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September 4, 2017
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The Dominus winery building...they had a sign posted saying
photos were prohibited.
Clearly this winery has a lot of "minerality."

 

DOMINUS ESTATE

wpeB.jpg (7614 bytes)With much fanfare, this property has enjoyed a phenomenal amount of praise from some wine writers.  It is managed by Christian Moueix, a fellow whose family owns the famous Chateau Petrus in Bordeaux's Pomerol region.  Dominus was owned, also, by the Lail family, who had ties to the old Inglenook winery.  Mrs. Robin Lail's father was John Daniel, a legendary figure in Napa Valley wine history.  I understand the Lail's no longer have a share of Dominus.

The vineyard, called "Napanook" is on the west side of the highway in Yountville.  The winery, a strange concrete edifice covered by a wire frame into which rocks have been placed, is in the middle of the vineyard.  For a view of the place CLICK HERE.

Founded in 1983, the first vintages met with high praise from journals such as The Wine Advocate and The Wine Dictator.  In tastings we've conducted, the wines have met with far less enthusiastic responses.  Have these other journals been tasting the same wines?  Have we been tasting the Dominus wines while the wines are in a "closed" state?  Or is this merely a case of the Emperor's new clothes?  

dominus.gif (6091 bytes)I have found, I will admit, the recent vintages have become better balanced examples of red wine.  These are not the lavishly-oaked sorts of reds which tend to attract the most attention. 
Though Mr. Moueix is well-versed in Merlot-based wines from his native Pomerol and St. Emilion regions, Dominus is a Cabernet Sauvignon-based red.

 


The 2001, in my opinion, marked a major turning point for this wine.  I was quite surprised when I tasted it.  Much finer than previous efforts and better balanced.  It seems they've made a major change in the blend.  Whereas previous vintages were Merlot-based reds with Cabernet tannins, this vintage is based on Cabernet Sauvignon.  World of difference, too!!!  Much finer.  Better balance and the wine shows far more complexity than any young Dominus wines I had tasted before.

The 2012 is excellent.  Where early vintages were predominantly tannic Merlot, this is nearly all Cabernet Sauvignon (5% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc) and yet it's so handsomely integrated.  There are dark fruit notes and a mildly woodsy, cedary quality to it.  You can drink it now, if you like, or hold it for another decade.
 


The 2012 has high numerical scores from The Critics.  Some of these people came up with an evaluation asserting this is a 98 or 99 point wine.
The same "experts" declared the 2013 vintage to be worthy of a 100 point score.
We've been amused, then, when people we've never seen in the shop before have demanded to buy a bottle of the rare and much sought-after 2013.
Not having any of that vintage, we showed them the 2012, but since it's inferior by a lone point on someone's imaginary numerical scale, it is unworthy of purchase.
Some days you just shake your head in wonderment.


Currently available:
2012 Dominus 750ml Sale Priced $229.99  (last bottles)






DUCKHORN

This winery was originally established to make a name for itself as the leading producer of Merlot.  Over the years they've made good Cabernets, too.  Their first vintage was 100% Cabernet, while today they seem to like to blend other "Bordeaux varieties" into the wine.  Early vintages demonstrated a commitment to quality.  
They made good, classic, full-throttle wines.

Today you'll find darker fruit notes and the wines have some elements of what is fairly typical of this era's Napa Cabernets.  The wines are fuller in body and have the concentration one gets from riper grapes and maybe a nudge from some toys which are employed by many high end California vintners.
 
 

When I first contacted the winery back in 1980, or so, I was curious as to how they selected the name "Duckhorn."  Other wineries had names such as "Freemark Abbey," combining the names "Freeman, Mark and Abbey" (if memory serves, "Cuvaison" (French for the period of keeping the juice in contact with the grape skins) or "Caymus" (after a Spanish land grant).  
"How'd you come up with such a goofy name for a brand of wine?" I asked the lady.

"Well," replied Mrs. Margaret Duckhorn, "that's our family's name!"

