Yesterday I went to the Pritchard Hill party at Chappellet. I took Harry. We hadn’t gotten in trouble in a while. I had never taken him to Chappellet because of their M-F appointment only policy. On one hand, it’s a pain in the ass, on the other hand, it weeds out the riff raff and I can respect Donn Chappellet for doing that. Having been to many wine club parties over the years, I can say that it does weed out to the riff raff. At the end of the day you’re left with amazing wine, incredible food and a family that it’s truly great to hang around with. The Chappellets moved to Pritchard Hill in 1967, so they were working with a Summer of Love 1967 theme. This was their 40th anniversary on the hill. They had a station for tie dying t-shirts, a band playing stuff from the late 60’s, a guitarist up at the winery playing instrumental versions of the all Beatles songs, and a soundtrack to their powerpoint slide show full of Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass. The food was off the hook. Polenta squares with a slice of sausage and a dab of tequila lime pesto. Roasted lamb sandwiches with a red pepper aioli. A portable pizza oven with a margerita pizza, an anchovy goat cheese pizzas, a fig prociutto gorgonzola pizza and another one with olives and some kind of cheese that we never managed to get a piece of. I fell into the lemon bars and couldn’t get out. Harry fell into the pecan bars and struggled out. The wine.
I found out about Chappellet in the mid 80’s. There was an article about their winemaker, a woman, an anomaly back then, in the Chronicle. The winemaker’s name was Cathy Corison. Cathy Corison went on to be a rock star in the valley and now owns her own winery, Corison Winery. Mia Klein studered under Cathy Corison and is a rock star in her own right. Anyway, I had to go up there and try the wine. It was amazing and I bought a bottle of the 1984 Signature Cab. They said you could hold it for 22 years. I paid around $20 for it. A couple of years ago, I googled the bottle and found it going for $220 a bottle. I drank it that fall. Philip Titus in now the winemaker at Chappellet. Most winemakers will tell you that the best wine is made in the fields. The winery is secluded way about the Napa Valley. There are no signs. There probably never will be. The family runs the whole thing. Yesterday we went on a walking tour where they discussed organic farming. While the vineyard manager was brilliant, he was hard to listen to, I wished Jon-Mark Chappellet had done the entire talk. He had such passion for the land and the wine. Chappellet is now a certified organic farm. They don’t make organic wine, but they are an organic farm. There is a difference. Frog’s Leap is the same way. They’re an organic farm too. I think Caymus is as well. All the great wineries are farms first. Great wine begins in the vineyard. A commitment to the land is what makes their wines so amazing. We had everything they made yesterday and then some. The best part was the library. Of the Signature Cabernets they had 1999, 1993, 1987, 1980, 1975 and 1971 open. As time passes these wines become elegant. Harry and I decided that 1980 was our favorite. Truth be told, we didn’t drink a bad wine all day.