Elevating Wine In Napa Valley
The Wine Bloggers Conference is usually a joyous occasion. You’re visiting beautiful wineries, seeing old friends and sipping spectacular wine. Sonoma was the site for the conference held this fall.
As the motor coach headed toward Napa, though, the mood was rather glum. Traveling from Santa Rosa and over the Mayacamas mountains that separate Sonoma from Napa, we could view the devastation left by the October wine country fires. Burnt out cars and homes reduced to only a singed chimney lined the road. Grey skies further dampened our outlook.
The good news is that wine country is resilient and rockin’. As mentioned in our recent article, wine country is California Wine Strong and optimistic about the future. Our visit to Sterling Vineyards buoyed our spirits with legendary Napa Valley hospitality and superlative wine.
Sterling’s Platinum Experience
Sterling Vineyard is part of Treasury Wine Estates. It’s a group that includes other heavyweights like Beringer Vineyards, Beaulieu Vineyards, Chateau St. Jean and Stags’ Leap Winery. Treasury is the number one producer of luxury Napa Cabs.
We’ve visited more than 100 wineries, but I’ve never been to one quite like Sterling. They welcome more than 200,000 visitors each year. That’s more than the entire population of Tacoma, Washington.
The winery is set up to allow for a self-guided tour, with strategically placed tasting stations so you can sip a glass of wine while watching wine being made. With the latest in optical sorting technology and a variety of concrete vessels for aging, Sterling has all the tools at hand for crafting outstanding wine.
For us, the main attraction was not on the floor of the production area, but inside the stylishly decorated tasting room. For it was there that we were to enjoy the Platinum Experience. The experience consists of four reserve wines paired with artfully prepared amuse-buches.
The 2014 Reserve Chardonnay was served with house made ricotta cheese with Agramato olive oil and lemon zest. This was an amazing combination with the Chardonnay showing notes of lemon merengue and pear. The Chardonnay has a retail price of $65. The rest of the wine consisted of a vertical of the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Platinum Cabernet with an SRP of $75.
The 2011 Platinum was paired with duck confit over winter squash seasoned with cardamom and coriander. The wine offers strawberry and fig notes with delicious mellow tannins. Each of the Platinum wines was superb, but the difference was in the finish. The 2012 Platinum, served with a tasty lamb meatball with braised, leek, fennel and tomato sauce, had black currant and a bit of spice. The finish was pure velvet.
Rounding out the trio of Platinum Cabs was the 2013 vintage. It is recommended that the wine be decanted for three hours. We can see why. It is dark and decadent with deep black cherry and blue berry notes. Of course it called out for beef and the chef provided a braised short rib with a Cabernet reduction and carrot puree.
Platinum, as the name suggests, could be considered the peak of a winemaker’s craft. However, we were about to be transported to an even higher elevation!
Sometimes timing is everything. It was serendipity that we were at Sterling when winemaker Harry Hansen had just debuted Iridium, what he dubs as “one of the greatest wines of my career.” We tasted the first vintage (2014) and were the first tour group to do so. It is a very limited production, with only 165 cases produced.
“Iridium is seven barrels,” said Hansen. “That’s it.” He selected the barrels from Hewitt Vineyard (Rutherford AVA), Sleeping Lady Vineyard (Yountville AVA) and the Meigs Vineyard in rugged Wooden Valley. The wine was aged for 19 months in 100% French oak and then the “all star” barrels were blended into the final wine. The wine retails for $250 and is packaged in a sleek bottle crowned with a bright silver metal collar.
The wine is truly a labor of love and Hansen had fortunate timing too. “We were glad to have 90% of the harvest in the house before the world caught fire,” he said. The Iridium is a Cloud Nine experience with sleek, intense and concentrated flavors and lusciously soft tannins.
Sterling Vineyards is a must-see for visitors to Napa Valley. For those not venturing to California, their wines are widely available and they have a robust website if you are seeking their top end wines, which may be harder to find. Elevate your game with Sterling!