The answer is yes. Napa does in fact need another tasting room. This might be a surprising conclusion in a Valley with nearly 500 wineries and a downtown that already has many wine bars and tasting rooms. However, many of Napa Valley’s wineries are not open to the public, in many cases because the artisanal, low-production nature of the business makes it virtually impossible to sustain a winery tasting room and staff. Outland Wines, the newest spot to taste wines, is an important addition to the local scene because it provides a place where three separate wine makers and wine labels can showcase themselves to the public.
This past weekend was Outland’s grand opening which we learned about through the best local source we have. No, not Facebook or Twitter or even the local paper. Our source is the uber-connected Darcy who seems to know everyone and everything in town, including that Outland was opening. We met Darcy and her beau at the new tasting room to taste wines from the three producers whose wines are presented at Outland Wines: Poe Wines, Farella Vineyards, and Forlorn Hope.
When we arrived the place was already hopping – wall-to-wall people, every table and chair occupied, and more than a few people chilling in front of the wine bar.
We love the idea of wine cooperatives, which harken back to the early days of Napa Valley when wineries and wine makers worked together to achieve success for themselves individually with the understanding that it would enable success for all (See our post on another Napa wine cooperative: Holman Cellars). Once we got our bearings we realized we were facing a daunting problem (yes, definitely a First World problem, or more precisely, a Napa Valley problem): which wines to taste. Because there are three wineries at Outland, and each makes wine from multiple varietals, trying one of everything would have been fun …until it wasn’t.
We debated between two approaches: stick with a single winery and taste all or most of their offering; or, pick a few wines from each label to taste. Because we had no prior experience with any of the wines, we opted to try different wines from each of the wine makers. One of us tried the 2015 Forlorn Hope Chenin Blanc and the other the 2013 Forlorn Hope Gewürztraminer.
The Gewürztraminer (on the left) fermented on its skins for a period of time which accounts for that lovely orange complexion. While its typical aromas of honey and lychee seemed to promise a sweet finish, the wine was in fact dry with zero residual sugar – a lovely, crisp and balanced finish. The Chenin Blanc was also balanced and a nice wine but did not have the character and uniqueness of the Gewürztraminer.
As part of our agreed-upon plan to try each of the wineries’ offerings, we moved to Farella where we tasted their Merlot and Malbec, both of which were solid wines, structured and balanced. The price for these wines is far below the Napa Valley average, making them a bargain based on their quality. We also had the opportunity to taste Farella’s 2002 proprietary red blend, Alta, poured out of a magnum; this was a fantastic wine with the type of depth, sophistication and character you would hope for from a 15-year-old red blend.
Before leaving we tried two of the Poe Winery Pinot Noir offerings – the 2013 Van Der Kamp Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma) and the 2013 Manchester Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir (Mendocino). We enjoyed the aroma on both wines; on the palate, we found the finish to be delicate and muted, certainly not the strong, heavy finish generally found with Sonoma Pinot. The two Poe Pinot Noir offerings were more reminiscent of traditional Burgundain-style Pinot and the subtle finish could result from the fact that the wine is unfined and unfiltered.
While the three wineries produce a wide range of different wines, there is an overall philosophy that binds them together: minimal intervention in the making of the wines and letting the varietals show their true aroma, flavor and character. Our recent visit to Outland leaves us wanting to try more wines from each of the three producers and, of course, return to the wine bar soon.
To find out more about Outland or to schedule a time to taste, visit their website: Outland Wine Bar.
John & Irene Ingersoll
March 14, 2017