Open mouth---insert foot!
Duckhorn's partners were getting up in years and in 2007 rumors swirled around the Valley that the winery was to be sold.  Duckhorn's CEO, Alex Ryan, was widely quoted as saying the place was not up for sale, but shortly thereafter an investment company called GI Partners paid Duckhorn and his investors a pretty penny for the company.
We read the place was sold for perhaps $250 million.

GI Partners expanded the vineyard holdings of Duckhorn and they built some new cellars, clearly improving the company while expanding production.

In 2016 Mr. Ryan again responded to rumors of Duckhorn being sold by denying anything was happening.  Within a couple of months of his public denials, Duckhorn again was sold, this time going from GI Partners to TSG Consumer Partners.  
This is a company with a diverse portfolio.  Now Duckhorn is affiliated, to a small degree, with products such as Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, La Victoria Salsas, Comet Cleanser, Chloraseptic Throat Spray, Stumptown Coffee and Spic & Span.
Who knows what this could mean in the future???
 
Dan & Margaret, though, are said to be active in the company.


As far as Cabernets go, we have Duckhorn's "Napa" bottling of 2013.  It's 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot  and 1% Cabernet Franc this vintage.  This is quite typical of the Duckhorn style...lots of nice dark berry and a hint of plum, mixed with cassis and a touch of wood in the background.  It's certainly drinkable now and ought to last nicely over the next decade.

 

Currently in stock: 
2013 Napa CABERNET SAUVIGNON $71.99
2008 Napa CABERNET SAUVIGNON Magnums  Sold Out

 



FAR NIENTE WINERY
2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon SALE $124.99

farnientecs.gif (14077 bytes)We hadn't been particularly enthusiastic about paying the Far Niente price for Cabernet from this estate, but we will say their 1994 marks a change for the better in terms of what's in the glass, anyway.  Yes, these are expensive and they're priced for those with Platinum credit cards.  

But basically Far Niente is a wine for those looking to impress their friends.
A bottle on your dinner table says "Look, I spent a lot of money on this wine, so you know it has to be good."  

As noted above, recent vintages are a major improvement over the early efforts, but the wine is ambitiously priced strictly to cater to a particular segment of the market.

The 2011 is a medium-full bodied Cabernet.  It's blended with 7% Petit Verdot and 1% of Cabernet Franc.  They use a fairly high percentage of new oak, but the wood doesn't dominate the wine since there's plenty of "wine" there.  This is a nicely balanced Cabernet, so you can easily enjoy a bottle tonight, if you like, but this will live another 10 to 20 years depending upon the storage conditions. 

Their "sister" winery has a whole flock of Cabernets under their "Nickel & Nickel" label.  These are perfectly nice $25 Napa Cabernets.
Unfortunately they sell for $50-$100 a bottle.
 

FORMAN

Ric Forman has been in the Napa Valley since the 1960s where he was briefly affiliated with Stony Hill and then the new winery called Robert Mondavi.  After that, he signed on to help design and make wine at Sterling Vineyards where he helped make some stellar wines back in the early 1970s.  

At Sterling Ric made some wonderful Cabernets, Chardonnays, Chenin Blancs and some new variety called Merlot.  

The investors at Sterling sold the place in the mid-1970s and soon a Coca Cola bottler was in charge of Sterling Vineyards.  Ric departed not long after to team up again with one of the major backers of the Sterling enterprise.

The new winery was going to be called Forman and it was west of downtown St. Helena up in the hills.  They made a vintage or two of wine and shortly before the first wine was to be released, Peter Newton's wife insisted the brand have their name on the label, not that of the winemaker.  

At that sudden turn of events, Forman departed and began helping his friend Charles Shaw make "Beaujolais"-styled wine at a little facility over near Ehlers Lane.  Mr. Shaw was a nice fellow and he and his lovely wife produced good little wines from the Gamay grape.  In the meantime, Forman was able to use some of Shaw's cellar space to make his own wine and this, lo and behold, would be labeled with the Forman banner.

