The Napa Valley Marathon was run on Sunday, March 1st, 2009. 26.2 miles of the most gorgeous countryside in the world. It’s my favorite race because A) it runs the length of the Silverado Trail from Calistoga to Napa, and B) the male and female winners of the race (neither of which was me) win their weight in Napa Valley wine.
This is my third consecutive Napa marathon, and after two years of absolutely gorgeous conditions, we fell victim to the odds and it POURED the entire race. I was completely soaked thru and thru by the first mile marker, and that contributed to a miserable finishing time of 4:43. I stopped to wring out my socks on several occasions… I have to keep telling myself that finishing a full marathon is still an accomplishment, and I’ll do better in the next one.
The highlight of the weekend was, of course, the wine tasting! We had three separate private barrel tastings set up:
Del Dotto was first up on Saturday, and their new tasting room and caves out in St. Helena are just spectacular. The entire experience was first-rate. The 2006 Sangiovese was the star of the show for me. It’s just sublime, with silky tannins and bright red fruits coming through. Love their Pinot Noir as well, but it’s definitely not for lovers of a more “traditional” Pinot. Darker ruby color, almost opaque, and very fruit-forward. Felt more like a Syrah than a Pinot, but still delicious.
We also visited Bennett Lane, Clos Pegase, and Chateau Montelena (featured in the movie “Bottle Shock”) on Saturday.
Sunday (for me) started at 4:45 am. The starting gun went off in Calistoga at 7am, and I crossed the finish line just before 11:45, wet and tired, but satisfied that I’d given it all I had. Proving that I bounce back like a man half my age, I had a glass of wine in my hand by 1pm!
The Sunday wine-related festivities began with a barrel tasting at Reynolds Family winery in Oakville. Their ’06 Russian River Pinot is gorgeous – Bing cherries and raspberries all day with a silky mouthfeel. They have hand-labelled bottles that contain dried pressings from the wild mustard plants that fill the Valley. Beautiful wines and a great experience.
The real highlight of the weekend came at our final private cave tour/barrel tasting at Chateau Boswell in St. Helena. Boswell owns the property, and rents space in the caves to a relatively new label – Realm Cellars. Boswell’s tasting room is not open to the public, so you have to call ahead for an appointment. This session lasted nearly 4 hours, and we tasted just about everything that Realm and Chateau Boswell had to offer. Everything was just spectacular, each one better than the next… Scott from Realm took us first, and we started with their ’05 Beckstoffer/ToKalon Cab. Wow. It was absolutely perfect. Realm is definitely one to keep on the radar. We must have tasted from 8 or 9 different barrels, and everything just shone – drinkable now, but definitely with a backbone to age and develop.
Joshua Peeples from Chateau Boswell then led our group to their section of the caves, and we started with some of the whites in their Jacqueline label. The Jacqueline Cuvee Blanc is a “Bordeaux Blanc”-style blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, and I absolutely loved it. The Semillon gives this wine some real depth and a nice long finish. The CB Chardonnay is a lush Burgundian-style chard. It’s from the Wente clone, and is fermented for a full year on the lees with weekly battonnage. This gives it great tropical fruit flavors, but a hazelnut/vanilla undertone that was fantastic without being overoaked. I grabbed a half case of each. Then we moved onto the Cabs, and they were equally as wonderful.
We couldn’t have been treated better, and the wines were glorious.
Unfortunately, the rainy weather out in Napa kept us from enjoying the Valley to its fullest. We’d wanted to take a side trip up into Healdsburg and Geyserville for some Pinot tastings, but we never made it. The Healdsburg marathon is October 11th – maybe I’ll make it then!!