Parallel Passions 

Sipping the new vintages with Parallel partners

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Last month, I had the good fortune to lunch at Pago restaurant with two Utahbased partners of Napa Valley’s Parallel Wines, Joe Sargetakis and Val Chin. I’ve written in the past about Parallel, which is not Utah wine but has a strong connection to Utah, since six of the eight operating partners/friends/couples (Joe & Paula Sargetakis, Mac & Ann MacQuoid and Steve & Val Chin) are based right here in the Beehive. Mike and Toni Doilney left Park City after 30 years and moved to St. Helena, in Napa, where the Parallel vineyards and winery are located.

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The reason for our get-together (like I need a reason to taste great wine?) was to sample Parallel’s new releases: The 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($50), 2007 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($33) and 2006 Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($125). In case you haven’t heard the Parallel story before, in a nutshell, it goes like this: Four Park City couples who shared parallel passions for skiing, food, wine and community service, among other things, decided to funnel some of that passion into winemaking. Before they could talk themselves out of it, they’d purchased a Napa Valley winery and hired the renowned French winemaker Philippe Melka (Food & Wine 2005 Winemaker of the Year) in tandem with the equally sought-after vineyard manager Jim Barbour. The inaugural 2003 Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon was stunning, yet affordable. Each year, Parallel wines get better and better. This year marks a new beginning of sorts as Parallel launches its first-ever Chardonnay. I think you’re gonna like it.

When Joe Sargetakis talks about the four couples’ Parallel Wines project, he says, “We love this! We’re gregarious, we have a great time together, but what ends up in the bottle is serious—because we hired the best of the best in Jim Barbour and Philippe Melka—and I think that reflects what comes out of the bottle.”

Val Chin concurs, saying, “Every endeavor that we individually have taken on, we’ve done it to the max. There’s no half-effort.” Sargetakis adds, “It’s all passion, it’s all fun, it’s all … I don’t know … it’s how you express yourself. The focus for us is to say to people, ‘Come. Welcome. Enjoy with us.’”

The first time I tasted the new 2007 Parallel Chardonnay, it didn’t impress me. However, tasting it again at Pago made me realize I’d first sampled the Parallel Chard too cold—it had come straight from my fridge. At a warmer temp, I was able to enjoy the beauty of this well-built Chardonnay. (Lesson learned: Stop putting good wine in the refrigerator!)

Parallel Chardonnay from the fridge tastes like an oak bomb. It is, after all, aged in French oak puncheons for 16 months. But at an appropriate temperature—and once the wine opens up a bit—it’s a parade of pretty aromas: apricot, honeydew and a hint of pineapple. It’s a big-bodied Chardonnay— complex, layered and harmonious.

2006 Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon is classic California, which just shows how well French winemaker Philippe Melka has adjusted to the New World. If you love blackberries, you’ll love this wine. It exudes blackberries, blackberries, and more blackberries, with just a hint of black cherry and ultra-fine tannins.

2006 Parallel Estate Cabernet Sauvignon: I’d love to bathe in this stuff. OMG, so luscious … so concentrated … so opulent … so freakin’ big. At $125, it isn’t cheap—it’s certainly beyond my budget— but, in a blind tasting, I’d swear this was a wine that cost three times that price. Start saving your dough, because this one’s just gonna get better.

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