((Parenthetically, when Charles and Lucy Shaw got divorced, the winery was sold along with its label.  Today the brand is known as "Two Buck Chuck" and it's made by a character named Fred Franzia who sells it exclusively to Trader Joe's chain of stores.  That's a lesson in wine brands...a lofty brand one day can be cheap plonk the next.))

Forman purchased a property at the base of Howell Mountain and his brand was born with the 1983 vintage.  He has a parcel, as well, on the Rutherford Bench.  

Just below the winery is a parcel with gravel and sandy soils.  Above the winery the soils are of a dense volcanic rock (they needed to blast the soils to facilitate planting grape vines!), while another higher site has pink, gravelly soils with volcanic ash in the sub-strata.  Forman is a vineyard fanatic and makes no compromises in his viticultural practices.

His vineyard crew of three knows each vine intimately...they figure they handle each plant something like 20 times during the course of the year, lavish great attention on each vine.  

Having traveled to France with Dick Graff way back in the late 1960's, Forman became interested in "traditional" winemaking techniques.  He appreciated the modern conveniences he's had in Napa, of course, but at the heart of his cellar work, he's focused on viticulture, first and foremost.  

Forman typically has two red wines:  His main label of Cabernet is, essentially, a 'reserve' wine.  In the cellar he culls out various barrels and those go into his "declassified" wine, La Grande Roche (the winery is located on Big Rock Road).

We've long been fans of Ric's wines...in fact, we opened a 37 year old bottle of Sterling Merlot that Ric had made and the wine was still alive and kicking!

His Forman wines are routinely elegant and refined, though we've noted the alcohol level on the Cabernet has risen over the years.  Still, he makes a wine which is complex and balanced.  

The 2012 vintage is in the shop presently.  The wine is 3/4s Cabernet Sauvignon with 18% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot and 3% Merlot.  

It's an absolute delight.  Dark fruits, hints of a minerality, cassis, lightly woodsy and very fine in its relative youth.  This vintage is a bit more approachable at this stage, than some earlier years.  

If you proclaim yourself to be a Napa Cabernet aficionado and don't know Ric's wine, you owe it to yourself to become acquainted.  

Currently in stock:  2012 FORMAN Napa CABERNET SAUVIGNON $99.99


 

 


FRANK FAMILY

You're probably wondering why I've placed a photo of the sparkling wines of the now-defunct Hanns Kornell winery under this Frank Family heading.

Rich Frank is a Hollywood entertain industry mogul and he enjoyed getting out of town from time to time and visiting the Napa Valley.  Tasting a wine made by the Rombauer winery, he hooked up with Koerner Rombauer who actually discouraged Frank from investing in the wine business.

A couple of years later, Rombauer called Frank with an investment opportunity and the two of them bought the old Hanns Kornell winery.  Located in Calistoga, the place is the site of the Larkmead winery building which was constructed in the late 1800s and 'spruced up' in the early 1900s.  

They have a fair bit of vineyard acreage, though I believe this wine is made of purchased fruit.  Future plans call for their Napa Cabernet to come from an estate vineyard in the Capell valley (South of Lake Berryessa and north of the city of Napa).  

We have their 2010 Napa Cabernet in the store. This is blended with a 13% Merlot and 3% of Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc.  One-third new oak barrels, but it's only mildly woodsy. This is a medium-full bodied red wine that's rather smooth on the palate.


Currently in stock:  2013 Frank Family Napa Cabernet Sauvignon SALE $46.99



FRISSON

Terry Davis hails from Texas and he's been described as a businessman.  

And he's got a varied background, from real estate investing and management to his having had a hand in a pizza business and even some sort of coin-operated amusement game business (yes, pool tables, jukeboxes, video games and kiddy rides!).

These days he and his wife Pam live in Yountville and they're in the wine business.

The path that led them to being wine moguls started when they were organizing fund-raisers for Cystic Fibrosis.  Their son, you see, had been diagnosed with that and the couple worked diligently to organize wine & food events in an effort to contribute to the local charity organization dealing with that disease.

