The Hopwine Tasting

part 2

The Americans Are Here


God Bless them

 I love the Hopwine adventure. What can be more simple and more effective than going online, attending an event, looking over the various producers and then ordering samples to try. In the last edition I reviewed a large selection of exciting producers who deserve your attention. I noticed that there was a considerable American presence at the event that was big enough to rate an article, and so here we have the Americans. 


Rutherford Ranch - Napa Valley - Chardonnay 2018

 I know the wines of Rutherford Ranch well and have visited the winery on a number of occasions. There's usually a freshness about the wines that I enjoy and I wonder if this will fit the profile. 

 Take a sniff test and you're given a bowl of pretty green fruit, almost like a fresh fruit pie. Wait a moment and I'm getting a bready crust with a sliver of slight oak in the distance.

 A sip reveals that the apple has turned yellow. A pleasant array of melon, toast, zest, wood and stone fruit hold enough to keep me interested. I don't know if it's because it's travelled but the wine feels unsettled.

4.5 out of 7

Rombauer Vineyards - Los Carneros - Chardonnay 2020

 Straight away you've got the colour that one expects from an oaky California Chardonnay, and where I once enjoyed that woody barrel reaching inside the the wine, I now find it a little dated, rather like Jefferson Starship!

 On the nose I was getting a basket of ripe apples nestled on a bed of woody oak, butter, the saline and vanilla, and the whole thing feels like a friend one hasn't seen for a while, before you realise why.

 Taste it and the fruit feels as though it cannot escape the container and I’m getting a zing of wood upfront. The fruit finally gets out and becomes pronounced in an interesting way. This feels like an old-fashioned reminder of when California Chardonnay was like chewing on a baseball bat, with the addition of creamy pear and peach stone.

4 out of 7


Raymond - Napa Valley - Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - 2019

 When I think of Raymond my thoughts always turn to the commercial tourist side of the business, and this clouds my appreciate of their wines. Time to face my fears again.

 Nose: Black Cherry, menthol, mint, green pepper, vanilla, oak and graphite tell me that this is a complex number that wants to grab your attention. Well, it's certainly got mine.

 Taste: Blackberry, cedar, vanilla, smoke, forest floor and pencil prove to be an interesting juggling act that demands respect. It's got mine, but I find it rather youthful and by the next time I visit California it should be just about ready!

4.5 out of 7

St. Supéry - Napa Valley - Cabernet Sauvignon - 2019

 Saint Supery used to have a great tasting experience that they need to re-introduce. It consisted of learning to taste their wines and learning about the basics of Napa Valley wines. I remember being sad when they stopped.

The nose is menthol, eucalyptus, baking spices, coffee, blackberry, black plum

The taste is dark and red fruit (blackcurrant, blackberry, jam, cranberry, smoke, liquorice candy and hint at fig).

5 out of  7


Buena Vista Winery - Napa Valley - Cabernet Sauvignon – Chateau Buena Vista 2018

 And joining the fray is this classic Californian wine producer who seems to making some of its best wine in an age.

 Lift the glass and become aware of a dark fruit with an undercurrent of red fruit. Blackcurrant, candy, liquorice toffee, mint, violet, earthy terroir-driven, chocolate and cedar are all in place, and it's probably easier to say what isn't in the glass.

 Take a swallow and you'll find inky fruit that tastes surprisingly light, jammy, blackberry, coffee and wood box. At the end there's a slight tongue tannin, and the whole thing is better than a tour of a top wine estate with the winemaker!

6 out of 7

Long Meadow Ranch - Napa Valley - Cabernet Sauvignon - Estate Grown 2016

 This winery is a place I enjoy visiting and their wines are often worth the time to find. The last time I tasted one was just before the pandemic and I'm quite excited to revisit.

 Hold your nose over the glass and stalks, green pepper, smoke, saddle, mocha, black pepper and black plum seem to appear without any real effort.

 In the mouth I'm getting the addition of black cherry, cranberries, blackberries, cedar and a slight prune taste that tells me that everything is working gently in the mouth.

5 out of 7


S.R. Tonella Cellars - Napa Valley - Cabernet Sauvignon – Sky and Vine 2019

 Now here's something new and I'm very interested by what I'm going to find. I believe that they are located in Soda Canyon, but like most producers in Napa I'm betting that their vineyards are all over the 'Valley'!

 The nose is rewarded with a smooth, woody dark fruit that dances with a hint of red and black cherry, blackcurrant, red plum, chocolate, leather, woodland and menthol. Something this good deserves time.

 The taste is of young fruit that needs to settle, but could be drunk younger. Blackcurrant, jam, baking spices, vanilla and butter don't want to be left out. 

5 out of 7

Darioush - Napa Valley - Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

 When I think of Darioush I think back to my last visit. This winery is certainly one of the stand-out locations in the Napa Valley and the Persian temple one enters to taste gives you a classy pit-stop on a tasting trip. Last time I tasted their wines I was highly impressed and this wine continues to fit that bill.

 A sniff releases menthol, mint, liquorice, blackberry, black cherry, violet, graphite, black pepper and black coffee as you realise that everything is in order for this Napa 'Cab'.

 As I taste I'm aware of black cherry, blackberry, gravel, leather, cedar, box and the ground coffee providing a solid backbone.

6 out of 7


 While the cost of visiting the Napa Valley rockets and the price of collecting the wines needs a deep bank account and an understanding financial advisor, the quality has been constant for a number of years now. This might be because of the continuing climate where a 'bad' year is difficult, or if might be that all that early experimentation and advice from U.C Davis has paid off.

 I do worry that the recent spate of large fires that have hit the area and surrounding locations might halt the continuing growth through elements such as 'smoke taint'. Perhaps if Napa is to maintain its reputation for consistent, quality wines it might need to experiment in this area. For now, let us enjoy another bumper collection of wines and thank our stars that they've landed in our glasses!