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Napa in the City 2022: The BYOB Gala Dinner
99 E. 52nd Street
New York, NY 10022
Tel. (212) 254-3000
BY ANTONIO GALLONI | FEBRUARY 24, 2023
Roasted Chicken; grilled asparagus, fingerling potatoes
Robiola; sea salt crackers & gooseberry jam
|2007 Colgin IX Estate||96|
|2001 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill (magnum)||98|
|1996 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb Vineyard (3L)||97|
|2010 Abreu Madrona Ranch (magnum)||98|
|2010 Abreu Las Posadas (magnum)||100|
|1988 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon||94|
|1974 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon||95|
|1994 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon||96|
|1971 Ridge California Cabernet Eisele||93|
|1994 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain||97|
|1992 Araujo Estate Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard||95|
|1974 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Cask 23||96|
|1974 Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon Martha’s Vineyard||98|
|1997 Harlan Estate (magnum)||98|
|1997 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon||98|
|1995 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon||94|
|1993 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon||97|
|1993 Dalle Valle Maya||93|
|2002 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon||98|
|2001 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon||100|
|2008 Salon (magnum)||100|
Napa in the City is an event we have wanted to do for many years. The logistics of hosting such large events are pretty daunting, so the moment never seemed right. But, in 2022, as we emerged from the COVID-19 lockdown, the time finally did seem right to bring together a number of reference-point Napa Valley winemakers, our readers and the city’s top sommeliers for a weekend of great wine, food and conviviality for the inaugural edition of Napa in the City.
The Pool's Tuna Ravigoté appetizer is one of the highlights on the menu.
The weekend started with a small Rare Wine Dinner featuring a stunning array of Randy and Mike Dunn’s Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain, which will be the subject of a forthcoming report. On Friday April 8, we gathered at The Pool, one of New York City’s most iconic dining rooms, for our BYOB Gala Dinner. This space has always been special to me. Of course, the square dining room, with its huge ceilings, views of Manhattan’s mid-town business district and striking pool, has long been an institution in New York City life. But The Pool is also where I did many of my first tastings as a professional critic when I worked a day job next door at 345 Park Avenue. My office on the 16th floor literally looked down on the entrance.
The BYOB Gala Dinner saw each producer host a table and serve 2-3 library vintages. Guests generously shared incredible, historic wines from their cellars. I saw everything from the legendary Cabernets of the 1970s, to the cults of the early 1990s, to more current releases and everything in between for what turned out to be an epic dinner. The Pool did a fine job with the food, but wine was the star, and what wines they were!
The 2007 Colgin IX Estate, an early wine from Colgin’s estate vineyard on Pritchard Hill, is dense, beautifully perfumed and very young. Readers lucky enough to own it can look forward to another decade-plus of very fine drinking. The 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill is one of the all-time greats at Colgin. Now past the 20-year mark, it remains dark, virile and quite imposing. Thankfully, the once-forbidding tannins have softened, revealing the wine’s notable depth and vibrancy. The 1996 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb Vineyard 3L, a bottle generously brought by one of our guests, is an early wine from the Helen Turley era and one of the greatest Colgin wines I have ever tasted. Deep, inky and richly textured, the 1996 impresses with its energy and expression of both vintage and place. It is truly magnificent.
A selection of bottles brought by guests to the BYOB Gala Dinner.
Abreu’s 2010 Madrona Ranch (magnum) is so impressive. I don’t think I have ever tasted an Abreu wine from magnum. This is certainly a great, great start. The 2010 impresses with its explosive energy and sheer intensity. Inky dark fruit, chocolate, plum, leather, mocha and spice all saturate the palate. From bottle, the 2010 has started to soften, but the magnum clearly needs time! The 2010 Abreu Las Posadas emerges from David Abreu’s stunning Howell Mountain property. (For its first few years this wine was called “Howell Mountain”.) It offers an exotic mélange of inky dark fruit, blood orange, graphite, dried herbs, lavender and espresso. I admire the breadth and utter density here; even if the 2010 from magnum is still at least a few years from being fully approachable.
Now approaching maturity, the 1988 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon is a very pretty wine. It still has quite a bit of depth, although the edges are starting to fray. Dried herbs, tobacco, smoke and iron add layers of nuance. I have had better bottles of this. The 1974 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon is fabulous. Aromatically beguiling and wonderfully deep, the 1974 possesses remarkable depth. Sweet pipe tobacco, sage, incense and crushed leaves lead into a core of deep fruit. This is a terrific showing. The 1994 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon is in a great spot where it has acquired quite a deal of aromatic and flavor complexity yet has plenty of life ahead. Dried herbs, iron, tobacco, gravel and leather give this deep, dark, potent Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon tons of character. This is impressive and young! The 1971 Ridge California Cabernet Eisele, generously shared by a guest at my table, is a Napa Valley unicorn and a wine I had never tasted before. Now past its fiftieth anniversary, the 1971 Ridge Eisele shows its age and captures plenty of the deep earthy, savory magic of this great Calistoga site.
From left to right: Bart Araujo, Ann Colgin and Joe Wender were among the vintners present at the inaugural edition of Napa in the City.
