Are you looking for our packaging for 2019? It will be published here.

In a very bizarre year, the number of random events in 2020 has been remarkable. It all started in the desert in March, when I immediately made many domestic trips through the country, as well as a few international trips that had nothing to do with Napa. My travels first took me to one of my favourite places in the state, the main corridor 395, and then to Death Valley on my way to Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego, where I stayed in several resorts connected to Trinitas Wineries (I ended up being one of five people who spent a night in Estancia La Jolla for $90/night/room – we’re talking about having a great space and a nice, fully private pool to use)!

But it’s easy for me to be sent back – back to the story – I live in the ghost town of Ballarat. I’ve already been to Ballarat, 90 minutes from Melbourne, in January, as part of a trip from my Napa Valley in Australia and other parts of Asia this year, so maybe that’s where this strange year started for me, I’m not quite sure, but it seems a bit of a fluke. Anyway, I arrived at Ballarat in the great valley of Panamint. A bearded man hung on the wooden porch of one of the old buildings. From a distance, I thought he was an old miner with a grill. I understood the part about the minor, but not his age.

I approached him, introduced myself and soon learned that he lived in the Napa Valley. His friend Travis (whom I once met at Miner’s Family where he worked) was also present. The bearded man was Grant Gelow, a newspaper boy who drove to Napa every day from midnight until 3 a.m.. His family has been supplying newspapers in the Napa Valley for decades – the family name is still associated with the building their family owns in Soskol – just south of First Street.

I mean, it’s a ghost town and who do I happen to meet – two guys from the Napa Valley, one of whom I’ve met before.

Grant owns the Panamint Valley Mine Mineral Lease. I also had a mining concession for about 10 years. I brought about 1.5 pounds with my dad. Grant is a journey through the history of the Napa Valley and the history of mining. We got along very well during this big meeting. We got lost before the end of the year when a friend and I visited the area and I told Grant that I would visit Ballarat again. He was here the same weekend as us.

In 2020, only 31 new exams were published on this site, about the same number as the year before. It was unusually difficult to get in touch with manufacturers we didn’t know yet – for obvious reasons. Hopefully next year will be better. We keep a list of about 100 priority winegrowers/producers we haven’t met yet – of the 200 or so we have yet to investigate. However, we have invested a lot of time in various updates, including purchasing wines (by adding tasting notes to existing reviews), acquiring a wide range of historical sites, visiting wineries, traveling outside the valley to visit neighboring places – this year around 450 of our 1050+ reviews have been significantly updated, with many more small updates.

This year we visited about 80 of these locations and vineyard-related sites outside the Napa Valley, a decrease from our usual number of about 100 in each of the last few years (mainly due to the decrease in international travel). There’s about 45 here:

Basigalupi Vineyards – Chateau MontelenaBern Steakhouse – Tampa, 1973 Inglenook CharbonoBetty Olds Path, Berkeley – Heavenly VineyardsBurrito Brothers, Washington DC – Yount Ridge VineyardBusch Markets – Ann Arbor – Trinitas CellarsCatholic University of America Busch School of Business, DC – Trinitas CellarsChandon, Yarra Valley Australia – House of ChandonCoffeeville, Kansas – Silver OakCroix Estate, Fulton – Revenge VineyardsDeaver Vineyards – Sutter Home – The oldest commercial wineery in the State of California – Sutter HomeDel Rio Wines and Spirits, Franklin TN Rear WinesDiamond Tail Ranch, Wyoming – Silver OakDorothy W. Erskine Park, San Francisco – SchoolEstancia La Jolla – Trinitas CellarsFlorence SC – Wetstone CellarsGas Light Building, San Francisco – MerryvaleGiorgios & Frankie Johnny Luigi – (4 Restaurants + New York Style Sausage San Jose area) Essere Franco WineHall Art Hotels Dallas – Hall WineryHertelendy Homeland Block, Oakland California – Hertelendy WinesHollow Horn Farm, Colorado – Lamas Family WinesHornitos, California – Migliavacca Wines CoJan & Maria Shrem – Mission Bay, San FranciscoJerry Draper Interview San Anselmo – Spring Mountain VineyardRetail Heritage, IowaLongfellow, Maryland – Longfellow WinesLouis Roederer, Anderson Valley + SebastopolNotre Dame, Indiana – Duncan Heritage, Silver OakSeveral locations in Michigan – Celani Family WinePaséa Hotel & Spa, Huntington Beach – Trinitas CellarsRedwood Riverwalk Hotel, Fortuna – Gentleman Farm WinesSaddleback OC 21 miles bike ride to the top – Saddleback CellarsSan Lorenzo Pioneer Cemetery – Lewelling, Freemark AbbeySecond Street Restaurants (2) Virginia – Aratas WinerySt. Virginia – Aratas WinerySt. Virginia – Aratas WinerySt. John Mateo – Spring Mountain Vineyard
Sumter, SC – Rivers Marie
Sunridge Nursery, Bakersfield
The Bruery – Washington, DC – Erosion Wine Co
The Bruery (2) Orange County – Erosion Wine Co
To-Kalon Farm – Wellington Florida – Vineyard
Town Hall, Jacksonville FL – Helena View Johnston
Treasury Headquarters, Melbourne OZ
Twomey, Anderson Valley Mendocino County
Vietnam, including a large castle and the Sealinks Resort – RD Winery
Willamette Valley – numerous wineries associated with NV, including the latest Twomey
Wilson, Arkansas – Heitz Cellar.

