Saturday, April 4, 2009

Napa Redux: Steltzner

The Stag’s Leap District, and Napa generally, is populated with a wide variety of overpriced wineries. Cabs from mediocre upstarts can soar to $80 a bottle, and one can easily begin to see how Napa has jaded many wine aficionados. Steltzner is a contrast to all of these basic paradigms. This is a small operation, and an old one – Steltzner has been making wine since 1965. Not only that but Steltzner likes to experiment with strange varieties and has a philosophy not to gouge their customers, leading to some pretty good value stuff.

I began by tasting the 2005 Pinotage which had an atypical nose of cassis and mint. The palate was big and briary with a massive mid palate. Not your typical Pinotage. Very Good. $32

The 2005 Estate Malbec had a big roasted fruit nose of blackberry, with a touch of gameyness. The palate was filled with raspberry, chocolates and baking spices. The mid-palate was quite soft and not at all like cheaper Argentinian stuff. A BBQ sipper. Good+. $36.

The 2006 Claret had a minty blackberry and dried fig nose. This was spicy upfront on the palate, with an almost Rhone-like pepper component. However, the mid-palate was all California fruit. A huge tannic bite on the back end. Very Good. $20.

The 2005 Estate Cabernet Franc was atypical for the variety. Mint and cassis on the nose, this repeated on the palate and added plum and herbs. There is a strong mineral and stone component on the mid-palate as well. Very Good. $42.

In the end the 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is what it’s all about for this winery. With a nose of dark black fruits such as blackberry and cassis – this also had a nice mint-chocolate component. The chocolate continued on the palate, but added some savory herbs. This is not an overripe Napa cab, but a restrained very well structured example with nice layering and grip. A bargain for Napa cabs. Very Good+ to Excellent. $40.

I ended the tasting with the Non Vintage Merlot Port, made from estate grown fruit. This was quite impressive and very much like an authentic Portuguese port. The nose was woody with soft black fruit, but the palate eschewed the typical syrupy thickness that goes with poorly made California ‘port-style’ wines. Instead, it was all spice, wood, and dark rich fruit with hefty tannins. Excellent weight and density. 18.5% ABV. My only complaint is that it is way overpriced compared to the cost of a good Portuguese Vintage Port in the US. Very Good+. $68.

And thus concluded my second trip to the Valley, and on the first day of Spring I could have asked for nothing better.


Joe said...

One of my favourite Napa stops, great value and a true love of the vine here. Most other Napa tasting rooms feel so...corporate. I love the Claret and Cab Franc.

Shea said...

I Agree. Very down to earth place.