Thursday, April 23, 2015

A visit to Prager Port Works

My roommate and I have taken to Port, so our most recent visit to the Napa Valley started at Prager Winery and Port Works. Port wine is often considered a dessert wine, but, we began our wine tasting this day with the good stuff!

Technically not Port wine, as it is not from the Northern Portuguese provinces of Douro Valley, since 1979, this family-run winery has been hand crafting port wines using traditional Portuguese Varietals such as Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cao and Touriga. While blending these traditional grapes with Petite Sirah, the Prager family crafts some flavorful fortified wines, certain to please the palates of many port fans.

While it is true, Port can be an acquired taste, I was certain, the various styles of Port produced by this family owned and operated winery would appeal to even my non-port drinking friends.

We arrived at 10 am on Sunday, yep, Port on a Sunday morning. Apparently, my notes were off, as they don't open until 10:30 on Sundays. Since we were determined to hit up the Ports before the crowds, we hung around the gorgeous grounds and perused the gardens while we awaited the opening.

The gorgeous grounds are full of flowers and shrubs and fresh herbs and are lovingly tended by the family themselves. We spent a half hour walking around the garden, smelling the fresh rosemary and photographing the beautiful, quaint garden.

At 1030, we are greeted at the door by one of the cousins, so much less stuffy than some of the other establishments we have visited, our host wears jeans and a flannel shirt. The tasting room reminds me of an Irish Bar I used to visit, covered in dollars, mostly in single denominations, but others can be found as the entire room is covered. You can find a single from almost anywhere in the world on that wall and when asked, our host could point out most any country we inquired about. 

The window sill was reminiscent of Halloween, actually covered in real spider webs, seriously! These cobwebs are all very real. You might think it would make the place look a little old or dirty or dusty, but it really just added to the charm of the place and since we were actually turned off by the stuffiness at another winery, this place is the exact opposite!

Now, let's talk about the important stuff, the port! We started with a 2009 Petite Sirah table wine. Aged in American Oak, this wine had three years to soften in the bottle before being poured. It is a full bodied Sirah with cherry and grape nose. I rated it a 4/5 in vivino.

Next up, we tasted the 2010 Port, a blend of Petite Sirah and three traditional Portugese Varietals, this intense port smells of chocolate. This one is going to age well! I cannot wait to taste it in about 10 more years.

The 2010 Royal Escort Port has a modest sweetness to it. It is a pretty intense port with a robust acidic finish.

The 2010 Aria white port, which is a new one for me was interesting. Made of 100% Chardonnay and aged three+ years in oak, this honey-colored port reminded me of buttered popcorn.

A recent addition the Prager Family library, Noble Companion, a 10-year tawny port with caramel and butterscotch flavors lingering on the tongue followed with a smooth brandy finish. The aging has been done for you in this top-shelf option, but I suspect, another ten years will smooth it out even further.

Finally, upon asking, we tasted the 2013 Sweet Calire Riesling, OMG, have I mentioned that I love Rieslings? A well balanced sweetness with a crisp acidity won this Riesling a Double Gold Medal in the San Francisco Wine Competition, be sure to ask for a taste of this wine while you are there!

During our visit, someone came in to buy some caramelized nuts. Mama (Imogene) Prager has been making these nuts since 1979 and if the ports weren't so good, these nuts could be the main attraction. If your host forgets to put them out, be sure to ask, I promise you will not be disappointed. 

Sadly, my companions were not as impressed with the ports as my roomie and I were. We walked off with several bottles and they said they did not understand the "whole port thing." So maybe I was wrong, maybe everyone cannot find something at Prager Port Works, but one thing is for sure, if you already love Port, bring your wallet! Tastings run $20, which are not waived with purchase, which was a little disappointing as we spent well over $250, we had hoped for a waived tasting fee. We did get to take home the glasses, which are kind of cool, I sit here sipping some Sweet Claire in my glass which was etched on site at Prager.

They also make a Chocolate Port Drizzle and Chocolate Port Truffles which were not available for tasting. You can also pick up some older vintages of port while you are there.

Prager Winery and Port works is located at 1281 Lewelling Lane in Saint Helena. We almost missed the sign, so look closely for it amongst the resorts on the main drag.