On Friday, January 25th Napa Valley residents celebrated the Immortal Memory of the “Ploughman Poet,” Robert Burns. The event was promoted as “The Grain Meets The Grape – an evening of Scottish tradition.” This was Napa's second annual Burns dinner organized by Ediburgh's (and Larkmead's) own Colin MacPhail who entranced us all with the promise “once you have heard bagpipes, eaten haggis, heard Scots verse and danced a ‘Strip the Willow' your life will be somehow deeper and richer.” Burns is probably most famous in the U.S.A. for his song “Auld Lang Syne.” Without letting auld acquaintance be forgot, one hundred and fifty people from all walks and skirts (I counted a minimum of 20 men in kilts) braved a daylong torrential downpour to fulfill their curiosity. Hosted in the Tucker Farm Center in Calistoga, the rustic, candlelit setting adorned with tartan tablecloths was a far cry from the obligatory glitz and glamour of a Napa Valley gala. And with Burns himself not a fan of the grape juice, as he declared in his poem “Scotch Drink”…
Let other poets raise a fracas
‘Bout vines an' wines, an' drunken Bacchus
An' crabbit names an' stories wrack us,
An' crate or lug:
I sing the juice Scotch bear can make us,
In glass or jug.
…I was smitten with the cast of winemaking characters sitting at my table, DuMOL and HdV, Anthill Farms and Terra Valentine, Vineyard 29 and Saracina and over the shoulder at a table behind us Turley and Saintsbury, to name a few. Preparing for the evening, I was not content to while away the night with a dram of whisky; so, I used this opportunity to fulfill my previous post's “Resolution” by ridding myself of odds and ends bottles of younger wine in my cellar. Running the muddy road in the rain, six-pack in hand, I carried the following wines to be uncorked:
2006 Yves Cuilleron Syrah
2005 Meadowlark (73% Cabernet and 27% Syrah)
2004 Hartwell Merlot
2003 Larkmead 60/40 (Cabernet and Merlot)
2002 Gary Farrell Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County
A few of my tablemates followed suit with a 2005 Vineyard 29 Cru, a 2006 Saracina Sauvignon Blanc and the house provided 2006 Larkmead Sauvignon Blanc.
Some Tasting Notes and Snooth Ratings below
2006 Yves Cuilleron Syrah: a tablemate leaned over after taking a smell and a sip and whispered, “[Yves] should stick to the whites.” Yes, it is true. This wine had a bit of mouth puckering sourness. In contrast, Cuilleron's Condrieu La Petite Cote (Viognier) will always be a desert island wine of mine. (2 Snooth Glasses)
2004 Hartwell Merlot: I jones a good Merlot and was truly excited about tasting this wine this very evening, but the wine showed a faint hint of volatile acidity (i.e. acetic, vinegary, nail polish remover) that I couldn't overcome in the glass. Very sad, I was. (Hate to do this, but 1 Snooth Glass until I taste it again in hope that this was just the devil in bottle variability.)
Dan Petroski is Assistant Winemaker at Larkmead Vineyards in Napa Valley. Dan has an MBA from New York University and worked as an Ad Exec in New York for several years, before switching it up and trading his suit for a move out west.