Black Stallion Winery Napa Valley

(Apologies for yesterday’s accidental post…ghost in the machine).

Our Napa Valley tour keeps rolling. Our morning snuck around Pine Ridge (read here). Our mid-day got blasted by Lewis Cellars’ monster wines (read here). By now, our palates feel numb. Our teeth look black. But ever the professional, high-functioning alcoholics, we head South on the Silverado Trail to Black Stallion.

Past the big metal horse, the winery campus feels vast, dry-scaped with olives and citrus, and recalls a mission. Here 32 acres served as Silverado Horseman’s Center until 2007, when it became a winery.

The high hall holds a wooden wrap-around tasting bar. You could almost get away wearing spurs in here. But the lounge chairs expect more. The long table frowns at your t-shirt and jeans:

Dining at Black StallionThose windows open to the vast barrel room:

Black Stallion BarrelsYour grocery store probably shelves their Napa Valley Cabernet or Chardonnay for $25 and $17 respectively.  Your steak house likely carries these as well. These white labels represent good values that let us 99% enjoy Napa Valley (especially after an eye-watering $150 for Lewis’ reserve Cab).

Yet at the winery, Ralf discourage us from them.  We “must” try the winery-only, black-ish label wines. He shows us three pages of price-grouped wines. We foolishly decide to take his challenge and try all 20 wines…variety

The tasting room aims to lock visitors into their wine-club.  Thus, you get a repeating supply of wines that make you seem/feel special at your dinner soirees. But is such commitment and exclusivity worth it? Let’s see:

Another winery, another winery-only rosé:

2014 Estate Syrah Rosé $26 (Club $20.80) Cranberry color and flavor, tart red grapefruit, soft, plump, almost dry enough, good (3 of 5).

2014 Sauvignon Blanc $26: looks a clear, light, bright gold. It is simple, off dry, citric, lemon, with a bothersome light note of almond and popped popcorn. Safe (3 of 5). At least a break from Napa Cab.

2014 Pinot Gris….meh (2 of 5).

2014 Viognier, from young vines in Stagecoach Vineyard on Atlas Peak, $35 ($28). Vibrantly citric, yet viscous, white pear, slight aniseed, and 25% oak vanilla veneer. BS’s Viognier is appreciably brighter than Freemark’s. Very good (4 of 5), but anything is after so many cabs.

2013 Chardonnay, Los Carneros (well…13% Coombsville) $35 ($28). A clear, mild gold. Medium plus aromas and flavors include gingerbread, orange blossom, passion fruit, buttercream (oak), and aniseed. It feels soft, plush, but very medium and a bit limp. Good (3 of 5).

2013’s Syrah ($40) shows black cherry skin, strawberry, chocolate molé sauce, and a touch of brett-like dark turkey meat. It is dry, with medium acid, tannin, and alcohol if it feels bit lean. It is good (3 of 5).

2012’s Merlot ($40) looks a clear but dense ruby. It smells massive, plump plum prune, cherry liquor, but iron ore dust, and serious. Dry, medium acid, medium minus tannin, medium alcohol, slightly hot and edgy but smooth. Flavors turn to light French coffee, sandy quartz, cinnamon. 2012’s Napa Merlot is complex and very good (4 of 5).

2013’s Rockpile Zinfandel ($45) is jammy, syrupy blueberry and cranberry, with soft caramel sauce…fine (3 of 5).

2013 Zin from Howell Mountain ($45) is all black pepper, black cherry skin, with dry, medium plus toast woody tannins and black ash. It intense, complex, but balanced enough to be very good (4 of 5).

2013 Zin from Sonoma 800 fasl in Monte Rosso Vineyard ($45) is dusty, earthy, with notes of forest floor, blackberry jam, cocoa powder, pencil shavings. It feels big, dry, but too hot. Still very good (4 of 5) but only if you are in the mood to drink a fireplace.

My mouth feels ragged like old runner’s shoes.  We hang on the bar a bit harder than an hour ago. Tourists pile up and start to stress the staff.  But this is a marathon. We turn to blends named after Alexander the Great’s trustiest, long-suffering steed:


Around $200 this is one pricey horse. So I muster whatever focus I have left.

2010 Bucephalus ($200) (81% Cab, 15% Merlot 3% Syrah). Medium plus ruby core and aging garnet rim. Pronounced aromas dried leaves and oolong tea show its age and seriousness, but still with maple syrup and black cherry jam. It feels dry, and very medium: medium acidity, tannin, and body.  Age has mellowed 2010 into a plush, fine linen texture.  Flavors add a medium plus finish of cardamon or orange peel. Drink this mellow somewhat fading fling now. Very good (4 of 5).

2011 Bucephalus ($175) comes off tidy with similar blackberry but more spice: nutmeg, cinnamon, and tired aniseed.  The palate is dusty, tannic, lean, acrid, mineral, dry yet fairly smooth. It needs food to calm it. Drink now and for five years. Very good (4 of 5).

2012 Bucephalus ($150) It looks a clear ruby purple. Medium plus aromas match flavors that are all fruit: cassis, black cherry, and blackberry jam. It is dry, with medium acids and tannins, the high alcohol and full fleshy body. 2012 is very good (4 of 5) but it needs 5 to 10 years.

Black Stallion’s Bucephalus range has quality, complexity, and intensity but not enough ageability or production cost to merit collector’s item pricing around $175.  The cart seems to be a bit before the horse here: they make it rare and raise the price $25 with each passing year regardless of vintage variation or quality.  Do not get me wrong, they will not disappoint the buyer.  Just do not treat them like that 89 Margaux in your cellar. Drink them sooner than later.

RECAP: In summation, do visit Black Stallion but plan to spend the day there. Book a tour and try each of their flights with a lunch break.  The prices on most of their wines compete well.  There is something for every body here (even if that range blurs their focus a bit).  Do not visit them after two prior wineries.


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4 Responses to Black Stallion Winery Napa Valley

  1. janerunswild says:

    I love Napa! Great post! 🙂

  2. frankstero says:

    Message received, loud and clear 👍

  3. sand110 says:

    Bucephalus – high achievers that follow Napa big reds – they need to pony up and make a series for the famous race horses. Great blend of humor.

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