In the course of this, they met famous chefs, famous wine luminaries and not-so-famous winemakers.  Davis expressed his interest in wine and having lost his shirt in a few other enterprises, the prospect of the wine business was not as daunting for him as it might be for others.

Winemaker Wayne Donaldson, an Aussie who's worked for Chandon in Australia and Napa, as well as for Gallo's "luxury" wines and Newton, told Davis if he found some good Cabernet, he'd call him.  Well, not long after that late night conversation at the end of a garden party, the phone rang and Donaldson informed Davis they'd just bought three tons of Diamond Mountain Cabernet grapes.

With a few friends, Davis launched Frisson.  It's a French word expressing a measure of excitement or thrills.

And certainly the Cabernet Sauvignon wines of Frisson are exciting.  They still make one from Diamond Mountain.  There's also one from another site.

We picked the Rutherford bottling from the 2012 vintage.  This comes from a vineyard along Conn Creek Road and Skellenger Lane.  It's called Georges III as it was owned by Beaulieu Vineyard's Georges de Latour from 1928 on.  Andy Beckstoffer, who worked for Heublein (the company that purchased BV in the late 1960s) owns it today.  Frisson's is one of the few wines from a Beckstoffer-owned vineyard that we find to be of premium quality.

The 2012 displays lots of dark fruit notes.  There's a pleasantly earthy, sort of loamy quality here as well as beautifully cedary oak.  The wine strikes us a beautifully balanced and the tannin and fruit are quite harmonious.  We expect this can be cellared for a decade, or so, but it's so charming and attractive in its youth, aging it may be a difficult task.

This is one of a small number of Napa Cabernets where the consumer gets his/her money's worth.  We taste numerous wines costing $30 to $400+ a bottle and most are pretenders at being seriously premium wine.  This Frisson 2012 is the real deal.


Currently in stock:  2012 FRISSON Rutherford/Napa CABERNET SAUVIGNON "Georges III Vineyard"   $94.99

 

 



FROG'S LEAP

Winemaker John Williams is now a gray bearded Napa Valley winemaker, not the young kid from New York he was 25 or 30 years ago.  

John took a job as winemaker for Spring Mountain when he moved out here from Riesling country in New York's Finger Lakes.  What with two Stag's Leap wineries battling each other for the rights to that brand name, Williams and an emergency room doc from a local hospital formed a partnership and started a humorous little brand at the site of an old frog-raising facility.  And they played off the Stag's Leap name, using the name Frog's Leap.

Years later, the doc wanted to have his own winery, so John had to get some investors and buy out his partner.  

Today the doc's wines are much sought-after.  Turley.  They make huge, fruit-bomb wines which are high octane brain-busters.  

John continues to make "old fashioned" wines and he strives to keep the alcohol levels below 14%.  And since it's more fashionable today to make 15% alcohol fruit bombs, Frog's Leap is a label not often cited as a top Napa Cabernet wine.

Too bad, because the wines remain classically styled and they're a delight when they're young and these seem to age handsomely, too.
Funny, though, you rarely read about old vintages of Frog's Leap Cabernets...probably because the wines taste good when they're young, few "collectors" would ever think of saving them until they're old.  And we know most wine drinkers open a bottle of wine within a day, or so, of its purchase.

We are currently sold out of Frog's Leap Cabernet...stay tuned.


Currently in stock:  2012 FROG'S LEAP Napa CABERNET SAUVIGNON  Sold Out

 





 
 
 
 
 


GALLAND CLARK

Stacy Clark is from San Mateo, just down the road from our shop.  In fact, Ellen and she were in the same class at San Mateo High School a few years (okay, more than a few years) ago.

Stacy got bit by the science bug in High School and enrolled at UC Davis in biology.  There, of course, she was bit by the wine bug and things really got out of control.

She enrolled at the University of Stag's Leap where Professor Warren Winiarski taught her about elegant Cabernets.  She also learned from Bob Broman, another eno-wizard.  

After graduating from UC Davis, Ms. Clark was hired as a lab technician at the fledgling Pine Ridge winery, working for Gary and Nancy Andrus.  Those were the days!

