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Marie Elena Martinez

Marie Elena Martinez

Posted: November 23, 2010 11:28 AM

A trip to Napa usually entails hitting some of the big wineries for tours and tastings. Robert Mondavi is a crowd-pleaser, ditto Beringer, Gallo, and Krug. But for me, it was the smaller vineyards, and the lesser-distributed labels that blew my palate wide open. These are not wineries with glossy, souped-up tasting rooms. These are wineries that merely go about the business of producing small quantities of really terrific wines. Visiting these places and talking with their winemakers makes me want to pass on these gems as a service to my fellow wine aficionados. Hence, my three choices for Napa's best kept secrets.

Tricycle Wine Company
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It was 1995. Peter Molnar was tending to his family's grapes; winemaker Michael Terrien had just come out of UC Davis' wine program. Friends, they started crafting wine from Primo's Hill, a seven-acre block on the Molnar family's Poseidon's Vineyard lot. An intense high altitude Pinot Noir resulted, and Kasmer & Blaise -- labeled after their relatively odd middle names: Kasmer (Peter's) and Blaise (Michael's) -- caught on. K&B is sold in micro-quantities which means you better get on the mailing list fast, as it's pretty much good as gone.

Tricycle has grown to encompass two other single vineyard labels from Carneros and the North Coast: Molnar Family and Obsidian Ridge. Molnar Family seemed a natural evolution of the Molnar business, utilizing the grapes being sold to other wineries for their own Pinots and Chardonnays. Last came Obsidian Ridge, a label named for a piece of unused land that begged a chance. Similar in feel to the Molnar discovery of Poseidon's Vineyard in 1973, Obsidian Ridge differed in that the rocky soil was a breeding ground for Cabernet and Syrah, two varietals that Tricycle wasn't yet making. This year's Half Mile, a new Obsidian offering that is produced on half-mile high grounds in Carneros (2,640' elevation), is already sold out.
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