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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

"Future Hall-of-Famer Making Great Wine" Charles Woodson Wines

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants(800 and counting) and visit all 600 Napa wineries(350 and counting), my wife Linda and I recently visited future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson's Winery.
Charles won the Heisman Trophy and National Championship at the University of Michigan, our home state, and the Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers.He finished his career playing for the Oakland Raiders and will soon be an ESPN announcer. We had the pleasure of playing golf with him at our club, Blackhawk in Danville, and he invited us to taste his wines
Woodson Wines leases a 12-acre vineyard in southern Calistoga (just west of Sterling Winery which is planted to Sauvignon blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. These are the only two wines they produce – a typical production is usually several thousand cases each year. They started making wine in 2001 (a barrel of Merlot which they donated to charity) but did not release their first commercial wine until 2006. Their winery (4,000 square feet in an old sausage factory has been refurbished for winery operations) is located slightly further west of the tasting room in the same business park (first crush 2015). 
Our host for the tasting was Rick Ruiz ,co owner and Director of Operations. Rick was born and raised in St. Helena and worked in the wine industry for a number of years on the wine making side of the operations (10 years at Robert Mondavi). His introduction to Charles was totally random, helped by a bottle of Robert Mondavi wine. Timing is everything. During one night drinking at the old Saketini Asian Diner & Lounge in the city of Napa Rick met Charles. As Rick remembers, Charles was drinking a 1998 bottle of Robert Mondavi Merlot. Instantly recognizing the wine he helped make at Robert Mondavi he introduced himself to Charles and they soon bonded over wine which led to the Woodson Winery venture.

We began our tasting with the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc that was crisp, clean, very refreshing and aged and fermented in mostly stainless steel. As Rick says this wine was crushed, fermented, aged and bottled – with a more hands off approach to wine making. It is floral on the bouquet with citrus blossom and dessert spices

 We then moved into the Charles Woodson famous Cabernets and enjoyed  a side by side tasting of the 2009, 2010 and 2011.  The 2010 received a 93 rating by Wine Spectator. We enjoyed each vintage but especially enjoyed the 2009 which had Blackberry and a black licorice liqueur frame layered aromatic. It was so enjoyable that we took 2 bottles signed by Charles back to Danville with us. This  red wine can also be purchased at the Blackhawk Grille and Draegers in Danville. 

After this Hall of Fame tasting, we went to nearby downtown Napa and enjoyed lunch at Celadon. The restaurant is near the Napa river and is open every day for lunch and dinner. The ambiance is charming and reminded us of our visit to Bordeaux, France.  The restaurant is located next to the General Store in Downtown Napa and is down a quaint avenue that is lined with flowers and trees.

We sat outside by a warm fireplace and started out our meal with a special Woodford Manhattan served with Woodford reserve bourbon, punt o mes and port soaked cherries. It went well with their famous flash fried calamari, made with spicy chipotle chile, orange honey glaze and pickled ginger.  We voted that this Calamari was the best we have ever eaten hands down!

For the entree, we shared the beer battered fish and chips, crispy Meyer lemon and red cabbage and carrot slaw that was light and very refreshing. 

Our meal was completed with a soothing cup of hot green tea and a perfectly prepared creme brûlée. 

For more information and to make a tasting reservation go to :