Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wining in Napa, Sonoma and Lompoc...Part 2...

July 27th. Decided to spend the day checking out wineries along Rte. 29. First stop, Peju Province.  We had met the Peju folks at various LearnAboutWine events, but didn't call ahead for a private tasting. Won't make that mistake again. Peju has lovely wines and a gorgeous winery; they obviously receive truckloads of visitors, and have figured out a kind of assembly-line tasting experience. JD and I were herded to a counter along with 4 other couples. I pulled out my card, and Jeff, the very pleasant sommelier behind the counter graciously comped our tasting and gave us the trade discount. He poured 8 wines, spoke knowledgeably and enthusiastically about all of them, offered wine jokes and stories, and kept interaction to a minimum. The presentation was very professional, but felt scripted. Next time, we'll call first.

Peju Garden

The best of the wines poured:
2008 Sauvignon Blanc made from 3 separate wines and blended to good effect. Pear nose, very very Meyer Lemon in the mouth, soft pineapple finish. $22.
2006 Merlot - 90% Merlot/10% Cab Sauv - A big, chocolate cherry, absolutely lovely wine. $35.
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon - 86% Cabernet Sauvignon/7% Merlot/7% Petit Verdot. My tasting notes say "Wow!" Great nose, serious tannins, delish. $45.

Went up the road to Alpha Omega, a relatively new winery. Talented young winemaker Jean Hoefliger has teamed up with the flying winemaker himself, Michel Rolland, to create some big wines. Our barista, Shana, poured the wines. Our faves:

Alpha Omega
2009 Rosé of Napa Valley - a Bordeaux-style blend, but pink! Very refreshing. $28.
2006 Proprietary Red - another Bordeaux-style blend. Wow say my notes. Really gorgeous, big velvety tannins, chocolate, cherry, almond, vanilla. Yum. $82.

We also got to barrel sample the 2008 Era. These folks really know how to make big red blends that have good structure with the potential to age and improve for many years. This wine will retail for $170, so it won't be in our basket when it's released at the end of the year.

Shana also poured us a 2007 Syrah that exhibited the best characteristics of the grape - smoky, tobacco-y, nice tannins. $62.

Headed further up 29, and decided to stop at Del Dotto, an over-designed pseudo-Italianate villa. Inside the decor was an explosion of Italian Renaissance overindulgence. (You think I'm kidding? Check out the web site.) We neared the counter. A young woman asked if she could help us. I told her I was a blogger and wine educator and gave her my card. She took it over to another person; there was a great deal of whispering. When she returned, she said, "We only give trade discounts to other Napa vintners, so we can offer you a glass of wine, but if you want to taste a flight, it will be $30 per person." I politely declined, indicating that I would be writing about this, and we left.

When I told another wine writer about this treatment, she said that I should have called ahead and gotten a private tasting, but my thinking is that it didn't matter if the people at the counter didn't acknowledge my wine business connection; it never occurred to them that I was a consumer as well as trade. They had no idea how much money I was planning on spending (I always buy wine when I taste, especially if I receive a discount). The point is that it was poor customer service. They let a customer walk out the door annoyed. And lost a sale. Not a good business plan.

More to come - Mumm Napa vintage Bruts, Ceja tasting room adventures, Sonoma, Lompoc. Stay tuned! Cheers!

1 comment:

Eve said...

I knew about your experience at Del Dotto because I already asked you, but, I still HAD to read what the Goddess wrote. (Because I DO VALUE YOU.) All good points. You are sooooo right. Whether you're a wine blogger, educator or just a person off the street, ALL customers should be treated with kindness. And, a Goddess deserves...all due respect.