The Honest Pour with John Lenart

Taking you beyond the bottle.

Ep. 57 Ryan Shenk, Benessere Vineyards

Sometimes touring Napa Valley wineries can become a bit repetitive. Cabernet, cabernet and more cabernet. Now, I love Napa cab, but a brief departure from it can offer a palate refreshing break. A great place for this break is Benessere. Founded in 1994 by John and Ellen Benish, they wanted a place to remind them of a beloved trip to Italy they had taken. So, instead of planing more cabernet, they committed to planing Italian varieties like sangiovese, aglianico and even sagrantino.  While John sadly passed away in October of 2018, his family is committed to maintaining his vision of producing wonderful wines using grape varieties from Italy. Benessere’s winemaker, Matt Reid says he makes wine because “it makes me happy and I want to share that happiness.” His wines convey this happiness. Beautiful Italian-like acidity, balanced by the sun-kissed fruit of Napa make for some very special wines.  I met with Ryan Shenk, DTC Sales and Hospitality Manager at Benessere to walk the vineyards of Benessere and of course, to taste some delicious wines.

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Ryan V1 (1)Ryan Shenk, Benessere Vineyards

Sangiovese 2014

2016 Benessere Sangiovese

Pale garnet in color. Aromas of fresh strawberry, cherries, and a bit of toasty oak. On the palate this medium bodied wine shows flavors of cherry, leather, mocha, with hints of anise. Fine, grippy tannins and mouth watering acidity make this a wine which screams for food.

SRP: $38


Phenomenon 2014

2015 Benessere Phenomenon, Super Tuscan Blend

Aroma of roses, fresh herbs and fresh red berries. The body of this wine is nicely balanced, neither too rich nor too lean. Flavors of cranberry, currant, and blueberry, with a touch of menthol. Bright acid and super fine tannin finish this finessed wine.

SRP:  $60


Aglianico 2014

2015 Benessere Aglianico, Collins Holystone Vineyard

Intense garnet color. Rich aromas of dark plum, black cherry, blueberry, lavender and notes of black pepper. This full bodied wine is balanced by a nice minerality, youthful grippy tannin and flavors of grenadine, cola, and vanilla.

SRP:  $62


Sagrantino 2014

2015 Benessere Sagrantino

Deep ruby in color this wine presents finessed aromas of dark fruits, exotic spices and forest floor. Like sagrantino from Umbria this wine has a massive tannic structure, but is balanced out bu Napa Valley sunshine that brings about lush fruit with whispers of cocoa and espresso. Enjoy with lamb. You can thank me later.

SRP:  $60

Ep. 56 Stuart Smith, Founder, Smith-Madrone

Stuart Smith founded Smith-Madrone in 1971 on Spring Mountain. Since then  he and his brother have been making some fantastic wines from their self built winery.  If you want to see winemaking that isn’t veiled by the branded, retail friendly experience you get at many places along highway 29, head up Spring Mountain and pay a visit to Smith-Madrone. Stu may likely be your host in the barn-like winery/tasting room. You’ll find him a gigantic character never short on opinions. More importantly you’ll taste some spectacular and insightfully made wines.


Stuart Smith, Founder, Smith-Madrone

bottle-sm_16chard-hires2016 Smith-Madrone Estate Grown Chardonnay

Nose of Golden Delicious Apple, peaches and hazelnut, On the palate flavors of apple, lemon peel, and toasted marshmallow. Full yet lively. Superbly integrated long finish.

SRP: $40




sm-bottle-14cab-hirez2014 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon

Bright ruby color. (Tasted in colder conditions) Aromas of delicate raspberry, cranberry and earthy notes. As the wine warmed darker fruit flavors of plum and fresh blackberry predominated. Wonderful velvety texture and fine tannins combine with finessed notes of pencil lead and baking spices. Smith proudly calls this “The world’s greatest wine under $75.” I’d say it’s in the running for sure.

SRP:  $52



bottle-hires-cf20132013 Smith-Madrone Cook’s Flat Reserve

This Bordeaux-style blend is Smith’s self proclaimed attempt to make the greatest Bordeaux blend in the world. 46% Cabernet Franc, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and 21% Merlot, aged for 19 months in 100% new
French oak. Opening with aromas of blackberry and currant lead to notes of graphite and earth. Complex flavors of dark berries are backed by notes of tobacco, dutch cocoa, and nutmeg. Texturally this is still a youthful wine, showing fresh acidity and elegant tanning all combining into a wonderfully balanced wine. Drink in 5 to 10 years or more.