Not only did she produce numerous vintages of Cabernet, but she also dabbled in Chardonnay, a white blend of Chenin Blanc & Viognier which was quite good in those days as well as helping found Oregon's Archery Summit winery.  

After leaving Pine Ridge, she's recently taken on a challenge at the venerable winery of Charles Krug.  There she's tasked with making Cabernets (etc.) and Sauvignon Blanc.  We raised our eyebrows and skeptically asked "Really?" and she told us the winery has numerous seriously good, old vineyards and she was thrilled to be able to vinify fruit from such stellar vineyards.

In fact, evidence of her handiwork can be seen with Krug's new Napa Sauvignon Blanc.  This is a seriously more interesting wine than they've had over the past decade.  

Stacy also launched her own label of a small production of Napa Cabernet, a wine named after her Pop, John Galland Clark.  Dad, who passed away in early 2011, was a local legal beagle.  

The 2009 Galland Clark Cabernet is a blend of two vineyard sites, one in St. Helena (Varozza) and one in the Oak Knoll District (Jaeger).  Stacy likes to cold soak the must for a week before starting the fermentation.  Once the wine goes dry, she presses the skins and puts the wine in barrel.  French oak, 60% new and yet her wine is not particularly woody or oaky.  It's a fairly elegant Napa Cabernet and it's a small production wine which was bottled unfiltered.

We like the interplay of red fruit notes, blackberry and the hint of wood lurking in the background.  It's showing beautifully at present and we expect the wine will continue to become more complex if given a bit of bottle aging.   It's more of the "old school" style of Napa Cabernet than big, powerful fruit bomb...
 

Currently in stock:  2009 GALLAND CLARK Napa CABERNET SAUVIGNON $59.99

 


GRGICH HILLS CELLAR
Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Sold Out

Mr. Mike Grgich worked at BV back in the Dark Ages, learning from famed Napa Valley legend Andre Tchelistcheff.   He later went on to be the first winemaker at Calistoga's Chateau Montelena, making its first wines.  The winery was highly acclaimed for its Chardonnays, though I recall (vividly) a superb 1973 vintage Zinfandel.  Cabernets were good, of course, but Grgich didn't really excel at that variety when Grgich Hills got rolling.  


The 1995 vintage seemed to bring about a major change, that wine having lots of sweet, woodsy notes to it. They've maintained this style since then (happily, in my view).  

 
Here is the "old" Grgich Hills Cabernet label.  If you look closely, you will notice the distinctive grape design is the same as on their Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc labels.  Someone once explained that Grgich is a frugal fellow and merely photocopied the Chardonnay design...he didn't want to commission the artist to draw labels for each and every varietal made by the winery.  They finally had a "color" version designed for their Cabernet Sauvignon.  Finally.  But sharp eyes will notice the same colorful design of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes also adorns Grgich Zinfandel and Merlot bottles!  
 

 

Apparently they ramped up production and are making more wine than their normal channels can sell at the lofty price levels Grgich wines have commanded.  
We've noticed our customers no longer seem interested in the Grgich wines and this is, perhaps, partly due to some curious marketing.  

 

 


 

 


GROTH

The Groth family has been in Napa since the early-1980s when former Atari company executive Dennis Groth traded the world of Pong video games for the world of Cabernet Sauvignon.

The name "Atari" actually is a Japanese term for when someone hits the bulls-eye or wins the lottery.  In this case, the Groth family cashed out of Atari at a fortuitous moment and cashed in on Napa Valley vineyard land at an equally opportune time.

The Groth family purchased prime Oakville Cabernet vineyards which had been planted by the Silver Oak crew.  They've since replanted and the reputation of the winery is based on Cabernet Sauvignon.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Their Oakville estate vineyards provide the fruit for Groth's Cabernet Sauvignon.
 
Groth's first vintages were made by Nils Venge, a fellow who was quite familiar with Oakville grapes as he'd been at the helm of Villa Mount Eden winery in its early days.

