- Rating: 92 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: Choices from $40 up to $175
- Accepts Reservations: Recommended
- Reservation Required: false
Napa, CA 94558
I love drinking with club members at wineries I have never visited before. In addition to the extra pours you can stumble your way into, you hear crazy stories about the winery or owner’s background that approach the level of urban legend. I happened to have one of those experiences at Robert Sinskey. Have you ever had to settle a debt with someone before without using cash? I have, but it certainly did not include 42+ acres of prime Napa real estate!! When I heard this story, I pictured the $100M Poker Tournament in Montenegro from the movie Casino Royale. Does that mean Robert Sinskey Sr. is James Bond? Who knows… What I do know is that starting in 1988, he began to assemble what is now 200 acres producing 9 grape varieties all around northern California. And while their estate vineyard and winery is in the Stags Leap District, because they hold land in seven Carneros locations, it is one of the rare Napa estates where you can find plenty of Pinot Noir to taste! So if it’s too hot outside for Cabernet, stop by and relax for a while at Robert Sinskey!
Like so many other wineries, their capital originated from outside the wine industry; in this case, the father was an ophthalmic pioneer turned wino. I’ll admit, every time I hear a story about someone transitioning from the medical field to wine, it warms my heart knowing that wine is smiled upon. It also makes sense that Robert Sinskey vineyards are certified organic; it’s good for the body and branding! Today, the son Robert runs the show, working 7 days-a-week to ensure consumers are happy. I was please with my experience and walked away with some Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir (I was very surprised how savory the Pinot was).
Stags Leap is one of the smaller districts in the Napa Valley with 15-20 wineries in the AVA. If you are driving along the Silverado Trail, Robert Sinskey is hard to miss with its signage and elevated winery. And while you may not remember Robert Sinskey for its architecture or story, you will certainly remember it for its wines. As I mentioned earlier, they own significant parcels in Sonoma county, meaning there is a focus on Pinot Noir with Bordeaux varietals as well. I can’t name another winery with Pinot in the area, so if that is your calling, then make sure to stop by. Only 5 acres are planted at the estate with the rest of the grapes coming from their other properties, so do not expect much Cabernet or other Bordeaux varietal wines to taste.
When you get to the winery, they start you off with one of their white wines from Carneros as you decide what tasting you’d like. There is a red-only single vineyard tasting option for $125 or a tasting of their 5 current wines, which includes two Pinot Noirs, for $40. I personally went with the current release of 5 wines and cannot speak to the wines included in the other option. They also have a miniture food pairing available that is delicious (but not a full meal/overwhelming) and pairs well with the wines.
As their wine ambassador put it, the family started out as “dirt farmers”, employing biodynamic and organic farming practices since the beginning of their vineyards. The family also fell in love with Alsace and Burgundy in their travels, hence the focus on Alsacian varietals like Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling and their Burgundian, savory style of Pinot Noir. The wines included in the 5 current release tasting are very distinct from other wines you’ll be able to try in the valley, so I highly recommend making the effort to do so to broaden your horizons.
Without further ado, the wines which can all be found and purchased HERE
- Abraxus Los Carneros 2016 ($36)
- A blend of varietals that you will find in Alsace: Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, etc. The wine has a medium gold color that is not unlike those you would find in Alsace. The nose is pronounced with stonefruit (peach, melon, honeysuckle) and tropical fruit (lychee and pineapple). The palate is medium(+) in weight and integrates with the alcohol well, especially when served cold. There is a sweet, waxy vanilla character to the palate too that makes this wine hefty and reminiscent of Alsacian wines (I was surprised to learn this was 100% tank-fermented - no oak). People may mistake the ripeness for sweetness, but I’m pretty sure that this wine is fermented to dryness. On the palate, the flavors swing back a bit from tropical fruit to ripe citrus notes, supported by the medium(+) acid. A surprisingly bold, ripe white wine that doesn’t rely on oak notes and doesn’t finish too over-the-top.