SRP:  $225


bottle-sm-2015riesling-hires2015 Smith-Madrone Riesling

Wonderful aromas of petrol, apricot, lychee and white flowers. Mouth watering acidity plays perfectly with flavors of lemon/lime, apricot, peach and pear. Easy drinking now but has age-ability.

SRP: $32

Ep. 55 K.R. Rombauer III, Rombauer Vineyards

Big, round, rich chardonnay may not always be a critical favorite, but it is certainly loved by the mass market.  While the wines of Kistler, Sonoma-Cutrer and others popularized this style in California, it wasn’t until 1990 when Koerner Rombauer, working with fruit from Sangiacomo vineyard in Carneros, was able to produce this style of chardonnay at a price point friendly to the consumer. Today, K.R., Koerner’s  son runs the family winery and remains true to his father’s vision of making wine his customers want to drink. I sat down with K.R., to talk about the wines made at his family’s winery, his commitment to staying family owned, and of course, to taste some delicious wine.

people_koernerK.R. Rombauer III

nv-napa-valley-sauvignon-blanc-2016-onward-rotated2017 Rombauer, Napa Valley, Sauvignon Blanc

Aroma’s of nectarine, pineapple, and  passion fruit combine with pretty floral scents. On the palate flavors of grapefruit, lime zest, pineapple and other exotic fruits are balanced by floral notes and mouth watering acidity.

SRP:  $24





nv-carneros-chardonnay-2015-onward-rotated2017 Rombauer, Carneros, Chardonnay

A nose that leads with stone fruit and oak is backed by creamy, vanilla notes and hints of creme brulee. On the palate golden delicious apple flavors are given structure by notes of baking spice and buttery flavors. This may sound big, but it’s balanced by bright acidity and subtle minerality.

SRP:  $38





nv-diamond-selection-caberent-2014-rotated2014 Rombauer, Diamond Selection, Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark fruit aromas of blackberry, cassis and purple flowers. On the palate dark fruit flavors of black plum and blackberry are backed by notes of mocha, tobacco, and clove. ABV comes through a touch hot but should come into balance with a touch of age. Fine tannins give elegant structure.

SRP:  $100





2016 Rombauer Zinfandel

Dusty minerality, purple flowers and  blackberry on the nose. A finessed body. Full,, sweet, black fruit flavors, backed up with vanilla notes, black pepper and a hints of spices.

SRP:  $35

Ep. 54 Erica Crawford, Founder & CEO Loveblock Wines

Erica Crawford came to the wine business through marriage.  That’s not to say that nothing about her personal background influences the wines she and her husband Kim make today. In fact, her previous career in the medical and pharmaceutical industries  largely shaped Loveblock’s commitment to  organic and sustainable farming and winemaking. Her commitment to this is so strong that the farming practiced by Loveblock is entirely closed loop. Close loop farming recycles all nutrients and organic matter back into the soil from which it grew. Through these practices Loveblock produces wines of elegance with more restrained aromatics and more complex texture than is often associated with New Zealand wines.

ericaErica Crawford, Founder & CEO, Loveblock Wines

pinot gris2016 Loveblock Pinot Gris

Aromas of melon, peaches and integrated minerality. On the palate, crisp acidity elevates this wines structure and give balance to the integrated flavors of citrus, stone fruit and flowers.

SRP:  $23




lbk_sauvignonblanc btl_nv_rgb2017 Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc

Aromas of canned peaches, pineapple, yellow flower, lemon peel and cilantro. Elegant structure, lovely fruit and good acidity.

SRP: $22




lbk_pinotnoir btl_nv_rgb2016 Loveblock Pinot Noir

Nose of forest floor, and lilac. On the palate flavors of fresh cherry, plum, hints of cocoa. Mouth watering acidity and good fruit structure give this wine the flexibility to be served with a wide variety of food.

SRP:  $28

Ep. 53 Jon Emmerich, Winemaker, Silverado Vineyards

Ron Miller and his wife, Diane Disney Miller, daughter of Walt, opened the winery of Silverado vineyards in 1981. While her maiden name leads some to call Silverado “The Disney Winery” there is nothing Disney-esque about the gorgeous estate in the heart of the Stags Leap District. Since 1981 Only two people have led the winemaking team. Today that post is held by Jon Emmerich. Silverado’s vineyards are located throughout Napa Valley, each providing a unique palate for Emmerich to work with. While the name Silverado Vineyards might be familiar it’s actually not a very large winery,  producing ,only about 75,000 cases per year. While this winery is neither new, nor historic, neither large nor small, make no mistake, there is nothing average about the wines Emmerich and his team are making in the heart of Napa Valley.