The winemaker since 1984 has been Michael Weis, a fellow who'd been at the Robert Mondavi winery and later at the Vichon property.

The 2007 "Oakville" Cabernet was magnificent and deep, with loads of dark berry notes and lots of sweet, French oak.  The wine displays black fruits and, as it was matured in new French oak (50% was new, anyway), there's a wonderful woodsy element.  The wine is deep, black and intense.  It's sure to attract attention from those who believe they can numerically quantify a wine.  We're sure it'll get a million point rating from someone as it's dark in color and soft in terms of tannin.  Even the winery press materials describe this 2007 as having "gobs of fruit."

We currently have their 2009 Reserve Cabernet in stock.  It's a medium-full bodied Cabernet with nice dark fruit elements and a bit of sweet wood.  They've tempered the tannins with a small amount of Merlot, five percent.  You can certainly open this now and it's a beautifully showy bottle of Napa Cabernet.

 

Currently in stock:  2007 GROTH Napa/Oakville CABERNET SAUVIGNON  (List $50) Sold Out
2009 GROTH "Reserve" Sold Out


 

 






HART'S DESIRE
2014 Alexander Valley "Claret" $19.99
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Sold Out

This is a small wine enterprise in Sonoma and we find, periodically, some wine in the portfolio we like well enough to recommend to our customers.

Winemaker John Hart is married to a woman named "Desire," so he pretty much had no choice in naming his winemaking enterprise.  It had to be Hart's Desire!
 
 
 


A 2014 vintage Claret features the usual Bordelaise suspects, with Cabernet Sauvignon accounting for 96% of the blend along with just 4% Cabernet Franc...Nice wine, well-balanced and drinkable now.  This is one of the best Claret/Meritage/Bordeaux Blends to be had in California and it's a mere $19.99.  Don't miss it.


 






HEITZ CELLAR

2011 Napa Valley  Cabernet Sauvignon  Sold Out
2006 Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon SALE $134.99 (750ml)
2006 Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon SALE $279.99 (Magnums)
2007 Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon SALE $179.99 (last bottles)
2010 Trailside Cabernet Sauvignon $79.99
2007 Trailside Cabernet Sauvignon Magnum 
SALE $144.99

They started small.  In 1961 Joe Heitz purchased a small cellar and vineyard on the St. Helena Highway.  The man he purchased the place from made one wine from a grape thought to be Italy's Grignolino.  The wine was called "Brendel's Only One". 
Heitz continues to make this excellent "little" wine from this variety.  My contention is this "Grignolino" is probably another Piemontese grape called "Brachetto".  ($16.99 a bottle presently!)

In any case, Heitz is one of the old-timers, making a style of Cabernet that's a bit of a throwback to a different era.  Their wines do not taste like Bordeaux-wannabes and they steadfastly stick to the notion of giving the wine a certain amount of aging in wood (not new French oak, either) and then in bottle, releasing the wines when they're 5 years of age.

They don't pick grapes at absurdly high levels of sugar and the fruit is not over-ripe (and then adjusted with the addition of water).  Heitz employs traditional winemaking practices, thank you very much!

The 2011 Napa bottling is a medium-full bodied Cabernet.   It's a shade dusty and typically "Heitz-ian" in spice, but we detect a mildly leathery so of note on the nose this vintage  The wine is 100% Napa and 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. In this challenging vintage, they chose to refrain from bottling their single vineyard wines.  That means this Cabernet has some remarkably noble grapes in it. 
This is why you need to burn your vintage chart...many charts will tell you it's a weak vintage.  You would not know it by tasting this!

 A year in American oak tanks and two years in French oak make for a fairly supple, dry red.  It's lovely with steaks, a prime rib roast or some well-seasoned lamb.  We like this now, though it will last another 5-10 years, well-stored.  

