Thursday, October 19, 2006

Food & Wine Tasting with Cuvée Napa and Modus Operandi

I started a new project under the auspices of The Wine Country Club (TWCC). I will be conducting trade food and wine tasting with the smaller wineries and selected restaurants located in Napa County. The first such trade tasting occurred recently at the local restaurant, “Cuvée Napa” where wines of Modus Operandi were tasted.

Cuvée Napa, located along Soscol Avenue just east of Napa, is already one of my favorite restaurants. Every time I start up the entryway stairs and reach the main floor, I’m always impressed with the homey, patio-like central courtyard dining area. It is near fully enclosed by the building wings of the former and short-lived “Budo” restaurant design reminding me of the old Spanish missions and presidios of early California.

Being the first to arrive I immediately searched out Cuvée ‘s Director of Wine, Lucas Henning. He was extremely busy maneuvering from table to table in both the enclosed dining area as well as the mood setting courtyard. Between table stops he advised me we would be experiencing Cuvee’s dry aged 14 oz rib eye steak and herb fries.

I was waiting at the bar conversing with the day-time bartender, Colleen, a tall, attractive blond with a tremendous personality and professional quality about her, when I noticed a gentlemen sit down near me a few seats away, and carrying a couple bottles of wine. Very shortly thereafter Lucas arrived and introduced me to this gentleman - Jason Moore, the Winemaker and managing owner-partner of Modus Operandi, a very small and relatively new winery. We then all moved to a special tasting set-up along the east wall of the most comfortable lounge wing.

The first wine we tasted was the (M)(O) - that’s their trademark logo - 2004 two-vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine will be Jason’s inaugural release. It was bottled last June, requires a little more settling time and Jason plans its release in late October/early November of this year. This wine finished in the middle of my palette, was soft, with mild tannins, berry flavors and a hint of vanilla. This wine is quite drinkable right away requiring little decanting time.

About this time, we were presented Cuvée’s rib eye steak and herb fries into which we immediately sunk our forks and began consuming. The steak was cooked rare-to-medium rare which is my preferred texture. We continued tasting wine in between bites fully enjoying the food and wine pairing. Jason’s passion exuded as he described his baby; his first commercial wine after years of home winemaking. He spoke in terms of the wine reminding him of sitting in a low lighted piano bar listening to smooth jazz type background music conjuring up a sensual and inviting atmosphere presented by the smoothness of his wine itself.

As we continued munching away at the delicious Cuvée steak and fries, Jason poured the second (M)(O) wine, which was a barrel sample of his 2005 Cabernet. This wine is also derived from grapes selected from three vineyards. Now, this deep red wine, with long finish on the back of my palette, was very impressive with the rib eye. That is not to say I didn’t like the 2004, but I preferred the 2005 with the food. The tannins were heavier and the wine was long lasting barely disappearing from my palette before the next sip. As we continued to taste this wine it developed nicely as it decanted with rich fruit flavors coming forth balanced with oak and tannins. Lucas also thought the 2005 vintage was more suited to his taste. But, this could be an evaluation influenced by the fact that he and Jason handpicked about 75% of the four tons of select grapes. This wine should be released in time for the holiday season in 2007.

Colleen finished her shift and wandered over to our table and joined us to taste the two wines. She preferred the “lighter feeling” of the 2004 Cab. Thus we ended up with split decision, two favoring the 2004 and two leaning towards the 2005. However, this tally shouldn’t be construed as anything negative towards the 2004 versus 2005 because I’m very much looking forward to getting my hands on some of the only 192 cases of this delicious inaugural release of Modus Operandi.

What’s in the making at (M)(O)? Jason reports that he has a Sauvignon Blanc coming out soon. He added that he recently starting producing his wines at the former Koves-Newlan site (located adjacent to Hwy 29 in north Napa) now taken over by Craig MacLean ’s group to be renamed “Napa L'attitude.”

I’m leaving out the detailed background of the winery and winemaker as all this information can easily be found by visiting Jason’s website: The Cuvée Napa restaurant web site is And, if you would like to read more about the smaller wineries of Napa County, visit my site at

In case you are wondering, I am not paid for these tasting events.


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