Jon Emmerich_Silverado Vineyards

Jon Emmerich, Winemaker, Silverado Vineyards



2016 Silverado Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay

Pale straw color. Aromas of golden apple and lime zest lead to a touch of flinty minerality. On the palate, this wine has a medium weight plush texture and a slightly toasty finish with a balanced acidity.


SRP:  $32





2014 Silverado Vineyards Mt. George Vineyard Merlot

Nice bright ruby color. On the nose this wine brings aromas of bing cherry, cocoa, espresso, graphite and savory spice. On the palate flavors of black cherry, cola, blueberry, and cocoa are given life by a bright acidity with firm tannin. Great texture!

SRP:  $40





Estate Cab2014 Silverado Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Ruby in color to a purple rim. Elegance and finesse on the nose. Just a whiff lets you know this wine is special. Flavors of mixed berries, red currant, fresh herbs, dutch cocoa and purple flowers combine with lovely balance of acid and tannin.  Beautiful.

SRP:  $55






2015 Silverado Vineyards GEO Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville

100% cabernet sauvignon. Aromas and flavors of black plum, black cherry, sage, toasty, and a nice flinty minerality. Big, grippy, tannin is balance by bright acidity. This wine from a big vintage will reward you after a few years of cellar time.

SRP:  $75






2015 Silverado Vineyards Solo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District

Nose showing pencil lead and green olive but on the palate the fruit shines through. A stunning portrait of Stags Leap District cabernet sauvignon in a bottle. Elegance and complexity. Still young, drinkable now, but in 5 years or more, WOW!

SRP:  $125

Ep. 52 Mike Kush, Winemaker, Chasing Harvest

Winemakers get only one shot per year to get a vintage right.  This makes it tough for them to gain valuable experience, particularly early in their careers. In order to gain more practice, they can travel from the northern hemisphere to the southern in order to cheat mother nature and sneak in a second vintage each year. This practice is known as chasing harvest. It was so deeply embraced by Mike and Jennifer Kush that they named their wine after it. After chasing harvests around the globe, the Kushs have settled into the two regions which they are most passionate about, Central Otago in New Zealand and the Douro Valley in Portugal.


Jennifer and Mike Kush, Chasing Harvest


2015-doc2015 Chasing Harvest Douro DOC, Vinho Branco

Pale gold in color this wine presents aromas of pear, delicate white flowers, lime leaf and a distinct minerality. On the palate the medium weight is balance beautifully with flavors of anjou pear, apricot, and citrus, bright acidity makes for a long mouthwatering finish.

SRP: $22

2017-rose2017  Chasing Harvest, Pinot Noir Rosé, Central Otago, New Zealand

Medium salmon in color the nose on this rosé is all about finesse and elegance. Aromas of ripe strawberry, dried violet and hot dusty stone. On the palate the lush and refined texture gets your attention first. This leads the way to flavors of ripe strawberry, cherry, mandarin and lime peel and a crisp acidity which makes this wine great as a porch sipper or perfect for food.

SRP:  $22


2014 Chasing Harvest Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand

This delicate ruby colored pinot noir expresses aromas of dark cherry, leather, earth and a savory umami note. Flavors of black cherry, fresh herbs, and a hint of baking spice are backed by fresh, bright acidity and youthful fine yet grippy tannins. This one will age gracefully for three to six years and beyond.

SRP:  $35

Ep. 51 Dave Guffy, Sr. VP Winemaking and Viticulture, Hess Family Wine Estates

While Napa might be most widely known as cabernet country, the small valley offers a diverse collection of growing areas giving winemakers a broad palate from which to choose when deciding on grape varieties and winemaking styles. From the cool far south of Napa Valley where he grows the fruit for a bright, balanced chardonnay , to Mt Veeder which produces powerful yet elegant cabernet sauvignon, all the way up to Pope Valley in the far northeast where the warm growing season produces fruit bursting with flavor, Dave Guffy at Hess Family Estates makes the most of these choices. Guffy marches to his own beat in his winemaking and it’s a unique expression which wine lovers will certainly enjoy.


Dave_GuffyDave Guffy, Senior Vice President Winemaking and Viticulture, Hess Family Wine Estates


hess chard bottle 0032016 The Hess Collection, Napa Valley, Chardonnay

Nose of white flowers and sweet citrus. On the palate flavors of pear, apple, tangerine and a hint of lime zest are balanced by bright acidity, creamy lees and a slightly spicy finish.

