Last night was St. Patrick’s Day so what other way does a wine enthusiast spend the evening other than at a wine tasting? Luckily, we planned ahead and had our traditional Irish fare the night before, feeling lucky to get two of 14 spots available to experience the Spire Collection.
This was no average tasting. The Spire Collection is special, comprised of the most esteemed wineries from the Jackson Family portfolio. Yeah, you heard me right. The Jackson Family. The same family that makes the ubiquitous Kendall Jackson Chardonnay. But this wine family does so much more, and it is impressive.
We have visited Jackson’s Cardinale winery several times in the past, which has a beautiful tasting room overlooking the Napa Valley. Ross Anderson, tasting room manager (in photo below right, with my husband, Todd), always provides a wonderful experience. This is where we have been introduced to not only the Cardinale label, but also Mt. Brave and
La Jota. In fact, we were lucky enough to attend an event at the La Jota property in Howell Mountain a couple of years ago, where we got to meet winemaker, Chris Carpenter, who is as down to earth as they come. So we were excited about this tasting since these three labels would be spotlighted.
The Spire Collection is diverse, with 16 wineries from California, Oregon, Australia, South Africa, Italy and France. Our tasting, which took place at the Wine Watch boutique in Fort Lauderdale, included a lineup of 10 outstanding wines from eight of the 16 wineries. Trey Christy, the regional manager in the southeast, provided an excellent overview of the wines throughout the tasting.
Capensis Chardonnay South Africa Western Cape, 2013
The Jackson family has ventured into South Africa and is producing a rich, toasty chardonnay that was such a surprise. It was decadent and drank like a food. It was beautifully paired with a salmon tartar that enhanced the complexity of this wine. The finish is long and practically lip smacking!
Gran Moraine Pinot Noir Yamhill Carlton, 2012
This one is from the Jackson family’s newest label in Oregon, where they are the largest landholder in Willamette. The first release of this wine, it offers a good balance of fruit and earthiness with a nice finish.
La Jota Merlot Howell Mountain, 2012
Salmon tartar finished, we dug our forks into the next course – boar lasagna. We are big fans of mountain fruit, so we were excited to kick off the heavier reds with this wine from one of the best growing seasons. Howell Mountain, a Napa AVA, has volcanic soil and benefits from cool breezes. Although it is bold and complex, this wine still gives a solid nod to its Merlot heritage.
La Jota Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain, 2012
This age-worthy Cab comes from the La Jota vineyard, which is surrounded by pines, firs, oak and madrone trees, and is characterized by cool-climate terroir with winds that sweep up the canyon. This Cab has deep berry aromas and flavors accented by notes of anise and bittersweet chocolate.
Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder, 2012
This wine, made from grapes harvested from the steep mountain face of Mt. Veeder, had faint notes of eucalyptus as well as floral aromatics, which is relatively typical for this AVA. We’ve been loving the Mt. Brave wines for the past several years.
Mt. Brave Malbec Spring Mountain, 2012
We are big fans of this Malbec and actually already have a bottle of this in our cellar. Tonight, we were reminded why. Another great wine from Mt. Brave, this Malbec was fruity, a bit spicy, and drinkable now.
Capture Red Wine Spring Mountain, 2012
This was my second favorite wine of the night, behind the Cardinale. It is a Bordeaux style blend of Cab Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cab Franc. The Cab Franc provides the typical herbaceous accents, while the Cab and Merlot balance it out with black fruit.
Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon Napa, 2012 (Taster’s Pick)
This was the tasters’ favorite, and not surprisingly. Made by Chris Carpenter, whose 2006 Cardinale got a 100-point rating, this wine is an assemblage of prized mountaintop fruit. It is composed of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Merlot. Anyone liking deep, rich, berry-laced licorice will love this one.
Anakota Cabernet Sauvignon Helena Dakota Vineyard, 2006
This wine comes from the warm Knights Valley AVA in Sonoma County. This region, whose star varietal is Cab Sauvignon, separates Sonoma from Napa. This wine is a perfect example of this region’s full-bodied Cabs.
Verite Le Desir Sonoma 2002
The best comment of the night came from our table mate. After a swirl, a sniff, and a sip, he blurted out “this wine is kicking ass and taking names.” Admittedly, it was my least favorite of the night, but that’s the beauty of wine. Everyone’s palate is different!
Most of these are special occasion wines since, with exception of the Chardonnay and Pinot, these wines range from the $70s to upwards of $250.