When I was invited to Sterling Vineyards I have to admit that I wasn’t very excited. The property is beautiful, the gondola ride is neat, and the views are stunning. In my opinion, though, the wine has never lived up to the setting – until now.
I wasn’t given any information before arriving at my tasting. I think that the folks at Sterling were trying to allow me to make up my own mind and not cloud my view. Just to be clear, I went in with very low expectations of the wine and my visit. They brought their “A” game though, and I came away from my visit excited and enthusiastic. I was very impressed.
When I arrived, I felt like the entire “vibe” of the place had changed. I was still greeted at the bottom of the hill by a kiosk reminiscent of Disneyland and I still took the beautiful aerial tram up the hill, but after that, I felt like it was all brand new.
No matter how many times I take the aerial tram on the property, I still love it. The views are spectacular. It’s a gentle peaceful climb up the hill to the building whose architecture reminds me of Greece.
I was greeted with a glass of their Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine and I have to say “very nice!” Not too much yeast, sweetness, or minerals in my glass. It was a nicely balanced sip that I would be happy to drink anytime; a really encouraging start.
I was then met by their resident sommelier and taken to the new Platinum Tasting room. I don’t think I could have been more surprised. The Platinum Tasting Experience includes paired bites freshly made by an in-house chef and hosted by the aforementioned sommelier. The space is bright and airy and there is a feeling of luxury and elegance.
Our tasting started off with a generous pour of their Sterling Vineyards 2016 Sparkling Rosé. I was so impressed with the flavor and quality of this wine that I bought a bottle to take home for The Brit. It was really outstanding. It has an amazing nose of strawberry. On the palate, notes of citrus, cherry, and vanilla blended beautifully. I loved the lively bubbles and its refreshing quality. This was my favorite sip of the day.
We were seated and started our educational tasting part of the experience.
Our first bite was interesting. Ahi tuna tartare on a wonton chip with avocado, a touch of wasabi cream, and sesame seeds. Here comes the amazing part – they paired that bite with 2010 Platinum Cabernet Sauvignon! You heard me right. It was bold, but worked beautifully. The fat in the tuna really gave the Cab even more lushness in the mouth. The wine tasted of blackberries, cherries, woodlands, and a hint of cocoa. I was amazed just how good it was. I would absolutely go back for a second or third glass of this. (Who am I kidding – throw me the bottle!)
Our second bite was a more traditional pairing. Pork loin on a bed of leek purée topped with fried leek curls. It was paired with the 2011 Platinum Cabernet Sauvignon. I thought they nailed the pairing and the wine. The notes of the wine were fig, plum, oak, and almond flavors on the palate; medium weight in the mouth and good acidity. It also had an interesting floral nose that was extremely appealing.
The final bite was a beef short rib topped with a baby carrot and cress. This was paired with the 2012 Platinum Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was ready to drink, though it showed good structure for light cellar aging. I enjoyed the flavors of raspberry and baking spices on the palate. It worked beautifully with the beef. I think they are smart for making wines that are ready to drink now. I am seeing making wine in this way as a larger trend in the Napa Valley. Not everyone has a cellar to age wine, nor the patience to do so.
After my tasting, I was able to tour the facility and hear about all of the upcoming plans for the property and the wines. There has been a major shift in the culture at Sterling Vineyards and they have decided to start focusing more on the quality of their wines and offering more of a wine focused experience rather than being a tourist stop in Napa. Sterling are renovating the entire property and they are hoping to be completed with the project in 2019. I am so excited about the changes happening there. Their vision is amazing.
Other changes they are making are to their look and branding. Their wines now sport beautiful silver labels that give a feeling of luxury and class without overthinking it. I love how they have played into the Sterling name with the design, even embedding silver hallmarks on the label.
I noticed a big difference during my visit in the hospitality. The staff is being retrained to exemplify good hospitality and customer service. It showed throughout all of the stations on the property through which I passed and every employee I encountered. Impressive, and just the kind of touch that will bring in a more discerning crowd.
Honestly, I don’t think they could have done more to knock my socks off. Thinking about the beauty of that location now combined with drinkable and affordable wines plus outstanding hospitality; it was a wow. The Platinum Tasting is by appointment only and costs $75.00. I would highly recommend this experience even if you think you know their wines. You will be blown away. I sure was.