Carl Kanowsky: 4 remarkable wines at Napa Barrel Auction

Ana Diogo-Draper became director of winemaking at Artesa in 2015. Artesa’s 2016 Galatea is a unique blending of cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo. Courtesy photo
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Allow me to conclude my musings about the Napa Barrel Auction.

But first, a few corrections. In my last column, I reviewed Gamble’s sauvignon blanc. I mischaracterized it as retailing for $25. Well, I got it wrong. It was actually the Heart Block sauvignon blanc, which sells for $90. I thought it tasted richer than my original understanding.

Also, I was wrong about Wesley Stephens, who gently pointed me in the right direction.

He wrote, “One correction I need to note. I have not left Vineyard 7 & 8. It is my family’s brand that I’ve been the director and associate winemaker of for the past 12 years, with no plans of abandoning my post.

“I make both of the Vineyard 7 & 8 and Correlation Wine Co. wines here at our family winery atop Spring Mountain. Launched Correlation Wine Co. last year with the release of the 2014 cabernet sauvignon, taking an opportunity to launch a new brand outside of my family brand, allowing my wife Jess and I to have a brand of our own, exploring and building on our relationships outside of the Vineyard 7 & 8 Estate.”

Thanks for the heads up, Wesley.

The four remaining remarkable wines from the event were Artesa 2016 Galatea; 2017 Continuum Estate; 2016 Pride cabernet sauvignon; and, 2016 Joseph Phelps Insignia Special Cuvee.

Codorníu Raventós, owners of the Spanish sparkling wine house, Codorníu, began grape cultivation and wine making in Napa in the 1980s.

In 1997, they changed the name of the California project to Artesa, which is Catalan for “handcrafted.”

Ana Diogo-Draper of Portugal joined Artesa in 2013, becoming director of winemaking in 2015.

Her European background shines through in Artesa’s 2016 Galatea, a unique blending of cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo, an important Spanish varietal.

Delightful, with the tempranillo mellowing out the muscular cabernet, making the wine more approachable at an earlier age.

When Robert Mondavi and his family sold the eponymous Mondavi to Constellation Brands in 2004 for reportedly almost $1 billion, Robert and his son, Tim, wanted to have their own operation.

In a nod to their legendary wine heritage, they named the new winery, Continuum.

Continuum offered auctiongoers an exclusive opportunity to sample and own wine available only at the auction.

This 2017 vintage blend of 65 percent cabernet sauvignon, 21 percent cabernet Franc, 11 percent merlot, and 3 percent petit verdot shined.

Rare as hen’s teeth (only 120 bottles were produced), the wine reeked of decadent black fruit, yet it was quite well balanced.

Equally as famous as Mondavi, Joseph Phelps is another crown jewel in the Napa wine world.

Its 2002 Insignia was named Wine Spectator’s 2005 Wine of the Year.

At the auction, Phelps poured the 2016 Insignia Special Cuvee, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cab Franc.

Another exclusive, one-of-a-kind, this was delicious with an inviting mouthfeel.

A great blend of red fruit (berry and cherry) and blackberries, this is a wine to set aside for five or more years and then bask in what it has to offer.

Rounding my favorites is Pride’s 2016 cabernet sauvignon. Like the Continuum and Phelps, this wine was only available at the auction.

Full-bodied and brawny but not too tannic, the finish on this was endless.

An interesting coincidence that I just flashed on: Three of my favorites come from wineries with female winemakers, Ana Diogo-Draper at Artesa, Ashley Hepworth at Phelps and Sally Johnson at Pride.

Overall, a great tasting that I hope to enjoy next year.

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