The best Oakville cab you’ve never heard of

No mysteries. No hype. No games. No great big marketing staff. That’s Liparita/Hoopes winery. And that’s why you probably don’t know about them. The three-person operation was started by Spencer Hoopes, right, a former lawyer, who wanted to restore the winery, started in 1880, to its former glory: its red wine won a gold and bronze medal at the Paris Exposition in 1900. The rest of the troika consists of winemaker Jason Fisher (Grace, Paradigm, and Cosentino), and John Healy, their one-man sales force and a goodtime guy—be sure you sit next to him at their wine dinners.

John likes to hand-sell the wines. He was just in Anaheim for a dinner at Morton’s. He also poured at Von’s in Newport Coast. (I told you these guys were no BS!). They’ve already got a small cult following in Orange County—did you read my blog about meeting a really nice couple who shared a bottle of cabernet from their locker? If not, here’s a link so you can catch up. And here’s the date of another interesting wine dinner at Morton’s in Santa Ana: Andrew Geoffrey Vineyards Wine Dinner is on Sept. 27.

Eager to try all they had to offer, I returned to Morton’s to see what all the excitement was about. Anthony Dias Blue has compared them to Screaming Eagle only more approachable: “It is big but it has soft feminine aspects.” I don’t know if I would go that far but I have to say I was really impressed with their entire line.  I agree with Anthony about the approachability. Everything they rolled out was ready to drink. Their celebrated Hoopes Cabernet has tannins and structure that will develop if you can bear to wait for it. I say buy the Liparita Stags Leap cab 2006 ($45) or better still the Liparita Oakville cab 2006 ($55) which has wonderful black raspberry and cherry flavors; it does have feminine aspects but it was my husband’s favorite of the entire night.

I also loved the Hoopla Chardonnay. One hundred percent chard from Yountville, it ain’t no butter bomb or oak bomb. Well chilled, it comes on light and slightly minerally and citrusy. But let it warm a little and it opens into a beauty with delicious apple and vanilla and a little touch of honey. I was floored to hear John say they sell it for $10 at Von’s. Definitely picking up three bottles for my next dinner party. At this price anyone can give it a try. Comment here and let me know what you think of it. And please weigh in if you are already a Hoopes fan.—Anne Valdespino


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