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Andrew Chalk is a Dallas-based author who writes about wine, spirits, beer, food, restaurants, wineries and destinations all over the world.

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CATCHING UP WITH ROBIN LAIL -- FOUNDER, LAIL VINEYARDS

Big environmental changes plus two 100 point wines.


by Andrew Chalk

Robin Lail, founder of prestige Napa winery, Lail Vineyards, was in town this week and came with big news on the environmental front and two 100-point wines (as well as other wines in the Lail lineup).


Environmental News

The environmental news ties in with the announcement that Robin has been appointed the U.S. representative for the Porto Protocol. Going forward, the ‘Blueprint’ line of Lail wines will presented as ‘Blueprint for Change’ with social media campaigns and support. Given the Porto Protocol’s emphasis on working solutions to climate change issues the campaign may feature people involved in climate change solutions. As Robin’s daughters, Erin and Shannon, play a larger rôle at Lail, they bring a millennial’s focus to marketing. Expect it to roll out in coming months with Instagram likely a major destination.


100 Point Wines

2016 J. Daniel Cuvée , Napa Valley, CA ($290)

100 points, Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate

The current release, was available from February 2019, but is already sold out. This wildly popular wine exhibits all that is best about Napa and Philippe Melka’s winemaking. A soft, luxurious, tannin envelope wraps a rigid tannic core ensuring both instant appeal and longevity. The forward nose exhibits aromas of blackberry and cedar that are confirmed in the mouth. The tannins wrap the skin of the inside of the mouth, magnifying a long complex, fruity finish.


2012 J. Daniel Cuvée , Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA ($320)

100 points, Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate

Served in magnum (price, above, is per 750ml bottle).

A good wine merchant or auction house is likely the only place to find this gem from the past. Given the large format bottle, it is not surprising that the wine is still fresh and youthful. As I sniffed it, I pondered what persuades His Bobness to give a wine 100 points. Here it would be complexity, balance, and a distinctiveness which in this case was an abundance of cassis in the nose. Normally a Bordeaux signature, there would be no confusion with this wine as it is endowed with ripeness in the fruit unusual in Bordeaux.


Which of these two wines you prefer is one of those personal style decisions. My preference was for the 2012 (but others are entitled to be wrong).

Lail Vineyards estate vineyard

Other Lail Lovelies

We also covered the other wines in the Lail/Blueprint lineup. First, the 2017 Blueprint Sauvignon Blanc, Napa ($39) from vineyards in Yountville and Coombsville projected a weighty mouthfeel, citrus flavors, and a trapeze artist’s precision in its balance of fruit and acid. What an interesting world we live in that, after years of me bitchin’ about mundane Napa Sauvignon Blanc, I taste two thrillers in two weeks.


The 2016 Blueprint Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa ($79) is the baby brother of the J. Daniel, including declassified J. Daniel wine as well as fruit from Howell Mountain, Oakville, Calistoga, Soda Canyon, Coombsville, Yountville, and Rutherford. A dark fruit nose gives way to velvet tannins in the mouth and delicious, forward fruit with just that touch of greenness that gives it a Napa leitmotif. A comparative bargain, being the quality of a Napa boutique winery Cabernet at less than the three digit price normally expected.


After the pair of J. Daniels wines (reviewed above) we concluded with the 2016 Lail Vineyards ‘Georgia’ Sauvignon Blanc, Napa. This wine is entirely from fruit from the Totem Estate in Yountville, fermented and aged in 100% new French oak. Think of this as California Chardonnay technique applied to Sauvignon Blanc. The result is strident fruit notes of peaches, pears, tropical fruit (mango and pineapple) on a base of oak notes. This may be overkill for some Sauvignon Blanc mavens looking for leanness and minerality but as Antonioni said “Once you know the rules, you can break them”. Philippe Melka must have been his student.