Club Vin du Soleil December Shipment Selections
Tasting Notes from Wine Director, Kris Margerum, for the December wine club shipment.
December 2011 Grand Cru
D.R. Stephens “Walther River Block” Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Rutherford-Napa Valley. The Walther vineyard is located just south of Auberge du Soleil on an ancient stream bed. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is very much in the classic Napa Valley style with dark fruit notes, firm tannins and dusty earth qualities. As with most 2007 vintage Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons, this wine is drinkable now but will hold well for many more years.
Larkmead “Solari” Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Calistoga-Napa Valley. This historic winery is one that I feel that more people should get to know. They produce quality wines and the winery is a joy to visit. The 2007 “Solari” Cabernet Sauvignon is a powerful wine from some of the oldest vines on the property, planted more than 25 years ago. I hope you will be amazed by the rich layers of flavors and length of finish. This wine is at its best if decanted an hour before serving.
Destiny Bay “Magna Praemia” Cabernet Sauvignon Blend 2007 Waiheke Island-New Zealand. Is there World Class Cabernet Sauvignon from New Zealand? I do believe I have tasted just that in the Destiny Bay wines. Just a short ferry boat ride from Auckland on the North Island lays Waiheke Island. It is situated far enough north to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon, while keeping higher acidity due to the cooling of Hauraki Gulf. The wine is a blend of all five Bordeaux grapes and seems to express the best of Old World notes (earth, acidity & structure) and New World notes (fruit and a forward plush mouth-feel) .
Meteor Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Napa Valley. The Coombsville Appellation is due to become an official AVA (American Viticultural Area) any day now. The new AVA is due east of the city of Napa along the base of the Vaca Range. Here the Vaca Range is horseshoe-shaped which allows the vineyards to warm in the afternoon sun after a cooler, Carneros type of night and morning. Meteor vineyard is in the middle of the appellation and achieves a wonderful balance of power and elegance, ripeness and restraint. Wait a few years if you can or decant and enjoy tonight.
Amuse Bouche Merlot Blend 2009 Napa Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon gets a lot of attention in Napa Valley but for those that have experienced the world’s best Merlot you know how majestic this grape can be. So much like Massetto by Ornellaia in Bolgheri or Chateau Le Pin in Pomerol, Heidi Peterson Barrett has crafted Amuse Bouche to be a world class wine. It is a powerhouse wine capable of aging many years, but when you do open it, I suggest enjoying it with rack of lamb.
Au Sommet Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Atlas Peak-Napa Valley. Au Sommet is also from the Amuse Bouche team and is a powerful expression of a mountain wine. It comes from a single site on Atlas Peak with shallow volcanic soils that give the wine concentrated flavors, while the cool nights give the wine a higher acid structure. All that power is given the Heidi Peterson Barrett touch of elegance to produce a truly wonderful wine.
December 2011 Premier Cru
Roy “Proprietary Red” Cabernet Sauvignon Blend 2007 Napa Valley. Shirley Roy’s vineyard is in the rock filled region of eastern Napa Valley, just south of Stag’s Leap District. Here, the climate is similar to Stag’s Leap, but the wines tend to be more structured as the vines are exposed to more stress as they are being grown in such rocky soils. The 07 Proprietary Red is about two thirds Cabernet Sauvignon and one third Merlot and Petit Verdot. It is layered and it is at a ripeness level where it expresses both black and red fruits, while allowing for the rocky earth notes and secondary spice notes to show through.
Corra Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Napa Valley. Celia Welch is a consulting wine maker for some of the highest rated wines in Napa Valley (Scarecrow, Keever, Babour and more). So how good would her own wine be? Once you try this, you will come to appreciate how well she is able to take Cabernet Sauvignon’s power to its fullest without going “over the top”. I love the mix of structure and restraint in all her wines and particularly in the 2008 Corra.