- Vin Gris de Pinot Noir
- This is a rose of Pinot Noir that is similar to the style of the eastern Loire (e.g. Sancerre). Beautiful, salmon color. On the nose, peach, grapefruit, and a little blood orange. Some weight on the palate with high acid that seems borne of the strong citrus notes. The finish goes on for 10+ seconds and is very pleasant in its citrus notes that aren’t unripe, but more like a lighter orange.
- 2015 Los Carneros Pinot Blanc ($34)
- I had the wine from a 375mL bottle. They are discontinuing bottling the wine in that format because Pinot Blanc oxidizes quicker than they hoped. Even though this is done in all steel, it still has those nutty notes from the age and oxidization, similar to its Alsacian brethren. Deeper in gold than the Abraxus, the ripe citrus and stonefruit flavors clash with the vanilla and nuttiness, giving you a high intensity punch in aromas. Medium(+) acidity provides the structure, but this is a big, ripe, oxidative wine that has plenty of citrus, beeswax, and nut altogether in the glass. I’d like to pair this wine with food that has naturally acidity to it (like a salad with a citrus dressing) but there is also a high-pitched zest that follows in the finish that is pleasant.
- 2015 Los Carneros Pinot Noir ($44)
- Sourced from all 5 of their Pinot vineyards. This is the lightest and leanest of their Pinots. It’s the wine that you pop open with some rotisserie chicken from the store after a long day. On the nose, tart strawberry and cranberry, cedar, mulch, cola, cardamom, and other savory notes. The palate follows the nose with high intensity flavors, high acid, medium tannins, and medium body. It does not have the ripeness level that you expect of California Pinot, but I actually think it’s more complex this way, like a robust version of Oregon Pinot. The intensity makes this hard to drink an entire bottle by yourself, but it’s great by the glass and is capable of standing up against most foods. From 175 acres of vines (just pick and blend).
- 2015 Four Vineyards Pinot Noir ($74)
- Another blended Pinot Noir, but sourced from their premier lots and at a much smaller production than the Los Carneros. The nose is slightly less pronounced in intensity with ripe red fruit notes, less mulch, and more integration between the fruit, savory, and cola notes. The palate also is a little riper, along with more black pepper and stronger cola/cedar notes. The alcohol is a little more noticeable, but integrated with the spiciness in the wine to warm you on the medium(+) length finish. I could see this wine aging for another 5-10 years with its acidity structure and soft tannins. I could drink more glasses of this wine than the last one because of its tighter integration.
- 2013 Merlot ($46)
- Just released and I can see why. The nose is pronounced with smoke, cherry, strawberry and sweet baking spices. The palate still feels a little rough with high sweet, grippy tannins and medium(+) acidity. Once you get past that, the medium(+) intensity of red fruit, sweet baking spices, wood, and some green, stalky notes coat the palate. The wine is very cerebral – there are both ripe and underripe notes, as if Merlot from different plots were blended together to give that complicated feel. It might take a few years before it enters “easy drinking” territory.
- 2015 Point of View ($44)
- A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. On the nose, you get medium(+) intensity notes of deep red fruit, sweet spices, a little garrigue, and other savory character. On the palate, the ripeness level is lower than expected with higher acidity levels. The savory and red fruit notes dance around each other. Beautiful, easy drinking wine that will make your Right-Bank loving friends happy. Give this some time to integrate the tannins even more, but the already soft, powdery tannins are not unpleasant today. This wine continues to grow on me the longer I enjoy it in my glass. I could definitely see myself finishing a bottle by myself.
Another thing you will notice about the wines at Robert Sinskey are their affordability. I know the feeling where you love the wines at a winery, but then feel dread after looking at the price tag. You won’t have that bottom here, meaning it’s a matter of how many cases to take home, not bottles, haha. I enjoyed my tasting at Robert Sinskey and I hope that you do as well. If you get a group to pile into that empty sofa pictured earlier, send me a picture! Cheers!!
Rating: 92 out of 100