2011 Diageo Annual Wine Celebration

Saturday, May 21, 2011 was the Annual Wine Celebration held by Diageo Chateau & Wines, Napa, CA. The theme for the event was Derby Days. Attendees were encouraged to wear a unique hat and enter it in the decorative hat contest. We saw hats of all varieties and themes. It was a fun spectator sport!

The event was held in Rutherford in the Beaulieu Vineyards. Our friends Dave and Leslie also came along as our guests. Everyone parks in a big field behind the BV House and they have wine tasting booths and other things like ice cream, appetizers and games lined up down each side of a side road.

Many of the Diageo wineries were present pouring their wines. A benefit of a smaller event is the ability to talk with wine makers, assistant wine makers and cellar managers about the wines. These individuals are so knowledgeable about their wines and explain with skill and pride all the details of their wines.

We spent a fair amount of time visiting with Alison Crary, associate winemaker at Sterling Vineyards. She enthusiastically explained all of the details of the Sterling Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Three Palms Merlot and Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Through conversation, Alison realized we are fans on unoaked white wines and encouraged us to visit the winery to try the many unoaked offerings there. We are adding a trip to Sterling Vineyards to our list of things to do this summer!

I looked without success for a Pinot Blanc to taste. For some reason Chalone Vineyards only brought a Chardonnay. The import booth had the 2007 Domaine Alain Chavy Puligny Montrachet, 2005 Trimbach Gewurztraminer Alsace and the 2000 Trimbach Gewurztraminer Cuvee de Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre Alsace. My favorite of the group was the 2000 Trimbach.

In the red category, my favorite was the 2007 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The flavors were complex, rich and spicy. The 2008 Beaulieu Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir Carneros tasted great as well. The 2007 Hewitt Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford was excellent. Rounding out my favorites was the 2007 Provenance Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Beckstoffer To Kalon – yum.

Lunch was a buffet serving coleslaw, fruit, beans and rice, beans with cumin, spare ribs and fried chicken with biscuits. There was no shortage of food! It all tasted great and servers circulated with Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel to accompany the meal. I chose to have Zinfandel ice cream for desert. It had a pleasant grape flavor with chocolate chips. It was a great dessert for a wine tasting. Next you can hear what Pete has to say about the wines he tasted.

Pete’s notes:
Another fun annual wine celebration from Diageo. If you have been following our blog you will remember we went to the Diageo Black Tie Ball back in February. Diageo does know how to put on an event. As we entered we were given a glass of the 2009 Stellina Di Notte Prosecco. I don’t have a lot of experience with Prosecco so I can only say it was a pleasant bubbly and was drier than other Prosecco that I have had.

Once inside, inside being past the gate as this is all outside, I went to the Acacia pouring stand. I like Acacia Pinot Noir but I was disappointed they were only pouring the 2008 Carneros Lone Tree. It is a real nice Pinot but it would have been nice to taste it against a couple of the other Pinot Noir that Acacia produces. Hopefully, next year there will be more than one. I have the same complaint about Chalone Vineyards, they only had the 2009 Chalone Appellation Estate Chardonnay. I had hoped to taste their Pinot Blanc and Syrah.

Anyway, I continued down the lane to Sterling Vineyards. They were pouring their 2009 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay, 2007 Three Palms Merlot and the 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I liked the Sauvignon Blanc, not as high of acidity as some but the flavor was nice. A nice summer wine for the backyard. The Chardonnay was nice, you could taste the grape rather than just oak as many Chardonnays are made now. The Napa Valley Cabernet is quite nice for the price ($25) but the Three Palms Merlot is the real star. The Three Palms is a really nice wine with great nose and a lot of flavor.

I did skip a couple of wineries, hoping to get back to them later. I always have certain ones I don’t want to miss so I hit them first. On the way, though, I kind of got hijacked by a booth with three wines from outside the USA. The wine representative was right out in the middle of the road and ask me to try his wines. I couldn’t refuse and had intended on tasting these wines later anyway. There was the 2008 Navarro Correas Collecion Privada Malbec, the 2009 New Harbor Malborough Sauvignon Blanc and the 2008 Sacred Hill Central Otago Pinot Noir. The Malbec was nice enough, not overly ripe or overly oaked, just didn’t really grab me, though. The Pinot was nice, kind of a smaller version of the Acacia Pinot I had tasted earlier so if you like your Pinot Noir a little more restrained, this would be a good one to try. The Sauvignon Blanc in the past has been to grassy for me. My friend George loves it, however, so I tried it for him. It actually was pretty good, more herbaceous than grassy this year. It went well with the Hog’s Island Oysters they were serving next door, too.

