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4 Cabernets That Are Changing Napa

Wine Consumer Magazine, Christopher Parks
05/19/2014

Much has been written about Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s the most famous region in America and I bet you’ve heard of a few heavy hitters yourself. My go-to favorites have always been Spring Mountain, Far Niente, Silver Oak and the like, which feature the big fruit and oak bombs that make Napa famous. Recently, I had a chance to try some Cabernet Sauvignons that changed my view of what Napa is and where it is headed as a wine region. Here are a few of the wines I think will shape the future of the Napa Valley:


Emerson Brown, Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, 2011

With the prevailing styles being powerful and oak driven, Keith Emerson (Vineyard 29) and Brian Brown (Round Pond) bonded over a vision to create wine that showcases, rather than masks, the outstanding terroir of Napa Valley and expressed its fruit in a delicate, rather than overpowering way.

This Oakville wine from the III Michaels vineyard with its Terra Rosa soils expresses pretty, aromatic, balanced and elegant characteristics. Multiple layers of boysenberry, cassis, pepper, dusty dried lavender and violet, are matched with sweet vanilla, clove and toasted almonds from the French oak. Satiny tannins complete this long lasting and lingering finish.

Meteor Vineyard, Perseid, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville, 2008

Perseid is a blend of three estate-grown Cabernet grapes on a knoll with volcanic, rocky soil, great exposure and a climate moderated by the bay. Designated in 2011, Coombsville is one of the more recent Napa AVAs. Meteor Vineyard owner Barry Schuler had no idea he was onto something special when he first planted these grapes in 1999, or the impact he was going to make. Today, his winery is producing what is touted as the next “cult” wine of the region.

The Perseid is a wine with dense violet-edged color and notes of red cherry, ripe blackberry, and violets that meld with cigar box, graphite, cassis leaves, a lot of dark chocolate and a hint of espresso. This wine is powerful and silky with a finely balanced finish.

Anomaly, Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, 2010

I am a firm believer in serendipity. This “Anomaly” is born out of the chance circumstances that people only dream about. Steve and Linda Goldfarb bought a new home that happened to include six rows of Cabernet vines in the backyard. It was too late in the season to find a buyer for the fruit, so they decided to make wine themselves, following the “Winemaker for Dummies” book by rote. After some nervous moments, they had wine. They didn’t fully appreciate the quality of their vineyard until a bottle serendipitously ended up in the glass of a buyer for Dean & Deluca. He helped them discover that their vineyards sit atop an ancient alluvial fan with deep gravely rocky soils. Some of the best Napa Vineyards are on this type of soil. Realizing they were in a prime spot, they have purchased other lots now giving them eight acres total.

The wine is driven by ripe currant, Bing cherry, and cassis with subtle spice notes of cinnamon, licorice and clove. It is full-bodied with fine, gentle tannins and bright acidity. I already like this wine, but it will only get better with age, up to 10 years or more in cellar.

Phillip Togni Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011

A legend, an icon, these terms get thrown around often, but in the case of Phillip Togni, they don’t do him justice. He’s one of the greatest winemakers ever and has been making wine for over 60 years. He’s made wine in Margaux, founded the Chalone AVA, was the winemaker for Chappellet (responsible for the amazing vintage of 1969), and was the first winemaker at Cuvaison. That alone would get your name engraved in stone, but he was far from done. In the late 70s, Phillip and his wife Birgitta decided to pursue their version of Margaux-style wine in Napa that was terroir-driven. They bought property on Spring Mountain at 2,000 feet, above the inversion layer with a volcanic base on sandy loam soils. His Napa Cabernets are considered among the best in the world, scoring higher than Margaux, Haut-Brion, and Mouton.

Most winemakers in 2011 experienced a difficult year of growing because of a lack of heat for ripening and October rains. However, Phillip Togni turned these circumstances into an advantage with his high elevation and ruthless discarding of fruit that didn’t match his rigid standards. This wine is brilliant with cassis, cedar, tobacco, espresso, graphite, and baking spices due to the 20 months spent in French Oak. This amply structured wine will last 20 years or more in a cellar, but with its ample fruit, I would have some now.

These are just some of my newfound favorite Cabs, but I want to hear about the wines you are drinking now. Please share them with me in the comments.

Cheers,

Chris

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