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A review of the Clos Du Val winetasting experience

by TrevR on April 11, 2007

The winery: Clos Du Val Winery was established in 1972 by American businessman John Goelet and French-born winemaker Bernard Portet. The story goes that Portet used a very scientific (sarcasm intended) method to help him get a sense of Napa Valley’s Clos du Valmicroclimates, he drove through the area with his arm out the car window. Portet apparently took a liking to the Stags Leap District of the valley and convinced Goelet to purchase 150 acres of land and found Clos Du Val.

Located at 5330 Silverado Trail, Clos Du Val gives off a peaceful vibe from the outside and includes large grassy areas and tables and chairs for lounging and sipping near the vineyard in front of the tasting room.

Clos Du Val entranceThe tasting room: A quick stroll from the parking lot found us winding up a path that led us alongside some budding vines, up a couple small steps and right toward the large ivy-covered building where the tasting room is. Upon swinging open the large wooden door and entering the tasting room, we were immediately struck by two things. First, the large crowd of people crammed around the tasting room bar (more on that later) and secondly, the very dimly lit room (coming in from a sunny day, it’ll likely take your eyes a while to adjust).

In keeping with the winery’s color scheme, we were hard-pressed to find anything in the tasting room that was not some shade of brown. From the walls, to the pottery, to the art, to the signage, to the various racks holding the bottles of wine–everything exuded the Clos Du Val look and feel that you get simply by looking at their label.

Inside the tasting room at Clos Du ValThe staff: Perhaps it was the rather large crowd that made it nearly impossible to reach the bar, or maybe it was the fact that it was late afternoon (near closing time) when we arrived, but the staff inside the tasting room left quite a bit to be desired.

Now, we’ve arrived late in the day at numerous wineries before and have always had great experiences (in fact, quite often we’ve been allowed to help finish off the open bottles), but this time around, we barely had time to finish one tasting before we were quickly moved along to the next. The person pouring the wine for our side of the tasting room bar seemed far more interested in heading home than in talking to their customers about the wines, the winery, the winemaking process, etc. Not only that, but we were repeatedly asked where we were on our tasting flight and got a strong vibe of overall disinterest, despite us asking a few questions and genuinely trying to be polite.

The wine: Have tried our fair share of Clos Du Val wines over the years (and even having recommended a few of their Cabs to friends), we were excited for this particular leg of our journey. On this late afternoon, there was just one tasting option available–a five flight tasting for $10. On Saturdays and Sundays the winery samples the Clos Du Val reserve and library wines for $20 per person (this fee includes a Clos Du Val logo glass).

After trying the ’04 Carneros Chardonnay, which gave off hints of green apple and other tropical fruits and didn’t taste like many of the buttery chardonnays out there, we moved on to the ’04 Merlot. Again, while not typically our varietal of choice, this wine was very approachable and soft on the palate–quite contrary to many of the Merlot’s we’ve had. Next up was the ’05 Carneros Pinot Noir, which is full bodied and filled the entire mouth with a solid mixture of fruit flavors, followed by spice (but nothing too overwhelming). Always eager to try different Pinots, we spent the $28 and took a bottle home with us.

We then moved on to the Cabernet Sauvignon–the main event in our minds. The recently-released ’04 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which was aged for 17-months in French oak barrels, gives off aromas of dark fruit and had quite a long finish. Perhaps needing some more time to come into its own, we thought this wine might be better in six months to a year. Finally, we finished-up with the ’03 Cabernet with its rich, fruity taste and oak-filled aromas and found it to be, as expected, a very solid wine.

The Cork Board rating: 2 corks (out of 5 possible). A dimly lit tasting room, a staff that seemed less than excited to serve us and a mixed set of wines left us with a somewhat bad taste in our mouth.

Have you visited Clos Du Val lately? Leave us a comment and tell us what your impressions were!

[techtags: Napa, Napa Valley, wine, winery, winetasting, Clos Du Val, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir]

About the Author

has written 716 posts on The Cork Board. He was born and aged in the Napa Valley and has a passion for wine, writing and social media, which led him to co-found this blog in early 2007. Follow him on Twitter @TrevR.

  • Brian

    Here’s my over-wordy ramble, as I visited mid-Afternoon today (I played hooky from work and went bicycling up the Silverado Trail). Mid-afternoon, I was alone, basically. The woman doing the tasting was reasonably personable and willing to talk about the wines. No problems there. I can see where they might hurry you along if they were busy, though.

    I like Clos Du Val’s house “style.” From your post, you didn’t like the 2004 Cab? I actually liked it more than you did, but I like the less fruit-forward, very dry tannic, rather austere style they seem to specialize in. Rather than pay the $10 fee, I bought the cab. She also poured their 2002 Stag’s Leap Cab, which is kind of a middle point between the base bottling and their high end “Reserve.” It was showing very well-lots of mineral and structure and acid and blackberry and olive. Very nice! A classic, but given how much I like the base bottling (at $32) I’m not sure it’s worth twice as much. Some wineries you have to buy the pricey stuff to get anything good. To CdV’s credit, that’s not the case here.

    I love their Merlot, too. I like the big “structured” feel of the wine. I would buy the merlot, and have in the past.

    The Chard didn’t excite me too much-it’s not a grape I love. At least it wasn’t drowning in butter.

    I’m not big for Pinot, but your description is right on and this would be one of the few Carneros pinots I could see buying. I like it better than Reynolds, for example.

    They were very busy when I came back to pick up my wine, but she was still very friendly (at closing time to boot). Like every service business, I guess, employees vary and even good people have bad days. I would give them a solid ***.

  • Brian

    Here’s my over-wordy ramble, as I visited mid-Afternoon today (I played hooky from work and went bicycling up the Silverado Trail). Mid-afternoon, I was alone, basically. The woman doing the tasting was reasonably personable and willing to talk about the wines. No problems there. I can see where they might hurry you along if they were busy, though.

    I like Clos Du Val’s house “style.” From your post, you didn’t like the 2004 Cab? I actually liked it more than you did, but I like the less fruit-forward, very dry tannic, rather austere style they seem to specialize in. Rather than pay the $10 fee, I bought the cab. She also poured their 2002 Stag’s Leap Cab, which is kind of a middle point between the base bottling and their high end “Reserve.” It was showing very well-lots of mineral and structure and acid and blackberry and olive. Very nice! A classic, but given how much I like the base bottling (at $32) I’m not sure it’s worth twice as much. Some wineries you have to buy the pricey stuff to get anything good. To CdV’s credit, that’s not the case here.

    I love their Merlot, too. I like the big “structured” feel of the wine. I would buy the merlot, and have in the past.

    The Chard didn’t excite me too much-it’s not a grape I love. At least it wasn’t drowning in butter.

    I’m not big for Pinot, but your description is right on and this would be one of the few Carneros pinots I could see buying. I like it better than Reynolds, for example.

    They were very busy when I came back to pick up my wine, but she was still very friendly (at closing time to boot). Like every service business, I guess, employees vary and even good people have bad days. I would give them a solid ***.

  • http://www.uncork29.com/ TrevR

    Good stuff Brian–glad you had a better experience than we did! We couldn’t agree more that in any services-based business, the level and quality of service can vary from time-to-time. We certainly plan to give CDV another chance at some point in the future–and who can argue with their solid wines for less than astronomical prices as you point out?

  • http://www.uncork29.com TrevR

    Good stuff Brian–glad you had a better experience than we did! We couldn’t agree more that in any services-based business, the level and quality of service can vary from time-to-time. We certainly plan to give CDV another chance at some point in the future–and who can argue with their solid wines for less than astronomical prices as you point out?

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