Old Friends and New Wines in Napa Valley

March 1, 2018


A dream I had came true last weekend. I visited Napa Valley, California. I used to say this trip would be my twenty-first birthday present, then my college graduation celebration, next my Christmas gift as a recent grad. I kept putting it off because it was never the right time and I never had the right people to go with. Nearly a year out of college, my three roommates and I spontaneously decided to reunite in San Francisco, just over an hour outside my dream destination. It was the right time. These were the right people.

We were staying at my friend’s house in San Mateo and were to spend just one day and night in Napa before returning home. We were only able to hit two vineyards in that day (our day-drinking skills have been on a steady decline since sophomore year). But those places left a lasting impression on me, like the long finish on an aged Cabernet.

My favorite sip came from Trefethen Family Vineyards. When we arrived, we decided on the “Small Lot” wine tasting because it featured unique wines we had never tried before, along with some familiar varietals. The tasting came with complimentary breadsticks, which we promptly inhaled. All of the wines were interesting, and each of us had our favorite. Mine was the 2015 Malbec, a luscious and delightful wine made from 100% Malbec grapes. It smelled of dark berries, sweet-yet-tart in that obvious red wine kind of way. But it wasn’t just a red wine. The aroma invited more and more sniffs, the smell morphing with complexity as I gently swirled the glass. I could have put my glass down at that point, satisfied enough by the wine’s bouquet.

Good thing I took a sip. The fresh, tart fruit I had smelled now tasted like stewed berries, as if they had cooked while I wasn’t looking. The flavor was enticing yet subtle like round fruits marinating under a low flame, with a few dashes of cinnamon. Reticent tannins mingled quietly through the party of flavors, which ended with a refreshing tartness that had me smacking my lips, ready for more.

The biggest surprise of that glass was that I don’t even claim to like Malbec. Time and time again I find myself fascinated by the complexities that certain grapes reveal when they are nurtured properly.  If you enjoyed an inexpensive Malbec with pizza while visiting old friends, it’s going to taste a lot better than if you were to sit down and analyze its flavor profile. If you hated a Sauvignon Blanc back when you claimed to dislike all white wines (we’re not doing that anymore), you’d be surprised at the multiple personalities the grape can show, depending on where it’s raised. It’s important to try everything, again and again, if you’d like to gain greater insight into the smells that entice you, the flavors that compel you to keep going and going, like a juicy, suspenseful novel. What’s my favorite wine? Today, it’s this 2015 Malbec from Trefethen Family Vineyards. Ask me again tomorrow.

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