Fisher “Coach Insignia” Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Calistoga-Napa Valley. This wine comes for a single site along Silverado Trail about a mile south of the town of Calistoga. This far up valley, the soils are very shallow and stress the vines to produce more complex wines. The 2005 vintage of the Coach Insignia has a lovely and approachable mix of forward dark fruits and mineral notes.
Switchback Ridge Petite Sirah 2008 Napa Valley. This powerhouse Petite Sirah is just what I have come to expect from Switchback Ridge; concentrated black fruits, big tannins and nuances of lavender and licorice. Feel free to lay this wine down for a few years. And when you do serve it, be careful not to spill any on that white tablecloth as that stain is never going to come out.
Argot “Opening Salvo” Syrah 2008 Bennett Valley. I have a soft spot for this type of Syrah. Opening Salvo offers powerful lush dark fruits and tannin structure while also expressing layers meat, game, smoke and black peppercorn. This is a great first Syrah from this new producer. I wonder what they are going to call next year’s wine?
Paul Hobbs “Richard Dinner” Chardonnay 2009 Sonoma Mountain. This Paul Hobbs wine has everything I look for in a full bodied, new world Chardonnay. Rich and creamy in the front with bright citrus and mineral notes on the finish. Enjoy with fish, chicken and pork dishes.
December 2011 Cru
DeSante “Oakville Terraces” Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Oakville-Napa Valley. I enjoy the complexity of this wine with its rich red-earth tones and dark fruit notes punctuated with just the right amout of oak. In this wine, the power and the structure of the Eastern Oakville hillsides, with its red volcanic soils, are beautifully balanced by the elegant winemaking style of David and Katharine DeSante.
Blankiet “Prince of Hearts-Paradise Hills” Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Yountville-Napa Valley. I think that Blankiet has perfectly captured exactly what an estates “second” wine should be. It should be very close in style and quality to be able bear the name of the estate whilst being more forward and drinkable in style. The Prince of Hearts does this; and then some. The blend for the 2008 is Cabernet Sauvignon dominate with some Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It can be enjoyed tonight but will hold up well for many more years.
Lail “Blueprint” Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Saint Helena-Napa Valley. It is amazing how Sauvignon Blanc production has evolved in Napa Valley over the years. When I came to Napa in 1978, Sauvignon Blanc was a wine that most producers did not spend a lot of their resources on. Today, rather than being a cash crop to keep the dollars coming in while the Cabernet is aging, Sauvignon Blanc has started to receive the TLC it deserves and is starting to reach its full potential. The Lail “Blueprint” is one of these wines. It is sourced from a single vineyard, hand harvested in multiple passes and hand sorted before pressing and fermentation. The wine is fermented in 100% new French oak and then transferred to stainless steel tanks. The result is a wine with a little extra touch of complexity while still expressing crisp fruit and mineral notes.
Turley “El Porrón” Cinsault 2010 Lodi-California. What Turley has done for Old Vine Zinfandels it now does for Old Vine Cinsault. This wine comes from 130 year old vines and has flavors that remind me of the South of France, with notes of tart red fruits, exotic spices and leather. This is a lighter bodied wine and can be enjoyed with a wide variety of foods.
Crocker & Starr Cabernet Franc 2008 Saint Helena-Napa Valley. Producing great Cabernet Franc is not easy; you need to stress the vines “just so” to allow the wine to express dark fruit notes rather than any green or veggie notes. Luckily, Pam Starr knows just how to coax the best out of her Cabernet Franc vineyard. The result is a lovely wine with ripeness and depth that is approachable and versatile.
Parry Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Saint Helena-Napa Valley. I love being able to walk through a vineyard and realize that I am looking at the entire production area in one view. The Parry vineyard is one such site; in if fact it is Napa Valleys’ smallest single vineyard winery. I am confident that Stephen and Sue Parry know every detail about each of their 1200 vines. The wine appeals to me because it reflects a restaurant style; balanced, not over ripe or over oaked, expressive of earth, with integrated and elegant tannins.