Wine making ambassador for SEA, Middle East and Africa, Samuel Stephens speaks of wine and Napa Valley wine delights.
Where did your interest in wine start?
With my family. I used to spend my holidays as a kid in the wines regions of the Limestone Coast in South Australia. Later on in life, my grandfather was a big inspiration to me and wine was something very close to his heart. My first tastes of wines were at family dinners at my grandparents, with him telling me about the provenance and style.
Some people are a bit put off by the pretentiousness that can come with wine, so where’s a good place to start if you want to learn more?
I always tell people that the most important thing to know about wine is what you like, not what you’re told you should like. The best place to start is to try as many different wines as you can and develop your own palate. Trying new wines by the glass when you’re out for dinner is a great way to explore. So is attending informal tastings at wine bars and wine shops.
How would you introduce Napa Valley wines in three sentences?
Ripe, smooth and opulent, balanced with elegance and complexity. Napa Valley creates some of the most diverse wine styles in the world and manages to find this great harmony between approachable and easy drinking styles, and wines of real character and depth. Napa Valley is indeed a catch cry for drinking pleasure.
What’s your best insider tip with regards to buying wine from the Napa Valley?
Be open to trying new grapes, producers or regions. The region itself produces very high quality wines, so there is no real risk trying something new.
What do you like about wines from the Napa Valley? What sets Napa Valley wine apart from say, wine from France or Australia?
The way that Napa manages to balance approachable wines with power and complexity. You get a much more fruit driven and smooth style compared to French wines but not as much raw power as some Australian offerings.
What are some of the key points to consider when pairing food and wine?
It really is personal. As long as you like it, the pairing then it is a good one. A couple of simple rules are to not overpower light wines with strong food or delicate food with powerful wines.
What are your three highlights from the Napa Valley?
We just recently launched our award-winning portfolio of Napa Valley wine in Malaysia, and while we have many wines I would love to recommend to your readers, the top three would have to be:
- 2012 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: Sought-after by wine collectors, critics and enthusiasts, Beringer Private Reserve represents the pinnacle of the portfolio. The 2012 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon has complex layers of black fruit and notes of cocoa powder, graphite and light smoky oak. Notes of bittersweet chocolate and blackberry pastry complement.
- 2014 Stag’s Leap Napa Valley Merlot: Established in 1893, Stags’ Leap Winery is one of the oldest wine estates within the acclaimed Stags Leap District, producing wines expressive of its unique terroir. This expressive Merlot showcases the varietal’s ability to excel in Napa Valley with its generous, juicy fruit flavours, intriguing baking spice notes and polished structure.
- 2014 Sterling Vineyards Vintners Collection Chardonnay: Irresistibly charming, this Chardonnay is of gracious California style with vibrant fruit and supple texture.
Any recommendations for readers interested in visiting the Napa Valley? Is there a particular vineyards that is a ‘must’ see?
Without a doubt, the Sterling Vineyards winery. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Napa Valley, and with good reason. Perched 300 feet above the town of Calistoga, Sterling Vineyards offers unparalleled panoramic views of Napa Valley. An aerial tram carries visitors up the hill to the winery, whose architecture was modelled after that of the Greek island of Mykonos. All that and the chance to taste some amazing wines too!