Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Flora Springs Seminar with Sean Garvey

Last night I had the pleasure of working a wine tasting dinner with Sean Garvey from Flora Springs Winery in Napa. Sean's family owns and operates the winery, and he grew-up at the winery; he now works as sales support from his base in New York city. Flora Spring owns over 650 acres in Napa and produces all of their own wines. In fact they sell nearly 80% of their production to other wineries, making them one of the largest growers in the Valley.

This dinner was a little different than most wine dinners in that Sean brought some barrel samples of the components that are used to blend the top wine from the estate known as "Trilogy". We were working with the 2004 wines, which are as yet unfinished.

The evening started with the Sauvignon Blanc, "Soliloqy". A dry, fresh, intense style of Sauvignon that really is unique, almost, of the winery. All stainless production, but with a good amount of sur lie aging, this wine has depth and body with loads of fruit. A really elegant wine that is not overblown like the styles from down-under. (2)

Next we moved on to the Merlot, which has always been a particular favorite of mine. Once again the "If you like Cab, you'll love this Merlot" phrase came up. I firmly believe that Merlot (like almost all varietals) can really be an exceptional wine if grown in the right place, by the right people, and that it should not be described or sold as the ugly stepchild to Cabernet. The Flora Springs Merlot is a big mouth-full of really great wine and can stand up alongside any Merlot, Napa or otherwise. This wine also leans more to the elegant side of the spectrum, but there is loads of dark cherry and herb flavors with a mouth-filling richness. Very nice wine. (2+)

Next we moved to the blending seminar portion of the dinner. We had the three varietal components of the 2004 Trilogy, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, poured separately. We then used pipettes (supplied by Sean) to carefully measure out portions of the three wines to make our own "Trilogy".

I started with equal portions of all three. The Cabernet Franc in 2004 is so dominant that this blend was a bit too much with it. The Cab Franc is just exploding with huge, dark, ultra ripe fruit flavors; wonderful, but a bit too intense.I then made three different blends, each with 50% of one of the three varietals, and 25% of the other two. The blend that I preferred at the end was the Cabernet Sauvignon heavy blend, but I was also enjoying the Merlot dominant blend. Their Merlot is really full flavored and has a distinctive quality about it that I enjoy.

We then tasted the not-quite-but-almost-finished 2004 Trilogy barrel sample, which is Cabernet heavy (67%). This was really rich and the flavors were very intense. Loads of cherries and tangy dark fruits, great length; should be a Trilogy for the cellar.

We then finished the evening with the 2002 Trilogy, which is current vintage in this market. This wine is really soft and smooth (especially after the barrel samples of the 2004s), yet retains the Flora Springs stamp. There is a flavor in their wines that I consider and easy marker because it is quite distinctive. It is herbaceous, but richly textured at the same time, and involves a lot of dark cherry flavor. It is present in the Merlot especially, which gets blended into all the other wines and this is where I think the Flora Springs flavor comes from. The 2002 Trilogy has this flavor. (2)

All in all, Flora Springs makes wine that is, for the money, some of the better values in Napa. The families have owned the land for 35 years and so we, the end-users, are not paying for expensive land, we are paying for the production of high quality wines. Down to earth people, making really great products.

Visit the website (or better yet visit the winery) at:

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