Tasting at Anderson’s Con Valley

The winery is located a few miles East from Silverado Trail down a very winding narrow road through rolling hills and native vegetation. The terroir here is definitely not the flat valley floor vineyard land. There is no signage whatsoever until you reach the main winery gate. Owner/Winemaker Todd Anderson has been making fabulous Bordeaux-style wines at Conn Valley Vineyards for more than 20 years. Around 2000, he started a second, ultra-premium winery: Ghost Horse Vineyards.

We were lucky enough to catch Todd in town, so our tasting and tour was with him. Todd, a lanky 6’4”, arrived in a jacked-up yellow Hummer with Ghost Horse Vineyards on the door and JYGNTOR on the license plate. If your tasting is with Todd, this is by far the longest tour/taste you will take at any Napa Winery. If you do not want to be rushed, set aside at least a half day for a visit. The entire purpose of the tour is educational – you will be shown the vineyards, the wine production facilities, the caves and taste through a wide variety of wines in their large cave from both barrel and bottle. Todd is a personality with lots to talk about. He is extremely personable and welcomes questions about winemaking, production, growing – really anything related to wine. He is a geologist/geophysicist by training and education, so he knows his soils.

Gayle and I tasted through his current release wines which were all exquisite (all ranked by Robert Parker in the 90-97 range). The 2007 Sauvignon Blanc was fruity with no grassy aromas. The 2008 Chardonnay was without malo-lactic conversion and was very tart with a kiss of French Oak, just our style. The reds were sublime, including a 2007 Pinot Noir sourced from grapes off the estate. We loved the Reserve Cabernets from 2006 and 2007, the Right Bank Merlot/Cab Franc and finally the 2007 Eloge, a Bordeaux Blend. But what was really worth waiting for was – Ghost Horse.

What makes Ghost Horse special is the wines are made with 100% Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from Todd’s personal vineyard. He painstakingly handcrafts each release, making extremely small but extremely exceptional batches of each wine. And the results? What Todd calls “head-cracking” wines. They have the big price tag, but once you figure in the private grape source, the extremely small lots, etched bottle, the exquisite hand-made attention, quality, and the cost of the website the wine prices make more sense.

So, what did we think? The one we were offered to taste was beyond belief. I’ve never had a wine bouquet hit my nostrils with the glass still seven or eight inches from my nose! The Ghost Horse wine we tasted was a fruit bomb but with no heavy tannins. It was very full-flavored yet with perfectly balanced acid. To me the Ghost Horse Cab tasted of deep fruit/cherry/black cherry, with a hint of chocolate. It had incredible weight a great mouth feel, fat and full yet with no negative after-tastes. Todd told us the only way people can acquire a bottle of Ghost Horse is directly from him – it is not available at retail or in restaurants. After our tasting we asked to purchase a bottle and he agreed. We felt honored.

Does Ghost Horse offer a small tribute to id; most certainly; but it is truly a fabulous wine. Yet Todd equally embraces novices and oenophiles and he readily shares his extensive knowledge about winemaking collected over 20+ years in the business. Hanging out in the cave sipping from a $500 bottle of wine… while chatting-up the winemaker… in the heart of Napa Valley…. Yes, it made our day.

Tours are extremely limited, but you can get a “taste” of Todd’s world at his Ghost Horse web site:http://www.ghosthorseworld.com/