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At their year-old Cadet wine bar in downtown Napa, Colleen Fleming and Aubrey Bailey are celebrating the greatest wines California has to offer. Here their picks for 12 bottles to accompany your fireworks this holiday weekend.
Anyone who’s been paying even the tiniest bit of attention knows that there’s a whole new generation of winemakers that are rocking the boat and pushing the boundaries of California winemaking.
At Cadet in downtown Napa, twenty-somethings Colleen Fleming and Aubrey Bailey are redefining what it means to be a Napa wine bar, filling their list with old and new producers from all around California—as well as from around the world, which is almost unheard of in Napa. Their bar is a late-night hangout for winemakers who know that if you buy a bottle, you also get to choose an album to play from the stack of LPs at the end of the bar.
Since July 4 marks the first anniversary of Cadet, and because they’re entirely immersed in the best of California, we asked Fleming and Bailey to select a case of distinctly California wines to drink over the holiday weekend. Here, their 12 bottles:
1. 2009 Mayacamas Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon
“The Mayacamas vineyards sit at 1,800 to 2,400 feet above sea level on Mount Veeder in Napa Valley with a wild, truly American history dating back to 1889,” says Fleming. “It’s the terroir of this property that makes these wines so unique – volcanic rocks and decomposed lava in an area that has a cooler climate than most of the rest of Napa. The wines dating back to the 70s are truly remarkable now and the current release Cabernet has the structure to age in your cellar or the power to pair with that aged rib-eye this holiday.”
2. 2013 Stony Hill Napa Valley Riesling
“Stony Hill has been the rebellious white wine producing family in red wine-soaked Napa Valley since 1947,” says Fleming. “Some of the greatest old California wines we’ve tasted have been Stony Hill’s Rieslings, Chardonnay’s and Gewürztraminers. We love the intensely flavored 2013 Riesling with floral and citrus undertones, taut minerality and bracing acidity. It’s a great wine to pair with spicy dishes and seafood.”
3. 2013 Failla Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
“We can’t stock Failla’s Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir fast enough – it just flies off the shelf,” Fleming told me. “For around $33 retail you can’t find a better value in Northern California Pinot. To us this is a great example of a varietally correct Pinot from Sonoma. It’s neither too rich nor too lean; it’s just a perfect balance of elegance and California sunshine and it pairs with just about anything from pork tacos to brined and grilled chicken.”
4. 2014 Onward Petillant Naturel Malvasia Bianca
“Winemaker Faith Armstrong-Foster is known for her devotion to Pinot Noir, but recently she started began making Malvasia Bianca that she sources from the Suisun Valley. She’s doing it in two forms: Skin Fermented as well as Pétillant Naturel—or 'Pet Nat,' as the kids say,” jokes Fleming. “We recommend this naturally sparkling wine for the 4th of July this year because it is a truly unique and highly aromatic wine, but it is also a party in a bottle. This wine is so ridiculously fun it will get everybody hooting and hollering and dancing and running naked through the sprinklers at 2 a.m.”
5. 2014 Massican Annia White Blend
“Dan Petroski is a great example of pure passion coming to fruition,” says Bailey. “He’s a Brooklyn native who was working in publishing and really had no ties to Napa, just a passion for wine. Napa Valley isn't exactly known for northern Italian white grape varietals like Tocai Friulano and Ribolla Gialla, but they’re the grapes that have Petroski’s attention. His determination and eagerness to learn everything he can about wine has earned him a place in the hearts of many in the wine community. His 2014 Annia is packed with bright citrus flavors. Make sure it's chilled down and drink it with those great cold summer pasta salads with olives.”
6. 2012 Calder Meyer Vineyard Charbono
“Winemaker Rory Williams has a distinctly American spirit. He has tirelessly hunted down old-vine, dry-farmed vineyards and nearly extinct varietals in California,” says Fleming. “We are obsessed with this Charbono from the 40- to 50-year-old vines in the Meyer Vineyard in Napa Valley’s Calistoga. It has wonderful cherry-cola aromas and a foxy, forest floor note with dusty tannins and balanced acidity. It’s wonderful paired with grilled meats.”
7. 2012 Enfield Heron Lake Chardonnay
“John Lockwood (aka, Jonny Law) got his start in the cellars at Littorai, helped David Mahaffey at Olivia Brion and worked in the vineyards and cellars at Failla. In 2010 he took the leap into making his own wines under the Enfield label with an opportunity to work with Chardonnay vines from the Heron Lake Vineyard in the almost unheard of Wild Horse Valley on the border of Napa and Solano counties,” says Bailey. “His Enfield wines are sourced from Sonoma Coast to Amador County, but we’re particularly drawn to this intensely concentrated but extremely balanced and mineral-driven Chardonnay.”
8. 2014 Jolie-Laide Rorick Heritage Vineyard Pinot Gris
“Known lovingly as the 'Hunk of Hipster Wines,' Scott Schultz made a name for himself with his hallmark Trousseau Gris but we can't help but fall for his Pinot Gris,” says Bailey. “From line-cook to sommelier to clueless cellar intern, Schultz's natural talent for wine has shined through. He sources a very small amount of Pinot Gris from the vineyards of Matthew Rorick of Forlorn-Hope. Light, easy drinking and refreshing it's great on hot days with light foods like ceviche and grilled fish with green veggies.”
9. 2012 Realm The Bard Bordeaux Blend
“This is a great representation of a new generation of Cabernet producers in Napa Valley,” says Bailey. “Juan Mercado literally risked it all to start Realm. And even though his entire first vintage was lost in a warehouse fire, he was able to push ahead, forging significant relationships to be able to get fruit from historic vineyards like Beckstoffer, To Kalon and Dr. Crane, and make a name for himself in a short period of time. With winemaker Benoit Touquette on board, Realm is certainly a project that will be fun to watch grow. As with all young Cabernets, we encourage our guests to properly decant this wine and serve it with something substantial like grilled pork chops or marinated carne asada.”
10. 2012 Joseph Swan Côtes du Rosa Carignane
“The 2012 vintage is the last-ever from the 80 year-old Carignane vineyard on Mancini Ranch,” says Bailey. “Joseph Swan, an iconic Russian River winery, has been creating quality wines in the Russian River for over 40 years. It has deep roots in California's wine history starting with legend Andre Tchelistcheff, a good family friend as one of the first consultants on the project. This wine is a great representation of Carignane; it’s tart, fruity and fresh.”
11. 2012 Farella Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon
“The Farella family has been making wine and farming in Napa for over 30 years. This Cabernet is one of Napa’s newest AVAs, Coombsville, an area we are really excited about,” says Bailey.
12. 2013 Poe Manchester Ridge Pinot Noir
“Sam Sheehan is part of the new generation of California wine entrepreneurs,” says Bailey. “She’s very much involved in the wine community and is creating vastly different but focused projects, from her affordable and lovely table wines under her Boson and Ultraviolet Wine labels to her very serious single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs under the Poe label. For a real treat, pair this Pinot with grilled salmon and wild mushrooms.”
Cadet, 930 Franklin St., Napa; 707-224-4400.