The Ultimate Napa Valley Wine Flight for Fall
Napa Valley is known around the world as being home to the United States’ most celebrated wines. From citrusy sauvignon blancs to lush pinot noirs, the flavors and complexities that flourish in the region are endless.
Here at Malibu Beach Inn, we adore Napa Valley wines, and feature a diverse assortment year-round on the Carbon Beach Club menu. Tragically, recent grape harvest seasons have coincided with wildfire season in Napa Valley more often than not, with record-breaking fires first ravaging vineyards in 2017, and the current 2020 wildfires wreaking even more havoc than their predecessors.
Due to these heartbreaking circumstances, we wanted to draw attention to four of our favorite Napa Valley wines by featuring them in the “Taste of Napa” flight. Each wine is also available by the glass at CBC. Try them all by asking for the flight, and join us in supporting our local wineries by raising a glass (or four) to the future of Napa Valley wine.
Buoncristiani Family Winery — 2019 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Buoncristiani Family Winery was founded in 1999 by Matt, Jay, and Nate Buoncristiani, three brothers who were born and raised in Napa Valley, and descend from a long lineage of Italian winemakers and wine lovers.
The Buoncristiani motto is “quality, not quantity,” and each of their wines is limited-production and made using only the best fruit. A perfect example: the 2019 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. With complex aromas of ripe ruby grapefruit, lemon zest, and jalapeño jam, followed by layers of mango, honeysuckle, Key Lime pie, and vanilla wafer, the brightly acidic wine finishes crisp and clean with notes of citrus and tropical fruit.
To achieve the desired style and profile for this wine, the sauvignon blanc grapes were harvested at peak flavor on a cold autumn morning, then whole-cluster pressed. From there, the juice was fermented in small stainless steel drums and French oak barrels, and bottled after six months of sur lie aging,
“This sauvignon blanc can be drunk summer to winter,” says Malibu Beach Inn’s restaurant manager and sommelier Joe Cervantes. “It’s light drinking and great to sip next to the ocean.”
Far Niente — 2017 Chardonnay
First established in 1885, a little over three decades after California became a state, Far Niente was Napa Valley’s first winery. Following a long period of neglect following Prohibition, in 1979 the winery and adjacent vineyard were rescued by Gil Nickel and now resides on the National Register of Historic Places.
Only two types of wine are made at Far Niente: cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay — a decision purposefully made so that the winery “can continue to concentrate its efforts on creating two varietal wines of astonishing quality,” as detailed on their website.
And the chardonnay is indeed astonishing. Heavier in structure than the sauvignon blanc and perfectly suited for Malibu’s cooler autumn temperatures, Far Niente’s 2017 Chardonnay is one of the rare Napa Valley chardonnays that actually benefits with advanced age. Crafted without malolactic fermentation to preserve the grapes’ natural acidity, the wine softens over time from a bright and acidic profile, to being creamy and rich.
On the nose, the 2017 Chardonnay offers aromas of melon, sweet citrus, and light floral notes, layered with hints of flint, yeast, and sweetly toasted oak. A silky mid-palate with flavors of ripe honeydew and lemon follows, backed by a touch of wet stone, yeast, and toasted hazelnuts. The finish is long and structured, punctuated with notes of citrus rind and mouth-watering acid.
EnRoute Winery — 2018 “Les Pommiers” Pinot Noir
Founded in partnership with Far Niente in 2007, EnRoute Winery takes a page from its sister winery in its singular focus on one grape varietal: pinot noir.
In their pursuit of “the pinnacle of pinot noir,” the team at EnRoute dedicates their efforts to single-vineyard offerings. This results in an array of pinot noir offerings that range from intensely structured with bold aromas, to more delicate wines with silky tannins and subtle fruit and earth notes.
With the 2018 EnRoute Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, “Les Pommiers,” you’ll first be greeted with a lush, fragrant aroma of dried rose petal and berry potpourri. Rich raspberry preserve and blackberry flavors fill the midpalate, accented by notes of clove and forest floor that linger through to the finish. Aged in French oak barrels for 10 months, winemaker Andrew Delos describes the vintages as “opulent and silky from start to end, with lovely fruit and spice notes that linger on the palate.”
Cain Vineyard & Winery — 2015 Cain Five
Perched atop Spring Mountain on the Napa-Sonoma county line, Cain Vineyard & Winery lost all of its structures to the 2020 wildfires. However, as their homepage encourages, “Though buildings have burned, all that makes Cain what Cain what it is — the culture, the wines, the vines, above all, the place — all that is truly Cain — remain.”
The 550-acre winery was founded by Jerry and Joyce Cain in 1980, and dedicates its efforts to crafting three Cabernet blends, each drawn from a unique vineyard sources and featuring its own distinctive signature: Cain Cuvée, Cain Concept, and Cain Five.
Five grape varieties grace the vineyards here — cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec, and petit verdot — and together inspired the creation of the Cain Five. The 2015 Cain Five vintage is a child of several years of drought, which, in 2015, resulted in the lowest yield for the winery since 1990: less than one ton per acre, almost unheard of throughout the world of wine.
However, low yield is traditionally associated with high quality, and the 2015 Cain Five is no exception. The vintage is described as generous, dense, and focused, laced with sun-drenched herbal and savory notes and featuring a full palate. A blend of 55% cabernet sauvignon, 28% merlot, 11% cabernet franc, 5% petit verdot, and 1% malbec, the 2015 Cain Five was released on September 1, 2019, and “drinks beautifully today, and will continue to do so for 20 years.”