wine was also exquisite.
But the thing I wasn’t expecting was the superb winery presentation and guided tasting by the estate’s Wine Club Manager, Galen Becker Drace (above).
In the course of my career in wine, I’ve visited myriad wineries and tasting rooms. But I had never had the “Napa” experience.
Between the hushed tones and muted oos and aas of top clients who were tasting in the barriquerie, the talented Galen led us on one of the best tours I’ve ever attended. And his wine knowledge was rivaled only by his intimate relationship with each of the wines.
And when it came to explaining the wine club concept to my Italian counterparts, I could see their minds churning.
Outside of California, there’s really nothing like the Napa experience, where you are greeted by young, bright, enthusiastic wine professionals who find true joy in sharing the wines with you.
We tasted many other wines during our tour. But for a first kiss, this sure wasn’t bad.
Please stay tuned for more California dispatches and thanks again, Hawk Wakawaka, for setting this up!