Your Education: Napa Reds


Estate manager at Napa Valley’s Freemark Abbey winery, Barry Dodds takes a moment from his recent visit to Asia to gives us his top five tips for enjoying great Napa Valley red wine.


Originally a Cape Town native, Barry Dodds has been working in the Napa wine industry for 23 years. Since joining Freemark Abbey, one of Napa’s most esteemed wineries, in 2006, he continues to develop a wealth of wine knowledge as he helps craft world-class New World wines.

Think Before You Pair

The biggest mistake people make when buying wine is not considering what food to pair it with. You should always enjoy red wine with food, even if it’s just aged Gouda, some salami and bread. I personally prefer pairing a red wine with some sort of protein. Our Freemark Abbey Merlot goes great with a filet steak (or any steak for that matter). Salmon, pork belly and bacon make good Merlot partners as well. Cabernets pair well with steaks; my favourite is with a rib-eye or another marbled beef but the best foods for library (a cellared wine) Cabernets are rich braised meats, lamb shanks, short ribs and lamb chops. For vegetarians, hard rich cheeses go well too, like an aged Gouda, dry jack or manchego. We do not recommend blue cheese as it makes the wine too bitter.

 Older Vintages of Cabernet are Best

Older vintages show more character so they are always fantastic to enjoy as soon as you acquire them. Look for good deals; the inventory of older wines you can purchase is dwindling as more and more people discover these treasures. People often buy an older bottle and are too charmed by the wine to drink it. My suggestion is open the wine and keep the empty bottles. Write with a gold or silver pen on the bottle about the experience, the names of people you enjoyed it with, and what food you ate.

Avoid Cabernets that are Too High in Alcohol.

High percentage Cabernets don’t show enough terroir or varietal character. A vineyard’s climate, soil and terrain affect the taste of wine; generally speaking wines with too high alcohol content will overwhelm your palate, making you less sensitive to the taste. However, if you do have a high alcohol wine, cheese is a better companion.


Don’t Over-Air Vintage Wines

First, make sure you have a temperature controlled cellar or wine storage space if you do not plan on drinking the wine right away. If there is sediment, use a stainless steel fine filter to clean the wine up. Pour straight to glasses; make sure the food is ready to eat before you open the bottle.

Know Your Producer

There are many resources online for this. Oregon makes some stunning Pinot Noirs and is really getting more and more press. The food in the region is excellent and the Willamette Valley is also a beautiful place to visit. Napa continues to climb through with incredible restaurants; our own, Two Birds One Stone, is fast becoming a very respected and popular restaurant so you can wine and dine right there. In Hong Kong, Freemark Abbey can be found at selected fine restaurants such as The French Window, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, Petrus and Blue Butcher


DrinkFred Kirby