First, it is part of Napa history. George C. Yount, the founder of Yountville, planted the vineyard in 1838. It changed hands several times before coming under the ownership of Christian Moueix, the owner of Chateau Petrus in Bordeaux. Grapes from the Napanook vineyard have been used in some of the most iconic wines in the history of Napa Valley, including the classic Inglenook wines of the 1940’s.
Second, there is an air of mystery surrounding the place. You can see it off Highway 29 west of Yountville, but it’s not open to the public. The long, low building is constructed of walls filled with dark rocks (apparently the proper term is “gabion”). The website blames the inability to visit on a “restrictive permit,” but I also think being closed to the public makes it that much more intriguing. I can’t help thinking of the classic children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Everyone in town was curious about the inner workings of the chocolate factory, but only the lucky few who found a golden ticket in their chocolate bar were allowed through the gates.
We’ve tried a bottle or two of each Napanook vintage back to 2008 and every time I open one, I half-jokingly hope for a golden cork. The 2012 is delicious. As is always the case with this estate, the wine is elegant and balanced. It’s a little lighter on the palate and more fruit-forward than previous vintages, likely due to the warmer vintage. The aroma as I swirled the glass reminded me of a berry tart baking in the oven. The longer we left the bottle open, time seemed to pull out the minty and herbal characteristics we enjoy in a Cabernet. I thought the 2009 – 2011 vintages would be exceptional with a few years of bottle age. Personally, I would drink this one now.
We’ve also always been a fan of the typography on the bottle. It used to be in earth tones, but this vintage sports a bold new label in black and white. It’s a variation on the classic design. I’m still trying to decide which I like better.
I have yet to find a golden cork, but you can get a glimpse inside of the estate in this video, where Christian Moueix himself gives a pruning lesson to John Bonné of The San Francisco Chronicle.