Thursday, July 9, 2009

Value in Revana

Recently I visited my San Francisco friends and serious food and wine lovers, Ilene and Jeff Bragman.  I was in California for the Beyond Extra Virgin olive oil conference and had one day following the conference to explore Napa Valley.  I had not been to Napa since attending the wine studies program at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in the spring of 2005.  Being a bit out of touch since most of my recent wine travels have been in France, I asked Jeff to recommend a few high quality, under the radar Napa wineries to visit.  Jeff, who has an extraordinary wine cellar and is an astute and well-informed California wine enthusiast, gave me a short list. At the top and written in bold letters was REVANA.

I emailed Revana requesting an appointment and received an immediate positive response from Todd Newman, the director of sales and marketing.

As I drove through entrance gate, I noticed immediately that the lane to the winery was lined with beautiful olive trees.  Now, remember this blog is Crush and Press, crush the grapes and press the olives.  With the co-habitation of these noble fruits, I was on sacred ground.

For a little of the Revana story, Dr. Madaiah Revana, who had been an avid collector of the Bordeaux’s finest, had the keen sense of purchasing a high quality vineyard north of St. Helena in 1997.  His wisdom continued with the hiring of the renowned Napa winemaker, Heidi Peterson Barrett.  Heidi is most noteworthy as the former winemaker at Screaming Eagle (1192-2005), the most sought after cult wine in Napa.  Good luck finding it.  She’s also the winemaker for one of my long time Napa favorites, Paradigm Winery in Oakville.  Karen MacNeil, head of the professional wine studies program at CIA-Greystone and author of the Wine Bible, told us in class several years ago that she considered Paradigm Cabernet Sauvignon ($62) excellent value and the equivalent of or better than many Napa three figured wines. 

Now, let’s get to the juice.  Revana Family Vineyards is a portfolio of one.  There is no Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, or lesser bottling of Cabernet Sauvignon. Revana is totally committed to a single Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.    The focus is on producing one exceptional wine by masterfully blending the seven blocks spread over nine acres.  This is the Bordelais way, but even they have a second label.  As another example, I have always respected the traditional single label Chateauneuf du Papes producers such as Clos des Papes, Domaine Charvin and Vieux Donjon.  They have not surrendered to the lucrative lure of multiple single vineyard bottlings and higher prices for each.  They contend that the blending adds to the complexity and consistency each year.  

The proof is in the glass. Revana hits the mark.  With a dark ruby to purple color the wine is silky and elegant.  Elegance isn’t a descriptor I often associate with California Cabernet Sauvignon.  Yet, the wine is full-bodied and laced with cocoa and herbs. Its velvety texture offers a wonderful mouthfeel. Enormous complexity and concentration bundled in absolute harmony and balance.  No spit bucket required.  

What’s a bottle of Revana going to set you back?  The release price at the winery is $125.  OK, so this isn’t your Wednesday night pizza wine.  Value is always relative.  When compared to the upper echelon of other Napa cult wines, such as Harlan and Screaming Eagle, Revana offers outstanding quality without the supreme ego price tag.   My friend, Jeff,  feels that Ridge’s Monte Bello ($150 release range) and Revana are two of the best values in Napa. I agree.

I like to categorize my wine collection by having weeknight, once a week, once a month, once a year, and once in a lifetime wines. For me, Revana is a once a year wine.  To grow as a wine lover, it’s fun to stretch yourself by experiencing the exceptional occasionally or even frequently.  We all deserve it.

To acquire Revana, log on to and become an allocation member. 

During my visit I tasted another Heidi Barrett Napa Valley wine, Amuse Bouche, a Pomerol-style Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend.  This small production wine offers the cassis fruit with chocolate and a velvety mouthfeel.  Again, a wine of rich elegance.

If you are interested in visiting Revana on your next trip to Napa, please call ahead for an appointment.  There’s a reasonable $20 tasting fee.  I must ask a favor of you. The staff at Revana is courteous, friendly and knowledgeable, but small and busy.  They are not equipped to handle a horde of tourist like other Napa wineries.  Out of respect for their staff, I urge you to visit the winery only if you have serious intentions of buying their wine.  

By the way, the other wineries on Jeff's list were Frank Family, Hall and Alpha-Omega. Stay tuned for more on these. 


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