After a couple of oysters I stopped at the Special Deals table. Here they had several wines that they were trying to clear out and were selling them real cheap. Shawn, a Diageo employee had chosen the wines and she picked a good selection. The wines ranged in age from 1992 to 2006. I probably didn’t mention it earlier but most of the wines being poured could be purchased at a discount. The Special Deals were a big discount. I felt that a couple were a little over the hill and some were quite good. Although, it is all in your taste, what I think may be over the hill may be just right to someone else. If you liked a particular wine the pricing was excellent.

I finally got to my real destination, Hewitt Vineyards. As always Tom Rinaldi did an excellent job with a big but elegant wine. He also does Provenance which I would get to a little further down the road. I spoke at length with Roberto, the Cellar Master at Hewitt/Provenance. We talked about the differences between the Hewitt and Provenance and he told me how he got to see the wines evolve as they went from crush to barrel and then to bottle. Quite an interesting conversation.

Across from Hewitt was Beaulieu Vineyards where Jeffrey Stambor, the winemaker was pouring his wines. The 2008 Maestro Sauvignon Blanc was quite interesting. It was sort of a bridge between the grassy style and a citrus and melon, quite enjoyable. The 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was very good for a $20 wine. The 2007 Georges De Latour Private Reserve of course was excellent. Its really nice to be able to compare a couple of premium wines such as the Hewitt and the Georges De Latour. Each are excellent but while the Hewitt is what I would call “angular” the BV is super smooth. It just depends on what you feel like drinking that day.

I got the call that lunch was being served so I suspended my wine tasting for some fried chicken, ribs and beans and coleslaw. Of course there were other side dishes also but I couldn’t eat everything. There were also some Diageo employees pouring various red and white wines to all of the diners.

After lunch and some conversation I continued on with wine tasting. If you are wondering how we can taste so many wines, you definitely have to learn to spit or you won’t make it through the day. Also, we drink plenty of water, iced containers are all around. If you alternate the reds and whites you can also reduce palate fatigue.

Rosenblum was pouring three nice Zinfandels from three different appellations. Another interesting way to taste, three of the same vintage but one from Livermore, one from Amador County and the last from Paso Robles. Each was good but very different from each other.

I re-tasted the Hewitt and the BV Georges De Latour just to see where my palate was at. Both were still excellent so I continued on. I went to try the Provenance wines. Their Sauvignon Blanc is usually my favorite white but the 2010 vintage was a little too grassy so I guess I’ll switch to something else this summer, maybe the BV. Provenance was pouring the 2007 Napa valley Merlot, 2007 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2007 Oakville Beckstoffer To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon. All were excellent and I liked the Oakville best and then the Rutheford and then the Merlot.

I was hoping Moon Mountain had their Cabernet Franc being poured but it turns out they have been sold and there will be no more Cab. Franc. There were a couple wines they were pouring but I didn’t care for them or make any notes. Although there was a white blend I liked except for the residual sugar, just a little too much for me. Maybe it was the disappointment of no Cab. Franc. I did have a great conversation with the guy pouring who happened to be the manager of the BV House where all the VIPs get to stay.

Next I tried some whites. I had the Puligny Montrachet and the Gewürztraminer Nancy talked about in the beginning of this post. They called it “lean”. Maybe I just don’t have enough experience with white Burgundy but while the flavor was good I felt it was lacking something.

At this point I think I had pretty much had enough and sat down with Nancy and Leslie for awhile. Just occasionally getting up and trying something again. Finally we decided to head home. Quite a fun day!


  1. Pingback: Beaulieu Vineyard Pinot Noir Carneros 2006

  2. P&N, sorry we missed the event—I know it would have been fun to have sipped and supped with you guys. So, no more Moon Mountain at all? Too bad—I’d always enjoyed their reserve Cab and the Cab Franc as well…

    • Yeah, you guys missed a fun picnic. Maybe next year you will be able to make it. Let’s just hope the new owners of Moon Mountain will continue to make good wine. Unfortunately we still won’t see them at the wine celebration.