These weekly(ish) recaps of our Napa Valley, eighth anniversary, wine whirlwind tour continue to Mumm. We already enjoyed a light breakfast of Pinot Noir at Etude (read here), but actually hungry now, and already late for lunch reservations, we bomb North. Then something surprises our bleary eyes…
Maybe it was our imaginaion. Onward!
Finally at the Culinary Institute of America, stone masonry edifice looming over us, we go to their Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant, hopeful.
It is winter and empty. Raw stone and wood feel like an ancient church or quarry. Service promptly lands us drinks: a egg-foamy alcohol-free, wine-break for my wife; Grgich Hills Estate Fumé Blanc Napa Valley for me:
Both are lovely, round, yet refreshing. We order entrées. This is what $20 a plate gets us:
Sure, my mushroom gnocchi tastes fine, if simple. However, five pieces of potato pasta do not a lunch entrée make, especially not for $20. We love the CIA because one can eat fantastic, experimental, student-made dishes usually for less than chic restaurants. We miss their Conservatory restaurant (read here) even their café. Disappointed, we inhale a prosciutto sandwich in the car.
We get to Sterling, but the funicular to the hill top winery will take too long. Having dipped a toe in Northern Calistoga, back to Stags’ Leap AVA we go. With a few minutes to spare, we pop into Mumm Napa for some fizz.
I flash my card and they take us past tables of women: knitting, chatting, and luxuriating in bubbles. Tall windows, vineyard views, and scattered antiques make Mumm look like a French bistro: far from Napa cave man Cab of the last week. Our host closes the retro-fitted barn doors behind us and acquires flutes.
Mumm, a grand house based in Reims, France was quick to send Guy Devaux to research Napa just as Napa renewed its international fame in 1976. A touch late to the game, by 1983 Mumm Napa had their first bottling. Although Napa is far warmer than Champagne, the producer has access to cooler Carneros and coastal fruit. In 2002 Mumm sent Champagne maker Ludovic Dervin to take over. He has run things since.
We sit to a flight of pale his fizz. We do enjoy their regular Brut Prestige NV: crisp, pithy, mineral, consistent. Although metallic and short, this fizz is fully serviceable and a great value: Good (3 of 5).
Blanc de Blancs
Simple, straight-laced, sushi ready, Mumm’s BdB snaps with granny smith apple, medium acidity and a lovely medium minus body: light beer for Champagne drinkers. (3 of 5).
Blanc de Blancs Reserve $42
Mostly Chardonnay (with some Pinot Gris?), Mumm’s BdB Reserve is taut, tart, saline, and super refreshing. Ripe apricot and honey sublimates all its lovely lemon juice and salinity, but this is Napa after all. Very good (4 of 5).
Cuvée M Red
Familiar with sparkling Shiraz? No? Ok, well imagine a soft, sweet, black cherry syrup, inky opaque purple in color, that sparkles. Good (3 of 5). Bring pizza.
Santana Supernatural Brut
Brut? Really? This feels like the sweetest wine of the bunch so far. Tropical notes of pineapple and lychee syrup dominate, vanilla icing follows. With some spicy food, Mumm’s Santana will serve you well. It has a narrow context but is still good (3 of 5).
Brut Reserve Rosé
Sulfur turns us off, as does a touch of bandaid, but as it breathes, darker Pinot fruits of strawberry jam, plum, and nutmeg arise. It feels off dry, with medium acidity, and a viscous, creamy palate. The Reserve Rosé lacks integration. It is not better than the sum of its parts. A good effort (3 of 5), easy to drink, and great value but lacking interest.
2011 Devaux Ranch Rosé
An 100% Pinot Noir affair from Carneros. 2011 was cool and long, leading to higher. Nonetheless, this smells and tastes of strawberry shortcake iced with vanilla and dusted with orange peel. It remains creamy and easy throughout with just enough acidity, ageability, and length to save it. 4 of 5 Very Good.
Finally a fizz with enough age. DVX comes sourced from 6 vineyards and honors Devaux’s efforts. Aromas seem all seriousness with intense red apple skin, light strawberry, golden apple flanked by blanched almonds and vanilla husk. The dry palate brightens with medium plus yet tame acidity. Intense raspberry flavors, white fig, and cherry skin fold into toasted nuts, vanilla powder and lengthy mouthwatering salinity. Mumm’s DVX 2008 is outstanding (5 of 5) and rivals Champagne in methods, balance, and the like yet retains Californian fruit.
Fizzed and readied for Stags’ Leap, we take one long look out on Mumm’s vineyards.
Mumm provides the perfect antithesis to Napa’s parade of Cabernet club masculinity. They have built a space and experience almost entirely devoted to our better halves. Yes, men dominate production, Santana seems misplaced here, but the fizz is pleasant, inoffensive, and at times (with DVX and elder vintages) worthy of its claims to Champagne.