SRP:  $22





Panthera Chard bottle 0032016 Panthera, Russian River Valley  Chardonnay

Rich and round, fruit forward aromas typical of Russian River Valley chardonnay. On the palate flavors of ripe peach and apricot are given structure by hints of toasty oak and a finish of caramelized sugar and sweet spice,

SRP:  $45




Hess Allomi Cab bottle 0012016 The Hess Collection, Napa Valley “Allomi” Cabernet Sauvignon

A nose of ripe plum, dark berries and hints of earthy, savory aromas.  Flavors of rich raspberry, plum, and red currant are backed up by moderate acidity and fine tannins. A rich round mouthfeel, this wine finishes off with hints of cocoa and baking spice.

SRP:  $32





Lion Tamer bottle 0012015 Lion Tamer, Red Blend

On the nose aromas of expressive purple flowers and hot wet rocks let you know this isn’t going to be a flabby, one note malbec blend. Complex flavors of black cherry, blackberry and plum lead to hints of pomegranate and cocoa. On the finish notes of cinnamon, clove, vanilla and silky tannins complete this rich, lush, easy drinker.

SRP:  $45




Hess Veeder Napa bottle 0022013 The Hess Collection, Mount Veeder, Cabernet Sauvignon

Aromas of both red and dark berries are backed by notes of pencil led, cocoa and vanilla. Flavors of blackberry, black cherry, cassis, and blueberry are given structure by elegant but youthful tannin and a soft finish. A great expression of Mt. Veeder from a classic vintage. Five to ten years of cellar aging will pay dividends.

SRP:  $65



Ep. 50, Ted Henry, Winemaker, Clos du Val

I travel to Napa Valley more than any wine region in the world. That’s just one reason I get excited to interview wine makers from historic wineries from Napa Valley. In the decades since the historic “Judgement of Paris” tasting Clos du Val did an amazing job in building its brand. But at what cost? I sat down with Ted Henry, wine maker at Clos du Val to talk about the rebirth of this historic Napa winery, the commitment of the owners to invest not only monetarily in  the endeavor and of course to taste the first cabernet sauvignons from the efforts.  The 2015 cabs from Clos du Val may be a bit more expensive than previous vintages but you’ll be rewarded with wines that are expressive, loaded with finesse, drinkable now, but ones that will pay huge dividends after a decade or so of aging.


Ted Henry, Winemaker, Clos du Val

15 Estate Cab HI2015 Clos du Val, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Complex youthful aroma of black currant, menthol, earth, and baking spices. On the palate flavors of currant, plum, cocoa, and subtle minerality are balanced by grippy tannin and bright acidity.

SRP:  $52





15 hirondelle cab

2015 Clos du Val, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Hirondelle Vineyard, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley

Elegant floral aromas lead to finessed red fruit. Velvety tannins reveal flavors of blueberry, currant, and clove all elevated by lively acidity. Cellar this wine for five years and beyond for a special wine from an outstanding vintage. It will be worth the wait.

SRP: $120

Ep. 49 Laure Adam, Jean-Baptiste Adam

Over the centuries Alsace has been ruled buy both Germany and France. The cuisine and culture here have certain Germanic influences and while the wines from this region are made from the same varieties often found in Germany, the style in which they are made is uniquely Alsatian. I met with Laure Adam of Jean-Baptiste Adam, a winery in Alsace that is over 400 years old, to talk about the wines from this intriguing region and of course to taste some delicious wines.

Laure et JB ADAM

 Laure and Jean-Baptiste Adam


Jean-Baptiste Adam Crémant d’Alsace Les Natures NV

Made with classic Champagne grapes, chardonnay and pinot noir. On the nose aromas of green apples, lime, white flowers, wet stones, and brie mingle in a wonderful complexity. Flavors of lime zest and red apples are balanced by a fine mousse and good acidity.

SRP:  $24





Jean-Baptiste Adam Crémant d’Alsace Rosé NV

Pretty salmon color. The nose brings forward aromas of strawberry and a flinty minerality. On the palate flavors of mixed red berries, red apple, and hints of fresh herbs. The round structure is balanced by pronounced acidity.

SRP:  $24




Riesling Les Natures

2015 Jean-Baptiste Adam Riesling Les Natures

Wonderful nose of petrol and burnt rubber. Beneath this are aromas of peach and yellow citrus. On the palate flavors of yellow citrus and stone fruit are balance by nice acidity and pronounced minerality with savory hints on the finessed finish.

SRP:  $20








2012 Riesling Kaefferkopf Vieilles Vignes Grand Cru

Aromas of tropical fruits, rubber, sweet citrus, and yellow flower explode from the glass. A rich body leads to complex flavors of pear, apple, lemon zest and a distinct salinity. Very age-worthy. A classic.


SRP:  $28



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