Friday, October 28, 2011

Calistoga Wine Tasting: Summers Estate Wines

      Summers Winery is located on Tubbs Lane, north of Calistoga, next door to the Old Faithful Geyser. The day we stopped by they were in the middle of crushing, we were visiting with our scientist friend who was enthralled by the process. 

     Upon arrival our host, Graham, took us out to the crush-pad and explained production to our friend. We sampled some of the Merlot grapes and then headed back inside. (I love the smell of harvest!) Once inside we began our tasting, and enjoyed the view of the surrounding vineyards and Palisades (the range of “mountains” bordering the eastern side of Napa Valley).

Tasting Overview:

The standouts-

2008 Reserve Chardonnay:  This 100% Chardonnay is produced from grapes grown in Alexander Valley in Sonoma County. It is fermented and aged on the lees for ten months, giving it that creamy mouth feel Chardonnay lovers crave. The creamyness was balanced nicely by rich flavors of baked pear, meyer lemon and a hint of allspice.

2008 Estate Charbono: I was looking forward to sampling this rare varietal. Only 80 acres remain in California with nearly half of them planted in Calistoga. The history behind this grape is an interesting one*. This being my first time trying Charbono I had no idea what to look for or expect, but I was pleased with what I found in this dark, inky wine. Aromas of blackberry and earthy chocolate mingled with flavors of blackcurrant, fig and ripe plum. The Charbono was great that day, but the acidity and sticky tannin say it will hold up for a few years in the bottle. 

2007 Petite Syrah: Being one of my favorite varietals, I quite enjoyed the Petite Syrah. Just as I expected it was dense, dark and full of flavor. A complex effusive aroma mingled ripe figs, dried tobacco and damp earth, big ripe flavors of boysenberry, currant and cedar were found in this medium bodied but well balanced wine. 

        After trying the Knights Valley Cabernet we headed out to the courtyard where there were some tables and a bocce court. Our friend (the scientist) was obsessing over the geyser and kept asking Graham.

    “How often does it go off, is it big, is it three times bigger than the flag pole, when was the last time it went off?”

We were all a little over the geyser.....

Grahams reply was-
     “Dude, I am pouring wine here, I’m not on Geyser patrol!”

      With our friend not relenting we decided to head out to the courtyard. It’s a nicely landscaped lawn with tables and chairs flanked by a bocce court on the north side. We played a game while we waited for the much anticipated explosion of water.

    Thankfully for us it erupted pretty quickly, taking on the resemblance of a broken sprinkler head. We headed back to the tasting room, purchased a bottle of Petit Syrah and thanked our host for his hospitality. 

    Summers Winery offers a relaxed, laid back atmosphere; and some really great wines I will certainly be going back for. The tasting fee is $10 per person and they are open 10:00-5:30 most of the year. They also have a “petting vineyard” and a picnic area for guests. 

"Petting Vineyard" at Summers Winery

Summers Estate Wines
1171 Tubbs Lane
Calistoga, CA 94515
Tel: 707-942-5508

It is originally thought that Italian immigrants brought the Charbono grape to the US in the late 1800s under the pseudonym, Barbera.  Similarly, in the 1930s the grape was mistaken for a Pinot Noir and wrongly mixed into bottles by the Parducci winery.  Finally, in the late 1930s Dr Harold Olmo, a UC Davis geneticist, cleared the confusion, establishing that the Barbera was actually the Charbono.  Recently, professor Carole Meredith of UC Davis, determined-through DNA testing-that the Charbono Grape of California is equivalent to the French variety, Corbeau, associated with the Savoie region of France.

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