Friday, April 16, 2010

Falcor, Girard, Etude--On the Napa & Sonoma Wine Trail with James Jazz King

One great thing about social media is meeting new people. Twitter has earned me a couple of new wine-loving friends, including James Jazz King, a "personal wine educator for hire," whose Twitter handle is @UrWineGuy.

James went up to Napa for a weekend a few months ago to check on a few wineries for his wine-tour business, and invited me to join him. I jumped at the chance, especially since he was testing three wineries I hadn't tried before: Falcor, Girard, and Etude. (He also went to Domaine Carneros but I missed that stop due to map problems combined with my natural stupidity.)

James Jazz King conducts tours of California wine country, and produces wine and food events for companies who want to impress clients with their sophisticated hospitality. This includes corporate wine tastings for conferences, fundraisers, leadership awards, new-product launches, executive retreats, and similar events where the quality of the wine and food must impress. To this end, James has built relationships with top wineries in Sonoma and Napa, as well as the wine areas of Oregon and Washington. He's a graduate of Wharton, and lives in San Diego. He can be reached at his Web site, King Group Events.

I met James and his wife and young daughter at Falcor , which is in the southwest side of Napa Valley. James and his family were charming and welcoming. And the relationships James and his wife have built with the winemakers became apparent right away as we were greeted by Falcor Director of Marketing and Operations Doug Berlogar. Also clear, as we tasted some of Falcor's wines, was the scope of the Kings' knowledge of the wines; they clearly knew what they were talking about.

The Falcor tasting room looks like the board room of an expensive law firm, one that happens to have a winemaking facility through one of the doors. The wines were equally impressive. I believe we tried the $42 2005 Durell Vineyard Chardonnay, which was delicious. We then had the $65 2003 "H" Block Cab (with 2% Merlot, 2% Cab Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot) that knocked my socks off. (That's my wine-blogger technical description.) And we also tasted the $36 2005 Dry Creek Zin (which has 9% Petite Syrah). Also yummy. The Kings chatted about business--the wine business and the tour business.

Next we drove over to Etude Wines in Carneros, just off Highway 121. We tasted a number of their wines and, I have to say, I didn't care for any of them. Isn't that strange? They were all sharp-edged. The Kings, though, seemed to like them; that makes me wonder about the condition of my tastebuds....

We finished up at Girard, whose tasting room is in downtown (so to speak) Yountville, a tiny, charming community in the middle of Napa Valley. The tasting room, just off the main street in a complex of shops, was busy that Saturday afternoon with drinkers and tourists, but we managed to elbow our way to the bar to try some wines that were, I was relieved to find, quite good. (So my tastebuds were functional after all.) The 2007 Girard Artistry blend, Napa, $40, was worth the elbowing; and the 2007 Girard Petite Syrah, Napa also, tasted like a wine that had earned its high ratings -- 93 Points from Wine Enthusiast, 4 Stars from  Restaurant Wine -- by dint of actually tasting good. I liked it.

It was a tasty and educational day with a host clearly knowledgeable and capable. I appreciated his invitation, and suggest you look up James Jazz King when next your company needs to make a good impression at a client or customer event -- or just when you want to take your group on a custom-made, hand-crafted tour of the West Coast's finest wines.

No comments: