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Oregon’s Willamette Valley view from Penner Ash

Is there anything better for those of us who love wine than a really, really great glass of juice?

I do taste a lot of wine at price points up to $100, I’d guess. I buy some wine in the $40-$60 range and just a few a bit higher. I opened two great wines this weekend that just lights the inner fire to share these great labels and names with those who read my wine writing.

Both wines originated in iconic U.S. wine regions – Napa Cab and Oregon Pinot Noir – and they rocked!

Sattui sits at the north end of Napa on Highway 29

V. Sattui 2007 Mt. Veeder Napa Cabernet -This wine comes from one of Napa’s most unique producers. V. Sattui, one of the region’s oldest wineries, only sells its wine from the tasting room or online sales through its website. It is one of the most visited wineries in Napa.

I tasted through several of their wines during a March 2012 visit. The wines were consistently good. I remember liking a Zinfandel quite a bit before we got to the Cabs. The higher end Cabernet was excellent. I narrowed it down to a couple and purchased a bottle of the Mt. Veeder Cab for $48 which is now listed on their website for $53.

The wine is rich and supple with uber smooth tannins, hints of all sorts of dark fruit like cherry and currants. It is a bit softer than many Napa Cabs which is part of its attraction.

Mt Veeder is one of the premier appellations in the region. Here is a great description from weine-searcher.com:

The eponymous Mount Veeder peak is 2700ft (825m) high, and marks the boundary between Napa and Sonoma counties. The appellation’s highest vineyards lie on a south-west-facing slope just below the summit, and stretch up to 2630ft (800m). 

Located five miles (8km) north-west of Sonoma town and half that distance again from Napa town, Mount Veeder lies equidistant from the two valleys which are arguably the most important in the United States.

This young lady appeared as we finished tasting!

The bottom line is absolutely great Cabernet at a half, or less, the price of many premier Napa Cabs. V. Sattui is a good stop for any first time Napa visitor. They have large deli where all sorts of cheese and other foods are available. There is plenty of room outside to have your own picnic. Some snobs turn their collective noses up at places like V. Sattui but it’s perfect for the first time visitor. The staff was very friendly and knowledable during my visit.

They also have a little fun. Plenty of tasting rooms are very welcoming. But many of the upper end wineries certainly can come off as a bit snobbish. The people here depend on tasting room sales and they know. Staffers make the tasting room experience fun.

V. Sattui 2007 Mt. Veeder Napa Cab, $53, Highly Recommended

Penner Ash 2009 Dussin Vineyard Pinot Noir – I love Pinot Noir and have grown very, very fond of Oregon Pinot. I opened this with a good friend who really appreciates Pinot and we were both just blown away.

I picked up this bottle during a summer 2012 visit at the Willamette Valley winery. Lynn Penner-Ash is certainly an icon in Oregon winemaking. This is the top of her line of great wines. They are widely available (including in Indiana.) You might have trouble finding this particular bottle but her other offerings are worth a search.

This is a small production wine with usual production around 500 cases. The 2010 is the only Dussin Vineyard on the Penner Ash website and it’s listed for $60. My memory fails me but I felt like I paid closer to $70 for this bottle. It was worth every hard-earned nickel.

Penner Ash tasting room action.

Wine Spectator gave the wine 92 points and I couldn’t agree more. I might even go a point or two higher. The wine is almost floral with it’s rich and silky dark fruit. It’s very smooth and enjoyable on the palate with the depth and complexity a serious wine drinker would expect at this price point.

The 2008 Oregon vintage was hailed as one of best in years. I tasted the 2009 early after release and was generally unimpressed. But when I tasted the ’09s a summer ago was really taken by the bold fruit and silky qualities.

Frankly, I have several favorite Willamette Valley producers and this bottle added Penner Ash to the list. There are lower entry points for price and they are worth a try. This particular wine is a great example of how you can buy awesome Pinot Noir without paying Burgundy prices.

Penner Ash 2009 Dussin Vineyard Pinot Noir, $60, Very Highly Recommended.

All photos in this post by my friend Drew Casey, who is now a tasting room associate at Chateau St. Jean in California’s Sonoma County.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com