Tasting a wine from a much-loved region is, for me, a kind of virtual travel. A wine bottle contains an area’s essence. Pull the cork and the spirit of the place emerges like a genie. Unable to visit the Napa Valley, I have been tasting wines that remind me of the many sun-soaked and carefree days I have spent there over the years. Despite COVID-19, I’m told that a small number of private winery tours are still taking place under stringent health protocols, but in the main the winemakers are like the rest of us, in suspended animation, waiting for normality to return. So I asked our Wine Concierge, Hal Oates, to describe his three top wineries to visit when the valley reopens. Oates has also provided tasting notes for six outstanding wines that members can purchase to enjoy now. At least we can travel to Napa in our imaginations.
Colgin Cellars wins my vote for Napa’s grandest hilltop estate, with a spectacular outlook across Lake Hennessey and distant Mount St. Helena. Scaling Napa’s famous Pritchard Hill to experience the Colgin Cabernets is to ascend to the pinnacle of American wine. Robert Parker described Colgin Cellars as a “magnificent estate with Shangri-La like beauty” and has awarded its Cabernets more 100-point ratings than those of any other winery in Napa.
The Pritchard Hill appellation is home to several of California’s most spectacular wineries. Colgin’s neighbor Tim Mondavi once told me that the concentration of elite vineyards here is likely a result of a distinctive terroir that contributes to the remarkable complexity of the wines. A rugged upland, Pritchard Hill has volcanic soils strewn with boulders and rocks that tumbled down the slopes of an ancient crater more than 4 million years ago.