Day 2 of WBC09: First Mystery Vineyard Was Sterling Vineyards

For the Wine Bloggers’ Conference day around Napa Valley, conference participants split into small groups and visited a number of different Napa wineries. My bus’ first stop was the historic Sterling Vineyards. Having studied the vineyard for my WSET course, I was particularly excited when I heard that this was one of our winery tours.

As our bus turned into the vineyard, we picked up winemaker Alison Crary. She talked to us about the vineyard as we drove from the entrance, which is at the bottom of the valley, to the winery, which is perched up high on a hill. Once at the top, when we walked from the bus to the private tasting room, there was sneak peak at the gorgeous view of the valley from the vineyard’s overlook.

In the private room, Sterling Vineyards had a great set up of three wines for us to taste. The 22 of us also received boxed Dean & Deluca lunches and listened to Alison talk about the wines as we hurriedly ate and tasted. Unfortunately, we were running a little behind schedule, so there wasn’t any time to dawdle.

The three wines we tasted—a Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay, and a Cabernet Sauvignon—were from Sterling’s new organic wine collection. However, the grapes were actually grown in Mendocino County, not from the Napa Valley, which was something that bothered me. Don’t misunderstand; it was exciting to taste their new collection, particularly as the Cabernet Sauvignon is not being released until September. However, as the Napa Valley Vintners were a premier sponsor of the WBC and as conference attendees were spending the day visiting Napa Valley wineries, it seemed slightly disingenuous to have our group taste Mendocino wines while we were visiting the Napa vineyards.

As for the wines themselves, they are all made from organic grapes and are all under $20. The wines have screw top closures and are meant for immediate drinking, rather than for cellaring.

The Sauvignon Blanc was not only my favorite of the three wines, but also the least expensive. The wine had nice, bright grapefruit and pineapple flavors with a hint of fresh cut grass. It was a beautiful, refreshing wine with a light body and good acidity. It seemed perfect for a hot summer day. At $14, it is definitely worth grabbing a bottle if you see it. Overall: 4 Corks

The Chardonnay had a little more body and a slightly deeper color than the Sauvignon Blanc did. The wine definitely spent some time in oak, although not too much time. It tasted of apples, pears, peaches, and vanilla with a hint of nutmeg and lime on the finish. At $15, this was a nice, medium-bodied chardonnay. You won’t find anything unusual in the taste, but it was a solid, good wine. Overall: 3 Corks

The Cabernet Sauvignon was the newest wine in the organic grape collection, and it was by far my least favorite. It had plum, olive, and blackberry flavors, with a hint of sour cherry on the finish. The wine had strong tannins and medium acidity. At $18, it seemed a little young and just ok. Overall: 2.5 Corks

Once the tasting was over, Alison walked us to the vineyard’s overlook terrace. In order to get to the overlook, we walked past steel fermentation tanks and oak barrels all filled with wine.

We spent some time at the vineyard’s overlook discussing the winery, specifically, and details about Napa terroir, in general. It was a perfect weather and the overlook was beautiful, so it’s no surprise that we spent as much time talking outside as we did.

Finally, we finished our tour of Sterling Vineyards with a ride in gondolas to the bottom of the mountain. From there, we immediately boarded the bus without a chance to purchase any of the wines we just tasted.

Surprisingly, this was the first of many vineyards that never offered us a chance actually to buy anything we tasted. If we had been offered, I definitely would have purchased several bottles of the Sauvignon Blanc, as they would be perfect to bring to a bbq, both because it tasted great and it would have made a great conversation starter to say that I bought them while at WBC09. Oh, well.


  1. Alleigh says

    Thanks Mark! Having never been to Napa before, I found the view absolutely stunning. It was a photographer's dream.

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