- Rating: 95 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: $45 or $95, depending on Tasting
- Accepts Reservations: Yes
- Reservation Required: true
Napa, CA 94558
Many of the wineries I taste at, even the ones I love, will focus on a price range and ensure that their brand and products align with their targeted market. As a consumer, it is common to find that as you continue your wine journey, you will graduate off brands and prices as your means and your tastes evolve. At least, that’s what my friends continue to tell me (and sometimes blame me for, haha). I love places like Clos Du Val because they offer a range of products across the price spectrum, enabling you to grow into their portfolio. Not to mention the winery is beautifully clean/classic/chic, the hospitality is great, the wine quality is high, and they are built to drink now or age. Just a great, holistic wine tasting experience.
There are many wineries to choose from in the Stags Leap AVA while driving up the Silverado Trail. Stags Leap Wine Cellars is definitely one of the largest and busiest in the area, but might I suggest heading down the road a bit and pulling into Clos Du Val? In a small AVA, it is one of the smaller wineries that purchases a good deal of fruit to supplement their wine production. When you are a smaller operation, you need to excel at production quality and presentation. And I must say that Clos Du Val nails both. Consumers seem to think so as well since purchasing fruit is a sign that you are great at selling your wine!
Even though their production level and sales continue to grow, Clos du Val maintains a “family and friends” culture inside the winery. Each wine educator is enthusiastic and well versed on their products and will gladly revisit wines for you or let you explore wines outside the tasting sheet if your interest is genuine. It is rare that I receive personalized, follow-up emails after tastings but Clos du Val is one I still remember. You know what I also remember? The fact that I got to taste 8 wines (the tasting experience only lists 4 as guaranteed), 2 of which were different vintages of their flagship wine.
As for the style of the wines, the best way to describe them is “grace with density”. Each of the reds presented with dense color and aromatic intensity, but demonstrated elegance and restraint on the palate. Make no mistake that tannin will be found with abundance, but their texture is very fine for the level of extraction it seems they use. I would not hesitate to recommend them with the best that the district has to offer, especially at matching price points (e.g. the Shafer One Point Five and Cliff Lede Moon Fantasy). I left my tasting with bottles of the Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot because those varietals fascinate me but wouldn’t criticize anyone for keying on the Hirondelle Cabernet instead.
The wines discussed below all can be found HERE
- 2017 Estate Carneros Chardonnay ($55)
- Green-tinted gold in color. On the nose, ripe stonefruit (peach, apricot, melon) flavors meld with cream, butter, and brioche aromas from 50% Malolatic Fermentation (MLF). On the palate, the intense cream and vanilla flavors come out stronger than the yellow and stonefruit. The medium(+) acid isn’t quite enough to balance the medium(+) body, higher alcohol, and the long finish. This is a very big Chardonnay that may seem unctuous and overwhelming to some. But if you like that in your chardonnay (ie. for those Rombauer fans), then you may be up to the challenge of this wine.
- 2016 Estate SVS Merlot, Napa Valley ($65)
- Special Vineyard Select (SVS). Deep, ripe red fruit on the nose that appears to approach black fruit (e.g. Black Cherry). Medium(+) acid, medium(+) smooth and chewy tannins, and high alcohol in structure. On the palate, the red cherry, kirsch, and plum take over with a bit of spice on the finish. There are hints of savory notes on the periphery, but they have not made their mark on the wine. This wine needs to age for 3-5, but probably could go on for 15. I’d enjoy it most somewhere in the middle of that timeline.
- 2016 Estate Cabernet Franc, Hirondelle Vineyard, Stags Leap ($100)
- Super fragrant and beautiful on the high intensity nose. The high pitched elegance is something I could continue to enjoy for an hour. Roses, cherry, strawberry, and vanilla all come together to entrance you. On the palate, the medium body, medium(+) smooth tannin and medium(+) acid just seem calmer and more integrated than the Merlot. The finish goes on for 15 seconds too. A very lovely wine that is just entrancing. It probably could age for a few years, but why wait? NOTE: I did not spit out any of this wine. That might not mean a lot to you, but it means I rank it very highly.
