Bill Dowd photoThe standard answer to how you can be in the winemaking business and have a million dollars is to start with 2 million. I didn't presume to ask about the personal finances of Jim Summers, but I do know he did well in the investment game before launching Summers Estate Wines, a family-run winery in Napa Valley, CA. He also is doing well with a controlled-size output, some of which I had the opportunity to try during a wine dinner this week at Charlie's restaurant in Lake Placid, NY. They run from the mid-$20s to the mid-$40s.
• Estate Charbono 2005:
This is an unusual varietal Summers says is thought to have originated between southeastern France and northwestern Italy. It now is found growing on less than 100 acres of California. It's a fruit forward wine, bold in color and opening quickly on the palate. A real treat and a break from the usual styles.
• Knight's Valley Merlot 2004:
I'm seldom bowled over by a merlot, but I was by this big merlot, loaded with spice and pepper and fruit. Excellent body and lingering vanilla finish, with soft tannins.
• Andrianna's Cuvee 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon:
Named for Summers' daughter, this seems like a wine best described the way he describes her -- "14 going on 40." It has the complexity of youth and blending of grapes from three vineyards, plus maturity from the French oak in which it's aged. Firm tannins, fine mouthfeel.
• Estate Zinfandel 2005:
Dark, rich, full bodied fruit with a touch of spice and berries. Typical of the better Napa zins, with a certain lushness.
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