We met some very inspiring people this year. And it was one of the most positive positions in years.

Sitting for hours with Bonnie Meyer was definitely one of the highlights of the year. In recent years we have interviewed the most important people of Silver Oak one by one and it has been a real pleasure and an honour to hear their opinion and to understand how this winery came into being. In fact, our Silver Oak magazine is the first on the site to exceed 10,000 words in 2020 and is now much longer. One day in August we planned two meetings with winegrowers we didn’t know yet. Our first meeting was with Jonah and Sarah, the owners of Pilcrow Vine. We met on one of the most historic vineyards in the Napa Valley, Ghostblock, near where George Yount lived and planted the first Napa Valley vineyard in the winter of 1838/1839. Almost immediately, before we started, Jonah asked me: Have you ever interviewed the Migliavacca vineyard? Imagine my surprise when he mentioned this producer among a thousand wineries and commercially active producers in the Napa Valley – and I happened to meet Kathy Migliavacca and her winemaker Vincent Traverso just after my visit to Jonah and Sarah. My visit to Katie & Vincent turned into a more hour long tour – a combination of wine, Napa Valley of course, and travel.

Reconnecting with one of the most inaccessible and iconic vineyards in the entire valley has become an obsession and the continuation of the absolutely amazing history has led to new historical (and even physical!) discoveries Lenteberg Vineyard. The search for this property also led me to the great Keith Baker, their client, and the 97 year old Jerry Draper (whose family has owned the beautiful estate La Perla on Spring Mountain for decades).

Spend 4 hours with Scott Palazzo in his Laguna Beach home, sample his range and listen to his fascinating stories.

A meeting with the big man, Charlie Johnston of Helena View Johnston Wine in Calistoga – about 12 years after I first met him.

Getting to know MW Dr. Liz Tach – has led to several tastings with her, including probably the largest 100% Marcellan wine tasting ever held in California (tasting in the old pavilion near the Russian River this summer). It is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, made in the 1960s. It was cool to discover some similarities/types between wines from as far away as France, the US and South America. In the spring of 2021, a friend and I planted about 500 vines on his property in Calistoga. However, do not expect this species to conquer the valley.

Here is a very short list of the best Cabernet Sauvignon I have tasted this year:
2016 PROMISE Cabernet Sauvignon
2017 Pillowcase Cabernet Sauvignon Block Vineyard Haunted
2006 Spring Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
2016 Ecele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
2014 Llamas Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
2018 Riveren Touch Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Death to the
winemakers or those associated with the Napa Valley wine industry we lost this year: Alan Steen, Dolores Cakebread, Mike Doylny, Robert John Nowinski, Tom Seaver and others.

Disappointment and regret:
– The fires have destroyed part of our beautiful valley and its properties (see our other post here for more details)
– Tourist trail down
– Impossible to check in person and whether to take guests to the next wineries: MS Torun and Carneros Della Notte
– Could not meet Seth Kripe of LOLA Wines
– Wanted to meet Warren Winarski, but did not seem a good year to follow, what
– Difficult last minute stop, car turned into vegetable stall, Silverado Trail south, camera in flight, shipwrecked
– Riedel tasting cancelled early March
– Oakville tasting cancelled…

Adios amigos so far away from somewhere in Mexico – we will see you again and resume this project as always in the late winter/beginning of spring.

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