O’Brien Estate Review
Address: 1200 Orchard Avenue Napa,California 94558.
Phone Number: 707-252-8463
Tasting Hours: By appt. Mon-Sat 10:00-500, Sun 12:00-5:00
Region: Napa Valley AVA, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley AVA, California
Reviewer: Elizabeth Smith
Review Date: 5/1/2016
Reviewer: Elizabeth Smith
OBrien Estate is a hidden gem of the Napa Valley. I have had a few of the OBrien wines in the past, but had never visited, so I was surprised to discover that it was located off the beaten path in a residential neighborhood of the Oak Knoll District AVA of the Napa Valley. The property was acquired in 2000 and enjoys a premium location in the shade of Mount Veeder. The estate sits on 40 acres, 33 of which are planted to vine, and includes the residence of the owners, Barb and Bart O’Brien, their gardens, the winery, the vineyards, and their three winery cats, Motor, Hobbes, and Chicheron, whom I met up close and personal during my recent visit with two friends. OBrien produces around 5500 cases of sustainably farmed, estate cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by our host, Jason, with our first wine, the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($35). Produced in a cement egg, this wine is mouthwateringly delicious, with lush, tropical fruit aromas and flavors. It was such a beautiful, sunny day that Jason sat us outside at a table facing the vineyards and brought us a cheese plate. Next was the 2014 Estate Chardonnay ($46), fermented and aged in French oak, 33% new. The ripeness and malolactic fermentation yielded warm-climate characteristics of butterscotch and pineapple. After the whites, Jason whet our palates for the reds by pouring us a shared glass of 2005 Estate Merlot, which was still showing well, but with much softer tannins and tertiary flavors of earth and mint. About this time during our tasting, one of the winery cats joined us at the table and Jason brought us the 2013 Estate Merlot ($58). This powerful, young merlot was decadent, with aromas and flavors of black cherry and chocolate. At this point in the tasting, I asked Jason about the production of the red wines and he told me that the estate reds are aged in 75% new French oak, while the reserves are aged in 100% new French oak.
Shortly thereafter, it became very warm at our northwesterly facing table, so we moved to another open table located in the shade of the winery and residence. Jason then poured for us their three Bordeaux-style blends, the 2013 Romance of the Heart (80% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon), 2013 Seduction (60% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot, and 10% cabernet franc), and the 2012 Passion of the Soul (90% cabernet sauvignon and 10% merlot). Not for the faint of heart (no pun), these wines were all quite luscious and aptly named, because you couldnt help but take another sip. It wasnt long until two more winery cats joined us. Both felt so comfortable (we all have cats) that they jumped on the table to sneak bites of the remaining crackers and cheese and relaxed a bit with their new human friends. Our tasting concluded with a sneak peek of the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, a barrel sample. Fermented in 100% new French oak, this wine is still coming into its own, but it already possesses a richness that will only improve with more barrel and bottle time.
An hour and a half later, we realized this wasnt just another tasting, it was an afternoon well spent with wine and friends. If youre looking for a comprehensive, relaxed experience, away from traffic and fancy tasting rooms, and you enjoy opulent red wines, estate vineyard views, and friendly felines, add OBrien to your list of wineries to visit.