MORE CALIFORNIA CABERNETS
The Dominus winery building...they had a sign posted saying
photos were prohibited.
Clearly this winery has a lot of "minerality."
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?
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
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
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.
2012 Dominus 750ml Sale Priced $229.99 (last
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
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
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
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
79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 2% 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:
2012 Napa CABERNET SAUVIGNON $67.99
2008 Napa CABERNET SAUVIGNON Magnums Sold Out
FAR NIENTE WINERY
2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon SALE
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
Unfortunately they sell for $50-$100 a bottle.
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
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
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
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
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).
their 2010 Napa Cabernet in the store. This is blended with a 9% Merlot
and 3% of Petit Verdot and a drop of Cabernet Franc. Thirty percent new 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: 2010 Frank Family Napa Cabernet Sauvignon SALE
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
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
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
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
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
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
- The Frias family
has its roots in Mexico, but they left their own country in a hurry.
Manny Frias' father was mayor of their little town, but feared for his
safety when other's political views became more popular. Dad worked
for Schlage lock company, a far different life than he had back in Mexico.
Manny visited the Napa Valley periodically, visiting wineries such as
Beringer, BV and Heitz. He was enchanted by the landscape of Napa
Valley and hoped to, one day, buy some land and live there.
Manny and his father purchased 100 acres of land on Spring Mountain back in
1977. They paid the grand sum of $1,000 an acre to an 83 year old
woman who stipulated that she be able to live the rest of her days on the
property. She moved in with her sister some 5 years later and the
Frias family took possession of the property. Five acres were
planted in 1985 and today they're up to a whopping 13!!!
As you might suspect, their wine is not made in large quantities.
Twenty-five barrels is a lot of wine. More than the Frias family can
drink, so they actually sell a few cases, here and there.
We tasted a few vintages and selected the newly-released 1999 and the
"library" wine of 1992.
The 1999 is rather deep in color and shows lots of black fruit aromas and
flavors. Think of black currants, ripe plums and black cherry.
Combined with a hint of cedar from some new oak and you have a rather showy
The 1992 has developed a lovely bottle bouquet. There are some cedary
notes up front and a bit of a dusty note of older Cabernet. The wine
is still quite vigorous and a bit tannic. Frias' Cabernets are, to
this point, 100% varietal. This runs counter to many of the current
fashion of blending other "Bordeaux varietals" into Cabernet
Sauvignon. Medium-full bodied, this has an elegance and "mountain
character" that we find quite appealing. Especially with prime rib or a
rack of lamb.
Currently in stock: 1992 Napa Cabernet $59.99
1999 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon $59.99
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
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
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).
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
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 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
- 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
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
1997 Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Located near the (now famous) Bryant Family vineyard and Chappellet, the
Harrison's offer a medium-full-bodied Cabernet with some of the wild herb elements of some
mountain Cabernets. This is nice now, but probably will really develop with another
3-5 years in bottle. Only 150 cases were produced, so this is an
endangered species. The aromas are reminiscent of dark cherry along
with some cedary notes.
2012 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 2012 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.
John's Cabernet Sauvignons are typically balanced, supple and
The 2007 is wonderfully aromatic with fragrances we identify with some wines
from Australia: minty, cassis, violets...a touch of
Well, it turns out, according to John, the vineyard has a couple of massive
eucalyptus trees in the vicinity and these probably account for the particular
character of the wine.
The tannins are soft and so the wine is beautifully drinkable at this
stage. And it's well-priced, too.
2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $49.99
2006 Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon SALE $134.99
2006 Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon SALE $279.99
2007 Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon SALE
$179.99 (last bottles)
2010 Trailside Cabernet
2007 Trailside Cabernet Sauvignon Magnum
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
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.
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
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.
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 2012 is currently in stock. This vintage has all of 3%
Merlot in the blend, with the rest being Cabernet Sauvignon. They mature
the wine in small French oak and 70% of the barrels were new 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.
Currently in stock: 2012 HOOPES
"Oakville" CABERNET SAUVIGNON $79.99
Back to our first Cabernet