The seminar was given by three members of a Napa-based group called NG, the Next Generation in Wine, a 30-someodd member group of (you guessed it) at least 2nd generation winemakers and vineyard owners. Representing the group were Janet Viader of Viader Winery (daughter of founder Delia Viader), Fernando Frias of Frias Family Vineyard (son of founder Manuel Frias, Sr.), and Chris Hall of Long Meadow Ranch Winery (son of founder Ted Hall).
Each had brought two of their family’s wines for the tasting, and the seminar began with a little introduction to each winery.
Viader Winery was founded in 1986 by Delia Viader, a native of Argentina who originally came to the US as a graduate student. Located on the lower slopes of Howell Mountain in the northeast portion of the Napa Valley, Viader specializes in Bordeaux varietal wines with an occasional Syrah or Tempranillo sprinkled in for good measure. The flagship wine, called Viader, is a 60%/40% blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
The current iteration of Long Meadow Ranch (LMR) was begun by Ted Hall in 1989, but the ranch property has a long and storied history dating back to the 1870s. The ranch is located on the opposite side of the valley from Viader, situated on the slopes of the Mayacamas mountains between Mount Veeder to the south and Spring Mountain to the north. Producing primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, Long Meadow Ranch is also known for olive orchards and olive oil making, cattle and horse breeding, an egg-laying poultry flock, and the organic vegetable production. All crops are certified organic and aregrown without the use of herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers.
The Frias Family Winery is located just a little north of Long Meadow Ranch on the slopes of Spring Mountain. Growing up in San Francisco, Manny Frias, Sr. fell in love with Napa Valley and purchased 100 acres in 1977, and planted the first 5 acres of vines in 1985. With now 30 acres under vine, Frias Family makes several wines including Merlot, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc, but are known for their Cabernet Sauvignon.
We started off the tasting with 2 Sauvignon Blancs - the 2008 LMR from the Rutherford AVA, and the 2008 Frias Napa Valley. The Long Meadow Ranch SB is fermented in stainless steel, and is cold stabilized after fermentation to block malolactic fermentation. The citrusy fruit aromas are classic, along with a bit of cut grass. The wine is crisp, with bright acidity and relatively low alcohol. The Frias is different, seeing 25% neutral American oak, which makes this wine a bit rounder and fuller than the first, with spice notes to complement the grapefruit and candied lemon peel, guava, fig and gooseberry.
We then shifted to reds, beginning with the 2007 Dare (by Viader) Cabernet Franc (Napa). The wine has aromas of pencil lead, black cherry, and dark chocolate. It is mouthfilling with loads of dark fruits, well integrated tannins, and a long finish.
Next were the 2005 LMR Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa) and the 2006 Frias Cabernet Sauvignon (Oakville). The Long Meadow Ranch just leaps out of the glass with aromas of black fruits, cedar, and Yunnan tea. The palate shows some earthiness, with concentrated fruit, big ripe tannins and enough acid for the long haul. The Frias, not to be outdone, also shows a huge nose of dark chocolate, cherry, and blackberry, with barrel spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and cigarbox. That cherry wrapped in chocolate shows on the palate, with big but silky fine tannins (an iron fist in a velvet glove) and brisk acidity that leaves your mouth watering.
We finished with the 2006 Viader Red Wine. This is a wine of two minds - there is cassis and minerality from the Cabernet Sauvignon, and floral and spice and dark red cherry components from the Cabernet Franc. There is a significant tannic grip, as this wine is from grapes grown on steep, rock strewn slopes that face the afternoon sun.
Left to Right - Janet Viader, Chris Hall, and Fernando Frias
What struck me as a I sat and listened was how at ease and unpretentious these three young people were. They have grown up around the business, have probably known one another most of their lives, and it showed. Janet Viader is, by her own admission, a bit of a geek, but watching her during the Grand Tasting and before and after this seminar, she knows how to work a crowd. Chris Hall is as passionate about food as he is wine and, in addition to the marketing he does for the winery, has opened a restaurant that features Long Meadow Ranch's all-natural grass-fed beef, organic vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, and honey. Fernando Frias has been in and around vineyards his whole life, and you can sense the familial pride he takes in representing the Frias wines around the country.
If these three are any indication of the knowledge, drive, and dedication of the Next Generation, there will be alot of great wines in our future.