A Prudent Wine-Tasting Experience

Was it the first President George Bush or Dana Carvey who said, “Not gonna do it…wouldn’t be prudent”?

Those famous/infamous words came to mind when I learned that the Atlas Peak Appellation Association’s 2012 Harvest Celebration would not be held anywhere within the Atlas Peak appellation. Instead, the Sept. 8 event will be hosted by V Wine Cellar on the Napa Valley floor, in the town of Yountville.

What’s going on here? Are the Atlas Peak wineries not proud of their appellation? Do they not want wine drinkers to see their facilities?

Well, if you’ve ever ventured to one of the Atlas Peak appellation wineries, you know that the area is ruggedly beautiful, and the winemaking facilities are ultra-modern and their people ultra-welcoming.

It’s just that the area, perched between 760 and 2,663 feet above sea level in the Vaca mountain range on the eastern side of Napa Valley, is pretty remote. There are only two roads in and two roads (the same ones) out, and neither would be what you’d call a “super highway.”

That’s why the wineries of Atlas Peak welcome guests by appointment, and why it wouldn’t be a good idea to jam either of those roads with hundreds of cars all bound for a single destination.

But the good news is that the local winery association’s Harvest Celebration enables wine lovers to sample the appellation’s wares sans the hairpin turns.

The appellation is particularly noted for Cabernet Sauvignon, and there’s a definite difference in the style and flavor spectrum between “mountain-grown” fruit and valley floor winegrapes.

Those attending the tasting would do well to taste a specific Cabernet right at the beginning of the event, then circle back at the end and ask for another taste from a bottle that has been opened for a while. One common quality of mountain-grown Cabs is that they can take a little longer to “open up” and reveal their full spectrum of aromas and flavors. A wine that’s somewhat “closed” and “shy” at 1 p.m., when the Celebration begins, should be in “full bloom” by 4 p.m., when the event ends.

In addition to wine, there will be plenty of food for guests to enjoy. Winery chefs will be preparing an array of artisan cheeses, charcuterie, seasonal fruit, nuts, olives and Bouchon breads.

The Harvest Celebration utilizes a three-tier pricing system that rewards those who buy their tickets early. Once the limited $25 tickets sell out, the price goes to $35. On the day of the event, the cost will be $45. Ticket information is available here.

More than 80 wineries utilize grapes grown within the Atlas Peak appellation when making wine. You can discover why that is by attending the Atlas Peak Harvest Celebration—a very prudent thing to do.

Posted in Wine Buzz
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