By Celia Strong
Another weather incident has come and gone, and we were lucky this time. Some thought it better to be safe than sorry and evacuated, while others surely relaxed and escaped into a good wine. Off to Napa Valley we go.
Oberon is a winery in Napa, that makes several wines, all the work of their winemaker, Napa native Tony Coltrin. Tony was born and raised in St. Helena and has spent more than 40 years making Napa wines. As a teenager he worked harvest at a family friend’s winery, and he was hooked. All these years in the Napa wine industry means all kinds of contacts with growers and other winemakers, as well as access to the great grape sources in Napa. At Oberon, which is owned by the Michael Mondavi family, he is able to make wines that express the joy of Napa. As he says, “Being a winemaker is not something I do every day, it’s who I am every day”
Oberon Napa Sauvignon Blanc has a distinctive style. Its grapes are sourced from the Oak Knoll and Carneros areas of Napa. It is from the blending of these two sources that this wine is able to excel. Oak Knoll is located in the most southern part of Napa. It has a cool, maritime climate that results in a longer growing season for the grapes. Sandwiched between the city of Napa and the Stag’s Leap district, the vineyards have deep alluvial soils with plenty of exposure. Long sunny days let the grapes ripen with concentrated fruits and great balance. Carneros is located across the southern end of both Napa and Sonoma counties. This is a cool growing area, with vineyards on low-lying hills. Its soils are predominantly shallow clay, with poor drainage and fertility. Again, vines are forced to struggle but, the season is a long one and the grapes ripen with intense and vivid flavors.
By combining Sauvignon Blanc grapes from these two areas, Oberon’s wine has bright acidity and layers of fresh flavors including green apple, kiwi, pear and melon. It also has an underlying richness and great complexity. One-third of the grapes are barrel fermented which helps maximize the fruitiness of this wine and add to its creamy finish. For $15.99.
Oberon Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is made with grapes sourced from Rutherford, Oakville, Chiles Valley and Capell Valley. Rutherford, one of the two most important of these, is located north of Oakville. It is a bit warmer than Oakville with alluvial soils. Rutherford wines are uniform in their structure and style — fruit forward and elegant and consistently high-quality. Oakville, the second major source, lies on the valley floor. It has a perfect climate with warm sunshine for the grapes. The sun burns off early morning fogs, then the afternoon breezes come, allowing the grapes hours every day to ripen and develop their fullest flavors. Oakville soils are well-draining alluvial, which encourages the vines’ roots to grow deep, making them work harder. This helps Oakville wines achieve richness, complexity, density and aging potential.
This Napa Cabernet is made from hand-harvested grapes, fermented in stainless steel with lengthy maceration after the fermentation. Malolactic fermentation is done in French oak and the wine is aged in barrels for 14 months. Again, their winemaker blends grapes to achieve gorgeous flavors — black cherries, black currants, blackberries, baking spices, espresso powder, and dark chocolate — into a deep-colored wine with supple tannins and a long finish. For $20.99
So, with 40 years living and working in Napa, Tony Coltrin and Oberon have a lock on making Napa wines. Knowing how the grapes grow and what they taste like from every parcel of land is key, and Oberon’s wines prove it. Enjoy.
Celia Strong works at Bill’s Liquor & Fine Wines on Lady’s Island.