Dunn’s 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain is dense and explosive, with intense fruit allied to mountain structure. It offers copious dark fruit intermingled with graphite, dried herbs, spice and leather scents. Superb. The 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard from Bart and Daphne Araujo is a real treat to taste. Aromatic, soft and approaching full maturity, the 1992 is a sublime Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy now and over the next few years. Sweet pipe tobacco, mint, cedar and dried flowers linger on the effortless, classy finish.
The 1974 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Cask 23 is in great shape. What a wine! Rich and savory, the 1974 delivers that classic mix of intensity, aromatic nuance and structure that makes old-school Napa Cabernet so thrilling. At nearly 50 years of age, it remains incredibly vibrant! The 1974 Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Martha’s Vineyard has long been a Napa Valley icon. For those who have not tasted it, this bottle shows why. Still vibrant and poised, the 1974 offers up red cherry fruit, dried herbs, sage, licorice and blood orange, all driven by bright acids that suggest ageability from this point on will be determined by storage and corks, as the wine itself is pretty near immortal.
Some of the wines I had a chance to taste...and drink.
Two magnificent 1997s follow to start a stunning set of wines from the early and mid-1990s. This period marked the explosion of the so-called ‘cult’ Cabernets, small-production wines made by driven, quality-obsessed proprietors and winemakers. Today, these wines are sometimes criticized for their excesses and the winemaking school they helped launch. I can’t share that view. The best wines from this era have aged beautifully. Moreover, if I try to imagine what these wines must have tasted like in the context of the late 1980s and early 1990s in Napa Valley, the excitement they generated is very easy to understand. Even now, the best wines from this time are undeniably thrilling.
The 1997 Harlan Estate has long been a controversial wine because of some bottle variation. There is no question about this 1997 magnum. The wine is unquestionably extraordinary. Rich and opulent to the core, the 1997 possesses tremendous intensity from start to finish. Blackberry jam, licorice, chocolate and sweet spice lead into a crescendo of aromas and flavors on the finish. The 1997 Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon is fascinating to taste next to the Harlan, as these are two wines that charted the course for Napa Valley in the years that followed. Seamless, racy and vibrant, the 1997 Bryant is magnificent. Moreover, it remains very young and full of life. What a wine. The 1995 Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon is naturally more delicate than the 1997. It shows lovely floral and savory character and a more forward expression of fruit that suggests it should be enjoyed sooner rather than later. The 1993 Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon is outrageously great, and just a step behind the 1997 tasted alongside it. Still opulent, dense and voluptuous to the core, it is a great example of the era in Napa Valley. Inky dark fruit, chocolate, leather, lavender and spice all build into the deeply satisfying finish. What a wine. The 1993 Maya from Dalla Valle is another gorgeous wine from this period. It has aged very well, but at nearly thirty years of age is also starting to fray. I would prefer to drink any remaining bottles sooner rather than later.
A pair of Screaming Eagles make a magnificent pairing. The 2002 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon is creamy, opulent and engaging right out of the gate. Plush, silky tannins wrap around a core of red-toned fruit, hard candy, sweet spice and flowers. The 2002 is unquestionably an extrovert. As great as it is, I prefer the 2001 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, which is one of the great wines from the Jean Phillips era and one of the all-time greats here, period. Tasted next to the 2002, the 2001 presents a darker fruit profile and greater overall depth. Blue/purplish fruit, lavender, graphite, incense and chocolate build up as this rapturous wine gradually opens in the glass. The 2001 Screaming Eagle is a wine I will never forget tasting and drinking. I only hope to have a chance to drink it again!
As always, at dinners like these, a few non-thematic wines make an appearance. That’s never a problem at these events, but for the purposes of this article I focus on the Napa Valley wines. I only have to make an exception for the 2008 Salon, a magnum that appeared late in the evening and put a smile on many faces, including mine. Given its tiny production of around 8,000 magnums, the 2008 Salon is not a Champagne most of us will often taste, if at all. On this night, it was once again glorious, with all the classic Salon signatures dialed up to the maximum. It was the perfect palate cleanser.
Cathy Corison shares her insights on the 2018 vintage and her flagship Kronos Cabernet during the Masterclass tasting. Bruce Phillips (far left, VHR - Vine Hill Ranch) and Brad Grimes (center, Abreu) were among the panelists in this star-studded lineup of vintners.
The following morning we gathered for a seated masterclass tasting focusing on the 2018 and 2019 vintages. It was a very special moment. The reality is that very few people, critics included, ever have an opportunity to taste this many elite wines side by side, served in perfect conditions. The presentations from proprietors and winemakers, which we captured on video, were full of historical context. I can’t say any of the wines in the tasting surprised me, given that I selected them, but tasting them in this manner certainly provided a fresh perspective. Guests enjoyed the remaining wine over an intimate lunch with the winemakers. It was the perfect conclusion to the day.
Above all else, my greatest memories are of the incredible energy over these three days as wine lovers came together to share the best of the best. It was an incredible weekend. We will seek to do even better this year, when Napa in the City takes place from March 9-11, once again in New York.
Napa in the City Masterclass program and our book of accompanying vineyard maps, with the bustle of mid-town Manhattan as seen through Marie Nichols’ famous chain curtains.
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