As many of you know by now, I was just out in Northern California visiting my wife’s parents for my kids’ Spring Break. In the middle of the first week out there, I organized a tasting at Mumm Napa, where we had a magnificent mini-blending and tasting session with Eric, the Director of Corporate Tastings (at least I think that is his title).
After spending a couple of hours at Mumm, Eric suggested we all go and see a buddy of his just up the road at Alpha Omega in Rutherford. Alpha Omega is a relatively new brand in Napa Valley, opening back in the summer of 2006 and producing around 10 thousand cases annually.
Jean Hoefliger has been the winemaker essentially since the beginning of the winery (after working at Newton for five years), and über-consultant Pierre Roland flies in several times a year to lend his well sought out advice. Alpha Omega believes in allowing the wines to go through a “natural” fermentation (no additional yeast is added and the fermentation stops in the fall as the temperature cools, and does not finish until the following spring as the weather warms).
Eric introduced us to Nathan (a “Wine Educator” in Alpha Omega parlance), who walked us through the Alpha Omega line-up. One of my goals at just about every tasting is to try and get the person pouring the wines a bit off script–at times the whole run down of the wines seems far too rehearsed and automatic. While Nathan was certainly not like that at all, it was clear that he had more than a few stories to tell and a fun personality that was waiting to get out–he just needed a little prodding.
I will not divulge any of his “secrets,” but he did confirm one of my long-held suspicions–tasting room staff enjoy wine. While this might not be all that earth shattering, it was fun to get past the tasting room scripts and get a bit into the wine-geek stories that are always fun to hear.
2013 Alpha Omega Sauvignon Blanc: Retail $40. 45% fermented in neutral oak, 55% in steel. Pear, melon, and some nuttiness. On the palate initially round but gets bright mid-palate and finishes beautifully. I am not a Sauvignon Blanc guy, and you do not see $40 versions of the variety all that often, but this wine could very well could convince me. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2013 Alpha Omega Sauvignon Blanc 1155: 6% Semillon.100% Oak-aged, 40% new. (“1155” is the address of the winery.) This wine is different from the first Sauvignon Blanc in a couple of ways: the Semillion makes it a Bordeaux blend and introduces more melon on the nose and palate. The oak aging helps make it considerably rounder, leading to a smoother finish. Personally, I liked the first better, but this is still Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2012 Alpha Omega Chardonnay Napa Valley: Retail $68. 100% aged for 17 months in French oak (45% new) and 100% malolactic fermentation. Comes off as pretty big with tons of oak and a bit too round (a bit lacking in acidity). Really creamy and complex but on the verge of flabby. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2013 Alpha Omega Pinot Noir Toyon Vineyard: Retail $84. Inviting nose, with ripe blackberry pie and allspice, almost Syrah-like. On the palate plenty of acidity. In fact, this is more Pinot on the palate than it is on the nose with some drying tannins on the finish. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2011 Alpha Omega Proprietary Red: Retail $94. 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot and 3% Merlot. A bit green on the nose with juicy red fruit, pencil shavings, and tobacco. On the palate both vibrant acidity and really good fruit. Certainly my style of wine. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2012 Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon: Retail $96. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Richer nose with darker fruit and a bit of mocha. Big Napa Cab but not in a bad way at all. This is a gateway Napa Cab–kind of what you expect from the Valley. If you are a Napa Cab lover, this is in your wheelhouse. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
Nathan then took us back into the barrel room where we sampled three of the single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons that were almost ready to bottle. The Sunshine Valley Vineyard was the fruitiest and least “Cabernet-like” with bright berry fruit and nice balance (Outstanding). The Beckstoffer To-Kalon was beautiful with more oak evident and a finish that I can still taste (Outstanding Plus, on the verge of “Whoa”). The ERA is the top of the line at Alpha Omega (I am not sure if that would be the “Alpha” of the “Omega” however) and is truly a magnificent wine, which is actually a blend of the best barrels from three single vineyards (including To-Kalon–if you are blending To-Kalon into another wine, you know it is going to be good [and pricey–the ERA goes for around $200/bottle]). This wine is but a baby, but it is one of the better wines I have had this year, certainly. Even before it is in the bottle, this achieves full-on “Whoa” status (and could likely hit three or four “Whoa” easily).