Time was in short supply, but the offer was too tempting.
It was supposed to be a quick visit to my local wine shop, when the store manager asked if I wanted to go to an industry holiday wine tasting, where they would be pouring Bond, a Napa Valley cult Cabernet Sauvignon that sells for nearly $500 a bottle.
Somehow I managed to squeeze in 10 minutes for the tasting, and it wasn’t just Bond, the label founded by iconic Napa Valley vintner H. William Harlan, that shined.
On what seemed like the busiest day of the year – professional and family responsibilities were jam packed and both required my presence – I walked into the tasting in Nike running shoes, gym shorts and a long-sleeve workout shirt.
After greeting the wine store and restaurant owners I knew in the room and making some introductory small talk with the distributors, I had to get into the wines. The clock was ticking and there were more exciting wines opened than I anticipated.
The first white, to get my palate started, was an absolute star. It was the best Chardonnay I’d had since visiting Odette in the spring. While the recent Napa Valley wildfires destroyed its winery, the Signorello Hope’s Cuvee Chardonnay 2014 ($75) was a rich, full-bodied, yet elegant and balanced wine with honey, apricot and butterscotch flavors.
On its web page, Signorello said it plans to rebuild the winery, which lends hope that it can continue to produce outstanding wines. The Signorello Padrone Proprietary Red 2012 ($140) was a quintessential Silverado Trail red with cassis and tea leaves on the nose. There were blackberry and dusty chocolate flavors with a lively acidity.
From Paso Robles, Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($50) turned a little warmer on its flavors profile. It’s a crowd pleaser, being a little more fruit forward. Plum and black cherry flavors pop, but the full-bodied nature makes it a New World all-star.
My favorite wine from the tasting came from Washington. Woodward Canyon Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon ($99) was a departure from California’s riper flavors. There’s a puff of cedar and wet earth on the nose. Cassis, iron shavings and cinnamon stick flavors gracefully emerge. Also, from Washington, Andrew Will Ciel Du Cheval 2012 ($63) is a Merlot Cabernet Franc blend that has more earth and wet leaves on the nose. A silky mouthfeel and cherry flavors are furthered by a herbal, green snap on the finish.
The two Washington wines stood out and impressed.
Before I left, and visited the Bond wines, I went back to the white wines to reset my palate. The acidity of whites brings back my ability to taste the powerful reds which can wash out a palate. The flinty Albert Bichot Puligny-Montrachet ($65) was an exemplary palate refresher, but I only had 10 minutes or so to spare, so it was a go-big tasting, before I had to go home.
Did the Bond wines live up to the hype and the price?
Both were interesting and different than anything else being poured. People were taking selfies with the bottles, it was almost like a celebrity had walked in the room. Yet, it was just two bottles of wine.
The Bond Melbury 2013 ($420) grown on hillside vineyards overlooking Lake Hennessey, a neighborhood with Chappelet and Continuum wineries, is massive, with toffee, blueberry, a powerful extraction and potent tannins. Fun to enjoy it while young, but an absolute monster that is built so powerfully it will take decades to unravel.
More subtle than its counterpart is the Bond Quella 2013 ($420) with its graphite, plum and rich blackberry compote and conifer notes. It can be cellared short- or long-term, but was interesting and approachable.
Neither are in my price neighborhood, but I couldn’t pass the chance to see what they were like. It was a day that proved I could optimize every minute possible and that it’s good to establish a relationship with your local wine shop.
You never know when there’s going to be an epic tasting that’s too good to miss.
• James Nokes writes a bi-weekly wine column for the Daily Chronicle. He’s been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.