Welcome to our newest series, The Somm Set. Each month we’ll be sitting down with a guest sommelier and uncovering their guilty pleasures, cellar staples, and everything in between! Follow as they hand-select their favorites from our warehouse, giving you the inside scoop on cellar must-haves!
This month on The Somm Set, we’re excited to feature Advanced Sommelier Jodi Bronchtein of Press Napa Valley. We took the time to ask her everything from her aha-moment sip of wine to her current adventures in the Napa Valley.
This week from Jodi Bronchtein:
Though we are all merely trying to stay on top of a new and bizarre school year, thwarted travel plans, scary news, an election year, a worldwide pandemic, and abysmal air quality resulting from fires here on the West Coast, I have good news.
It is harvest in Napa Valley. Seems trite against the above stressors, no?
Despite the above, the season is happening, and it is more than welcome. Freshly-fermenting grape smells, bright lights set up in the vineyards for night-picking, lightning-fast crews, stacks of bins, and cooler evenings are here.
So why do you care? Because you can be here in spirit, and through wine.
Scarecrow. Screaming Eagle. Schrader. Seven Stones. All Napa bankers. If you have them, you probably aren't drinking them, and if you don't have them, you wish you did. So what to do when you want to be in Napa, on a Monday, drinking the above?
You look at the winemakers and drink what ELSE they are producing—fantastic strategy in general, and especially now.
Celia Welch, Andy Erickson, Thomas Rivers Brown, and Aaron Pott as a group have made wine for not only the above labels, but most likely the top thirty wineries you can name off the top of your head as favorites: Staglin, Spottswoode, Quintessa, Dalle Valle, and Harlan included.
Celia Welch is the winemaker for Scarecrow, but also for three labels I sell on a daily basis at PRESS; Keever, Kelly Fleming (until 2013, now Rebecca George is the winemaker, and she is making not only Kelly Fleming, but Mojave. They are stunners), and her own label, Corra. They are my go-to wines for those who tell me they want a balanced cabernet, smaller-production, and something they may not have heard of. They are approachable, but can be cellared, and absolutely outpunch their weight class.
Andy Erickson has done everything. Really. Add Mayacamas to a CV that includes Harlan and Screaming Eagle and a new venture atop Atlas Peak to Favia. Favia is a label he and his wife, Annie Favia, started in 2003 in Coombsville. These wines overdeliver and surprise with focused structure and multilayered fruit. Also, Coombsville AVA is where many of your pricey cab producers get their cooler climate cab and blend it with valley floor fruit to get both power and richness. More on Coombsville in a later post. For now, trust that Favia will delight and impress anyone. For fun, pour it for someone that thinks Napa cabs are one-note wines. Incorrect on several levels. I offer Favia up as dead solid proof.
He also makes Arietta, a label so complex and full of energy that I am thrilled to talk about it. H Block from famed Hudson Vineyard? Merlot clone from Three Palms? Merlot and Syrah blends? Big Energy Saturday night Cabernet? A white that IS New World Bordeaux Blanc? Yes, all of it. Owners Fritz and Caren are beyond amazing humans and cook, pair their wine with food and laughter, and do their wine trials in a beautiful house in St. Helena. At PRESS, we make sure we have a vertical of these wines because they are exquisite and rare outside of the Valley's radar. Fritz is a world-class Auctioneer and is the voice of Auction Napa Valley. (I cannot wait until the day we can attend that again, p.s.)
Thomas Rivers Brown
Thomas Rivers Brown is a winemaker (and fellow U.Va Alum) that is doing everything you love. I sold so much of his Rivers-Marie wine when I started at PRESS that I was encouraged by my insanely wonderful Beverage Director, Amanda, to perhaps give other producers a chance. Maybach. Maybach is if the one-who-got-away and a highly-trained operative who speaks seven languages fluently had a wine together. We have none left, so telling you to buy it is a sacrifice, really. Lush, velvety mid-palate, eyebrow-raising finish, an absolute treat for yourself or with dinner.
Aaron Pott. Full disclosure, I have little objectivity when it comes to this winemaker, his style, his philosophy, even his bottles. He makes Greer, which is what I pull out whenever we have a guest who thinks they have seen and done it all in terms of Napa cabernet. Mr. Greer brought his wine to the team at PRESS last year to taste, and we were kicking each other under the table. When I asked how much the wine was, he told me he didn't know he had never sold it to a restaurant. The wine was so dense, brooding, and layered; it was a revelation. We asked who the winemaker was. He said, Aaron Pott. THE END. I bought a vertical and scheduled a visit.
Perhaps you think you have done Napa cab and there is not a lot that can surprise you. Aaron Pott's wines will change your mind. I buy anything he makes, without even tasting it. I have never been disappointed.
He has a home vineyard, called Chateauneuf-du-Pott, on Mt. Veeder. His children picked the dragon etching on the label. He cares deeply about farming practices (his children and wife are part of the team, after all), has outrageous names, and is as close to a Renaissance Man as a person and winemaker than anyone I have met in Napa.
And the wines. I sold the last POTT wine I had in house last week. These are the Napa wines I bring to impress and drink. With no qualms, no worries, and with complete joy.
They are wines of great feeling. Of texture. Of the deepest dark fruit and the brightest lift. Of intoxicating violet perfume and passion. Mic drop wines. Please enjoy responsibly.
Read our full interview with Jodi on our blog!
Check out all the wines mentioned below!