- 2016 Petit Verdot, Napa Valley ($70)
- Another varietal wine that may be underappreciated by others, but not me. Dark ruby in color. Very perfumed with notes of ripe cherry and kirsch, white pepper, cinnamon, strawberry compote, and a floral perfume that blends well with the warm alcohol. My olfactory was tired after the Franc and this wine. On the palate, the tannins are strong and a touch rough with high acid. The flavors start with red and black fruit, but then transition to some earthy and savory notes after the high tannin kicks in to dry your palate. I would love to try this wine after a meal or with steak in the evening and then have another glass after uncorking the same bottle again the next afternoon. I have a feeling the tannins will soften and the savory notes will come out afterwards. I think this is a steal at $70, but if you aren’t Petit Verdot fan, you might disagree.
- 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Hirondelle Vineyard, Stags Leap ($120)
- Their Cabernet from Stags Leap. Super perfumed on the nose that is in line with Stag’s Leap classic style: violets, blue fruit, and a savory undertone that also has some gravel notes. On the palate, this wine is magic. High tannin that is pretty soft at this stage, high acid, high alcohol, full bodied, but it’s all integrated with the wine. This still has aging to do in the bottle to integrate and soften the tannins even more, but also to bring out the savory notes. The flavor profile is already so complex, soft/full on the midpalate, and has a finish that continues on. I would put this just above the Cliff Lede Stags Leap Cabernet, but not quite at the Poetry/Songbook level. Still at this price or the member price ($108), this is a must-have for any cellar.
- 2015 Three Graces ($175)
- Their flagship wine. 54/45/1 ratio of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Normally, Merlot is the pair with Cabernet so this was interesting to me. The wine is sooo intense on the nose, likely from the Franc and the vintage (small harvest due to shatter). On the palate, this wine is brighter and higher acid than the previous cab, but also seems to lack the same depth. Still, the structure on this wine seems like it could age for 25-30 years – it just needs a few extra hours to open up to enjoy to its fullest. The finish is a little short, but likely due to the high tannin.
- 2016 Three Graces ($175)
- This vintage’s ratio is 83/16/1 of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. I prefer this much more than the 2015, even though I am a huge proponent of Franc. The generosity on the nose is beautiful – very similar to the 2016 Estate Cab, but there is an extra layer of gravel/minerality. The palate has added tannin that is already well integrated, but shows that this wine can age for an extra 5-10 years over the Estate Cabernet. And while the 2016 Estate Cab can come off as brooding in the midpalate and finish, the 2016 Three Graces has a vivacity and prettiness that is uncommon in a wine this structured (even at a lower ratio, the Cabernet Franc really makes its mark on this blend).
- 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Hirondelle Vineyard, Stags Leap ($162)
- Wow, what a difference 10 years makes on this wine. The acidity and fruit flavors are still bright but the tannin has totally mellowed out. The savory notes have also had a chance to develop and reveal themselves. Everything is integrated and just pure joy in the glass. My palate was a bit tired at this point and the wine was so good that I stopped taking notes and just enjoyed what was in my glass. For my money, if you asked whether I wanted to drink this or the 2016 Three Graces today, it would be this wine, hands down. So make sure you pick some up and lay some down!
I would be remiss if I also didn’t talk about the membership program at Clos Du Val. Most wineries have very similar benefits (e.g. Free/Discounted Tastings, discounted bottle prices, etc.), but many of them require the member to be present at the winery. Clos Du Val is one of the few places where you can share membership benefits with family members that come through the area without you. My brother is going to be very excited about this, haha. Just something else to keep in mind, if it sways your calculus.
If it doesn’t, I still hope that you visit Clos Du Val when you are in the area. I promise that the wines and the service will not disappoint… Cheers!
Rating: 95 out of 100