No doubt, you’re probably not short on Napa tasting room recommendations. It’s also probably safe to say they’re all good. But here’s one you probably haven’t heard; the Syrah at John Anthony Vineyards is one of the most uniquely flavored and textured Syrahs on this Gypsy’s tour of California’s bounty of deliciousness. It is big and bold yet soft and supple. Vanilla and spice with blueberry dominate but mocha accentuates the lovely languid feeling it brings…like when a warm sudsy bathtub calls you to relax. Its warmth and elegance may just make you think it is not a Syrah, the queen bee of grapes. But it is and its distinct flavor is probably due to its equally unique history. They grafted Syrah to Chardonnay root stock and that’s as technical as I can get on the matter but that may be what gave it that lovely vanillaness wafting from your glass as you swirl.
Have I said enough about this Syrah?! OK, their oaked Sauvignon Blanc has the tangy citrus you love from a great white but what keeps you coming back to the glass is its matchstick salty minerality that glazes the inside of your mouth in butter. Pepper is the leading flavor of their Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by dark thick cherry. But, I’m still thinking about that Syrah.
You recognize the name? He has created the best place in downtown Napa to watch football on a sunny Sunday afternoon while tasting wine. Dick Vermeil’s swanky tasting room not only has the games on a high def screen, it also has the tasteful decor that football fans require.
But the wine is the reason to visit… during the third quarter, that is. After getting spoiled by Sauvignon Blancs in Lake County, Napa’s shine for their own characteristics typical of this region. This Sauvignon Blanc has tremendous balance with lots of minerality and tart fruit but none of the harsh citrus. Its big long finish makes it hard to stop sipping and tight acidity gets your lips smacking. The Proprietary Red Blend has the thick rich bramble of blue fruit like plum and dark cherry with spices like anise, clove, and even a little cinnamon. A smoky quality follows the long finish as if someone just lit a fire in the room. This is a naughty nighttime red…the romantic kind. Believe it or not, the Cabernet Sauvignon has even more fruit in your face. Dark black cherry with layers of smoke and earth follow and beckons a steak dinner or short ribs.
You’ll pay downtown Napa prices for this convenience. Tasting flights include 3 wines each and range from 15 to 40 dollars. But, if ya have to taste wine on a Sunday, why not choose a location that also has the game on?! And where else can you taste wines next to a Vince Lombardi trophy… um… replica? Beware of the noise level in this place if that affects your customary tasting room experience. On a day when the Niners were ahead by 2 touchdowns until the 4th quarter, when the game fell to a tie, be prepared to taste your wines amongst cheers, angry outbursts, and the occasional trash talk that bonds strangers or betrays BFFs. Having been in tasting rooms all over this big beautiful state, I found it refreshingly real.