Quixote Winery

If you take a look at the label on any of the Quixote wines, its definitely an out of the ordinary design that doesn’t flow with the prestige of Napa labels. However, don’t let the label fool you, because underneath that quirky label lies some world class wine with an all-star line up of a team.

We were fortunate enough to have an inside connection with Mike and visited the winery. Staying true to the theme of “out of the ordinary,” Quixote was not an easy place to locate. Although situated right next to the world famous Shafer, the road to Quixote was no simple drive considering it took us deep into the hills and even at the destination, the winery was hidden among the brush.

(Entrance to Quixote winery)

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Most likely you’ve driven by it on the way to some famous winery along the 29, or perhaps you’ve seen the name somewhere, but how many people actually make a stop to Cardinale? The plain roadside sign of big block letters with no winery in sight has more often than not, led people to bypass what has been a premium wine destination.

For us, we have had Chris Carpenter’s wines before, mainly the ever so famous Lokoya that has been getting acclaim, but never had the chance to consider other wines in his portfolio. After an invite from Cardinale, we took it upon ourselves to try some world-class wines under Chris’ already impressive portfolio of wine.

ituated in Oakville, a short drive up a road and hill led us to a very secluded, serene, and beautiful destination of Cardinale. Walking inside the winery, we immediately noticed how pristine everything was situated, it gave an aura of prestige and impressiveness, needless to say, we felt like this would be quite an amazing tasting.

We were introduced to Mollie (our host), who promptly poured us a glass of the 2012 Cardinale Intrada Sauvignon Blanc

Cardinale 2012 “Intrada” Sauvignon Blanc
Aromatic and fresh nose with bright citrus notes and florals. The palate is clean and bright, featuring zesty notes of grapefruit and lime, with richness of pear and stone fruits featuring a creamy finish. We gave this a 89/100 points at $43

As we sipped on the Intrada, Mollie gave us the run-down on Cardinale. Part of the Mt. Brave, La Jota, Lokoya family, Cardinale was on the higher end of these families with its flagship being the yearly red blend, kind of like Opus One. One thing that Molly was proud to tell us was that the Cardinale’s blend has always been only and nothing but mountain fruit, with the blends consisting of Howell Mountain, Mt Veeder, Diamond Mountain, Spring Mountain and St. Helena. Yes, that meant all the fruit grown on the Estate, none of it has ever gone into the Cardinale blend. Quite an interesting idea to look at, considering they were sitting in the middle of beautiful Oakville but used none of its famous fruit.

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Larkmead Vineyards

To the cult winery fans of Napa Valley and the world, Larkmead Vineyards needs no introduction for its prestige. With over 100 acres of premium valley floor, the Solari family has been making amazing wines since 1895, and their wine has been a hot sought-out allocation.

We were fortunate to find a time in our schedule to visit the winery for an abridged tour due to our time restrictions. Upon arriving, Colin (the general manager) greeted us and led us outside in the back patio to give us a brief tour of the grounds.

We started out with a giant map of all of the Larkmead Vineyards, in which Colin explained to us each vineyard in detail and why they were selected. It was clear from the explanation that careful planning and selection of the location were what really helped Larkmead produce some world-class wines.

We went on to the vineyard where Colin explained to us the meticulous agriculture that went behind the world-class grapes. In the vineyard, there was an amazing contrast of young vines and new vines literally side by side. We are excited to see what those vines will produce in the next five years!

Following a brief tour of the grounds, we were showed to our table outside along the patio. Blankets were brought out because it was getting later in the evening and the weather was getting chilly (talk about hospitality). Colin gave us some pamphlets about our upcoming flight and we were off on our tasting.

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Odette Winery

We recently were reached out to on Instagram by Amanda to head down to Odette estate for tasting, and once we found a weekend, we headed up. Odette Estate, the newest member of the Plumpjack and Cade family, is located in the beautiful area of Stags Leap, just off the famous Silverado Trail. Odette, is the youngest sibling of the Plumpjack and Cade and has actually only recently released their first vintage of Cabernet. However, as the three wineries are linked, they do serve their other labels such as Plumpjack, Adaptaion, cade and CADE.

