Jessup Cellars: Napa Valley – In Search of Snobs

Once again, we’d gone into our trip without very much pre-planning. After all, with over 400 wineries in Napa, we figured we were sure to stumble onto something good even if we just went door to door until someone let us in and poured for us out of their liquor cabinet.

But I’m a hardcore planner at heart, and I couldn’t bear to go to Napa without a few sure things in my back pocket. I posted to Twitter asking for winery recommendations. To my surprise, my Twitter stream instantly filled (and my Klout score went up by eight points in 24 hours). Patricia_eddy, who had previously effused about Charbay on Twitter (read more about our Charbay visit here), recommended we visit Jessup Cellars.

Might I just say — Patricia bats 1000 when it comes to winery recommendations.

Yountville is a cozy, compact little town, and the Jessup Cellars tasting room fits right in. Because of its small size (well, for Napa, at any rate), visitors are advised to call for an appointment. We did, and managed to get two spaces at the bar. Which had purse hooks! Thanks, Jessup!

Jessup Cellars
The tasting room was cozy and warm with tons of natural light. And did we mention the wine?

The tasting room supervisor, Erin, clearly had her hands full with the number of people at the tasting room, but she quickly made us feel right at home. So did the Steelers fans next to us who were getting in a spot of wine tasting before the Monday night game against the 49ers. (Sorry about that game, guys.)

The couple next to us weren’t wine drinkers, but Erin evangelized to them, giving them ideas of what their entry point to wine could be. By the end of the tasting, it was clear they had each found something in the wine to enjoy. But with wines like this, who wouldn’t?

Jessup Cellars
We’ve got Erin surrounded and we won’t leave unless she gives us some more Table for Four!

The Wines

2010 Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley): It was love at first sniff. It had that sparkly, grapefruity crisp scent that I like so much, and the sense memory brought me back to a wine tasting trip I once took in the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand. The flavor was great, with bright sweet pineapple and kiwi notes balanced by a hint of pink grapefruit.

2009 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley AVA): The nose on this one was full of sultry wood, as well as that tiny bit of strangely pleasant skunk note I’ve mentioned repeatedly in this blog. The oak was prominent in the flavor, but it wasn’t like sucking on wood chips; it was soft and flavorful and really added to my enjoyment. There were also hints of fruit and rosemary.

2008 Merlot (Napa Valley AVA): I was immediately lured in by this estate wine’s juicy, deep jam scent. I expected it to be a rich, chewy fruit bomb and was surprised when it delivered some mighty tannins with the fruit.

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley AVA): There was a basil-tomato spiciness to the scent that immediately made me think “Italian.” The wine delivered, with delicate savory layers of fruit that piled on top of one another until they became a flavorlanche. (Flavor + avalanche. Get it? Ha ha, I slay me.) Next time I go to Napa, I’m buying a bottle of this and then going to Clemente’s at Val’s to grab some malfaltti – the two would go great together.

2008 Table for Four Estate Red (Napa Valley AVA): The smell reminded me of an Indian goat curry, stewed and spicy. The flavor was incredibly enjoyable, with cherry, blackberry and plum strengthened by just a hint of warm oak. It was complex, intriguing and yet easy-drinking enough to drink all day.

2008 Juel (Napa Valley AVA): This blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc had a spicy scent that said “Hey, there’s alcohol here.” The flavor, however, was full of soft fruits with just enough gentle tannins on the finish to warm the tongue.

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lot 3 (Napa Valley AVA): The scent was warm and comforting, and the taste…well, let me just transcribe my notes here: “Perfect, delicate fruit doing the Nutcracker dance on my palate.” (Specifically, Act 2 Tableau III: Part III – Divertissement: Tea.)

2008 Petite Syrah (Yolo County AVA): The tasting room, as we discovered via MapQuest, is within 50 miles of Yolo County, so much to our surprise this was yet another AVA we accrued on our visit. The smell reminded me of great chicken Marsala in Boston’s North End (I may be a vegetarian, but I still remember the marsala sauce fondly). My palate, however, was unable to pick out individual flavors beyond “This tastes like yummy wine that I’d love to have again.”

Zinfandel Port (Napa Valley): Yes, please! Sweet, rich and complex, with hints of spicy plums. We sampled some chocolate with it, which seemed to make the port sweeter but not more complex.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Port (Napa Valley): Love! It had a dark chocolate coated cherry scent and a candied cherry flavor. Delicious and enjoyable.

[Mike here – this is a rare occasion where Nikki’s tasting notes and mine match to the point where I don’t really have anything to add, apart from agreeing with what Nikki’s just about to tell you below. Back to you, Nikki!]

Jessup Cellars was absolutely one of the highlights of my visit to Napa Valley, and I will make sure to stop there when I’m next in town.