Trailside is a vineyard which was owned by a guy named Shown and it's just south of Conn Creek Winery along the Silverado Trail.  It has been a very fine Napa Cabernet, but the fragrances are much more exotic than the regular Napa Cabernet.  I find much more red and black fruit and cedary, sweet oak to this wine.  We'd had the 1999 vintage and hadn't found a vintage to replace it until the 2007...The 2009 is the current vintage in stock and it's nicely showy and beautifully aromatic.  Classic.  What a lovely bottle!

Highly prized in the crown is a vineyard designated wine called Martha's Vineyard.  This comes from the Oakville-Rutherford border and is named after Martha of owners Mr. & Mrs. Tom May.   It is often a remarkable wine, minty and with a pungent note reminiscent of eucalyptus.  Not to everyone's taste, Martha's Vineyard Cabernets have been a Napa Valley "grand cru" for many years.  The vineyard was replanted and the first vintage in several years is the 1996.  Does it taste like the Martha's Vineyard wines of old?  Happily, the character of the the recent bottlings captures the "terroir" of Martha's Vineyard...

The 2006 is a really distinctive bottle of Napa Cabernet...this is showing beautifully at the moment and it's only going to get better over the next decade...and probably more.
 






We decanted a bottle of the 1970 Martha's Vineyard in 2014...the wine was still alive, though certainly old and a bit past its prime.  Still, it was a great bottle to appreciate and reminisce about the early days of Napa Valley's renaissance.
Our bottle had quite a bit of sediment and sludge adhering to the cork and, as you can see, the wine saturated the cork completely.

.
Heitz 1968 Napa Cabernet...Still youthful at 40+ years of age...the wine was in remarkable condition and had the same, beautiful spice notes we remembered from tasting this in the 1970s!



A fellow brought in a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from Heitz that was in his Dad's cellar.
That's Dad.
He wanted to have us opened the bottle and give him an evaluation of its condition, since he was unsure the cellar conditions had been ideal this past decade.
The wine, he said, was a 1977 Martha's Vineyard.
But we looked at the label and it was actually a 1973 Martha's Vineyard.
And, as you can see by the looks on their faces, the bottle was splendid!
What a lovely bottle of wine.  Tasted in 2015, this still had the classic minty/eucalyptus notes of Martha's Vineyard.



 
 
 

HOOPES VINEYARD

The owners of this little enterprise have interesting backgrounds, mostly in the field of being legal beagles.

Spencer Hoopes was an anti-trust attorney and his daughter Lindsay has been an assistant district attorney in San Francisco.

Hoopes enjoyed wine and had been bitten by the wine-collecting and wine-drinking bug, but was itching to see about growing grapes.  He purchased a property in southern Oakville and decided to plant Cabernet Sauvignon, as that grape, of course, gets the highest ransoms in the Napa Valley wine market.

He was fortunate to have planted the vines on a rather hardy root-stock, Saint George.  As a result, he avoided having to pull up the vineyard and start all over when the root louse, Phylloxera, ravaged neighboring vineyards planted using less resistant roots.

For years he sold the grapes and on a lark in 1999, or so, had some of the fruit vinified on its own.  The quality of that wine encouraged him to launch the Hoopes label and, as they say, the rest is history.

Hoopes daughter Lindsay is now officially running the show.  

The 2013 is currently in stock.  This vintage has no Merlot in the blend unlike the previous vintage.  100% Cabernet Sauvignon.  They mature the wine in small French oak and 71% of the barrels were brand new, first use this vintage.


We like the dark fruit notes and the mildly sweet wood tones.  It's quite drinkable now and serving it with a steak, duck or lamb makes it taste even smoother.  It can probably be cellared for 5-10 years if your storage conditions are cool.

 

There's now a more economical version from Hoopes.  It comes from six vineyard sites around the Napa Valley including some fruit from their Oakville estate.
French oak...a fair bit of new wood...
The resulting wine is medium to medium-full bodied...
We find it to be "Hoopes' Style" if a shade lighter.

Good wine and good value given Napa's often stratospheric pricing.


Currently in stock:  2013 HOOPES "Oakville" CABERNET SAUVIGNON  $79.99
20013 HOOPES "Napa Valley" CABERNET SAUVIGNON  $49.99

 





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