A couple of months ago, I intimated that I really do not visit the Napa Valley anymore. There are many reasons (which I outlined in that previous article) that I typically stay on State Route 12, ignoring first the sign for Route 221 (which eventually becomes the Silverado Trail) and then Route 121 (from which Route 29/128 emerges), and continue on to Sonoma County.
But that might be changing.
First, last month I tasted through a few wines from Smith-Madrone and immediately put them on my short list of Napa wineries to visit. Now, that short list just got a little longer. This past week I went through most of the wines from a relatively new (founded in 2005) Napa producer whose wines clearly merit further investigation.
That producer, Coquerel Family Wine Estates, is located just north of Calistoga off of Route 128. They have two levels of wine in their portfolio: “Le Petit Coquerel” label focuses on varietal wines that are approachable early and easier on the wallet. The “Terroir Coquerel” wines focus more on what the name suggests: a sense of place. These wines tend to be more complex and likely have a longer life ahead of them.
2012 Le Petit Coquerel Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley: Retail $22. Grapefruit and papaya with plenty of minerality on first visit. Then a touch of grass sneaks in. On the palate, great acidity, but there is also a bit of heft that is usually lacking in Sauvignon Blanc. Papaya and gave really come through as the wine really coats the mouth and lingers for a while. An excellent Napa Sauvignon Blanc. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2013 Terroir Coquerel Sauvignon Blanc Walnut Wash Vineyard Calistoga: Retail $32. When you see a Sauvignon Blanc north of $25, you should either start to get excited or nervous. This is certainly a case for the former. Initially far too cold, once this warmed I became enthralled: this is unlike most Sauvignon Blancs you come across with lovely aromas of melon and papaya. On the palate, it continues it charlatan charade as while there is acidity, it is nicely balanced with the tropical fruit and a weight that you rarely see in a Sauvignon Blanc. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2013 Le Petit Coquerel Verdelho Calistoga: Retail $22. Maybe it is the circles in which I travel these days, but I am seeing many more Iberian varieties being produced in the U.S. I dare say that it might even be a “thing.” Verdehlo is one of the varieties permitted in Madeira, a fortified wine that, well, is simply fantastic. Increasingly, there are more dry white wines made from this grape, and I think that is a good thing. This is bright and concise: pineapple, lime, lemon, a load of fruit up front. On the palate, it is decidedly more grapefruit than lemon, with angular acidity and ample depth. Despite its increasing popularity, I do not have a ton of experience with domestic Verdelho, nonetheless, I imagine this has to be near the top of the heap. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2013 Terroir Coquerel Chardonnay Oakville Block A Napa Valley: Retail $32. There are people out there that have distinct opinions on Chardonnay: either they like the unoaked, “pure” rendition of the variety, or the buttery, rich, oaky Chard monsters that turned off the Anything But Chardonnay crowd. What many seem to ignore is the possibility that there is a Chardonnay continuum and that it is not a binary choice. This wine falls decidedly in the middle: there is fruit, and oak, and even a bit of butter. And it works. Well. Too many get hung up on stereotypes and neglect to examine the delicate intricacies. This wine is fantastic: aromas of lemon, melon, and vanilla. On the palate, rich, yet balanced with some minerality. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2012 Terroir Coquerel Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast: Retail $29. I go through a ton of Pinot: French, Oregon, Sonoma, Sta Rita Hills. This one is on the fruitier end of the spectrum, with tons of cherry, some eucalyptus, and a hint of slate on the nose. On the palate, it is fairly clear that this is a wine to drink in the short term, but during that short term, though, this wine will be a crowd pleaser–great fruit and drinking very well right now. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2011 Terroir Coquerel Tempranillo Calistoga: Retail $42. Tempranillo, most well-known as the grape of Rioja, is becoming increasingly popular in other regions, particularly in California. This has a wonderful nose: dark berry fruit with oak and some gaminess. Quite rich on the palate, but very well-balanced and simply yummy. This wine is rather versatile as it would go well with a variety of food (paella to prime rib), but it is also fantastic on its own watching T.V, or, say, trying to do some writing on say, your wine blog. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2012 Le Petit Coquerel Cabernet Sauvignon: Retail? Dark and I would say a bit brooding with black fruit and a hint of tobacco. Rich on the palate and quite jammy. There is some backbone on the end that suggests more cellar time is possible, but it is tasty right now, there really is no need to wait. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2012 Terroir Coquerel Petite Sirah: Retail $39. For years, I have assumed that Pinot lovers (like me) and the PS I Love You crowd (Petite Sirah fans) simply travelled in different circles as the two wines were typically at opposite ends of the red wine spectrum. Pinot tends to be delicate and understated, while Petite Sirah, is big, jammy, and full throttle. This wine certainly holds true to its lineage, and it is oh so tasty. So tasty that this Pinot lover might have just found a new mistress. Indigo inky dark and viscous in the glass, with aromas of blackberry jam, cassis, violet and black pepper. On the palate, this is big and rich with luscious fruit and a serious grip. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.