We arrived at Odette in the early afternoon with the sun beating down on the estate and us. As we entered the tasting room, it was already bustling with a lot of people at the bar and sitting outside on the patio. After a few minutes, we finally were connected with Amanda and she wasted no time for us to dive into our tasting!

Amanda quickly explained that the first few wines we were going to try were the wines served in the Adaptation label. The Adaptation label was made to create an easy going-more approachable wine that was affordable to consumers who wanted to drink quality wine immediately.

Adaptation 2013 Chardonnay

Bright and inviting citrus notes, white florals, and green tropical fruits permeate the nose into palate notes of green apple, melon, banana’s and kiwi. Very little evidence of oak (although some), with a crisp and refreshing finish. We gave this a 88/100 points at $32.

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Benessere Vineyards (St. Helena)

This trip to Benessere was a quick unplanned trip as our previous appointment at another winery was pushed back an hour or so. Wanting to try something new, we stumbled across Benessere winery. Benessere was a winery tucked into a small corner of St Helena, which focuses on Italian varietals and some California classics.

We walked into Benessere without reservations (although visiting requires one), and we got extremely lucky, as there happened to be an opening and they were very accommodating to our drop in visit.

As we were sat down, we were notified that the owners were here, and they would be upset if we were not treated with crackers and some fine cheese. Promptly, we were handed an assortment of saltines and cheese as well as their Pinot Grigio to start our flight

Benessere 2014 Pinot Grigio

Heavy texture and body, bright citrus fruits and a hint of tropical notes. Notes of apples, white peaches, guava are dominant with floral notes of jasmine and fresh cut flowers. Good acidity, clean and refreshing. We gave it a 90/100 points at $22

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Elizabeth Spencer

If you’ve been to Napa frequently, chances are you’ve dined at the famous Rutherford Grill. However, Rutherford Grill is famous now not only for their great food and fair prices on wine, but their long lines. Well, fear not, as right across street, sits Elizabeth Spencer’s wine tasting room. If you’ve never been, you’ll be in for quite a treat.

After seeing Elizabeth Spencer wines pop up everywhere on social media, we decided to pay it a visit. We had the pleasure of booking an appointment with our famous instagram friend, Dana Hunter (dhunter1921 on Instagram).

Walking into the tasting room, we were greeted immediately with a glass of Rosé and escorted through a side door to the tasting patio to find a seat and wait for Dana. The sun was shining bright, and the Rosé was perfect and refreshing.

Elizabeth Spencer 2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir

Bright and inviting, lots of strawberries, raspberries, freshly cut herbs and floral notes. Vibrant citrus zest and bright acidity wraps it altogether with a mineral finish. We gave this a 88/100 points at $30

Shorty after we finished our Rosé, Dana greeted us and started us off on our tasting.

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O’Brien Estate

Dark clouds, possible chance of rain, no sun in the near horizon…yet one thing was sure on this gloomy Saturday, we were going to have some wine, rain or shine.

Tucked on a side off road of highway 29 in a nest of residential houses, we pulled up to the ever so beautiful Obrien Estate. Upon first impression, it was quiet, and a majestic sort of serenity came from this family winery. As we checked in with our host Steve, we got right down to business with a glass of their Sauvignon Blanc.

2013 O’Brien Estate “Facisnation” Sauvignon Blanc

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Red Cap Vineyards

Red Cap Vineyards is a small, family owned winery that has been one of the best-hidden gems in all of Napa Valley. Located at the cap of Howell Mountain, off a few windy roads and hidden down a road, that’s where you’ll find Red Cap Vineyards.

The road to Red Cap Vineyards is not an easy one, traveling through Howell Mountain and windy roads, you journey far away from many of the big name wineries on highway 29 into unfamiliar territory. However, hidden in the mountain, you’ll find a gate overlooking into a humble house surrounded by grape vines. At first sight, you may think you have come to the wrong place, but rest assured you are exactly where you need to be. After the gate opens, the real experience begins, and here is ours.

Upon driving through the gate, we were immediately greeted by Roscoe, the house dog. He followed our car as we pulled up and kept barking, naturally, we were unsure of what to do. That’s when Tom, walked on over from a section of vines to us and told us that Roscoe was friendly and just was saying hi.

(A picture of Roscoe)

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