I made a quick trip up to Napa this week to taste at some wineries around the downtown area and had a wonderful tasting experience at JaM Cellars followed by a great culinary experience at Oenotri. While at Oenotri I revisited a hidden gem chardonnay I had tasted about 4 years ago.
First off, JaM Cellars has a cool tasting room that does live music every Friday night. You can really tell that a lot of passion went into creating the retro music vibe theme they have there.
If you already know JaM Cellars you probably know that I was drawn there by the call of their flagship chardonnay, "Butter." Don't let the name fool you, this chardonnay has way more than just a delicious buttery flavor. It starts with a wonderful chardonnay aroma that immediately gets you excited about your first sip. Like it's name, you definitely get that great butter flavor, but I would describe it more as the flavor you get when you put melted butter on brown sugar. Pure deliciousness. The winemaker did an amazing job of counterbalancing the butter with a slight minerality that rounds out the wine nicely. The wine finishes off with a hint of pineapple that invites you to take your next sip.
What is even more exciting about tasting chardonnay at JaM Cellars is that in addition to their California Butter Chardonnay, they have a Napa Butter Chardonnay which is sourced from premier grapes in Napa. In the picture it looks like two bottles of the same wine but you can tell the difference on the bottom of the bottle to see if it is Napa or California Butter.
The Napa Butter was a real treat. It is much more complex than the California Butter. First off, you get toasted marshmallow on the nose with just a hint of brown sugar. The first flavor that hits your tongue is sweetness. Not overpowering in any way, just a nice start to a fantastically balanced chardonnay. As the unique flavors of the wine start to emerge I got hints of roasted pineapple. If you have ever been to a Brazilian BBQ (churrascaria) and had them bring out the roasted pineapple on a sword, that is what it tasted like. The flavor is followed up with a mix of very soft vanilla and melon. I was chatting with the super friendly staff saying that the wine is so well balanced that it is quite difficult to pick out specific flavors. It's just a wine you want to just kick back and sip on. The only downside of the Napa Butter is if you want it you can only buy it from the tasting room.
Insider tip: they did tell me that if you call in you can place an order with the staff and they will ship it to you!
After the tasting I went across the street to Oenotri for dinner. I had been quite a few years ago but had forgotten how great their food is. They do traditional Southern Italian cuisine and they have it mastered. If you are in Napa I highly recommend making Oenotri part of your trip. As a huge bonus for my buttery chardonnay audience, they serve a hidden gem chardonnay here. Make sure you order the Rodde "Coombsville" Chardonnay. You can't get it at the winery or anywhere else that I know of except at the restaurant (as of 1/20/17). If you don't have time for dinner Oenotri has a bar area where you can order the Coombsville by the glass.
David and his team travel around to wineries to taste and find the best chardonnays for our customers. Follow us on our journey to discover great wines, wineries and people.