Selections for February 2017

The Redness of Rutherford

2012 ÉLEVE ‘Dust to Dust’ CABERNET SAUVIGNON – Bella Oaks Vineyard, Rutherford, Napa Valley

Not all that is Napa Valley Cabernet is “purple”.  Certain vintages are more “red” based on the weather.  Certain parts of the valley deliver the effect of “redness” based on soil and orientation.  Certain winemakers also invoke “red” with their various decisions such as picking time and fermentation styles.

“Purple?  Red?  What’s with the colorful lingo?!”

The color references are based on appearance, scent, flavor, and texture.  Per my wine grammar, a “purple” wine looks darker, smells and tastes like blackberries and violets, and feels more tannic, opulent,  and – maybe - chocolate-y.  “Red” Cabernet is more vibrant with perfumey raspberries and sage, and can give an energetic, food-accommodating tanginess to the tongue, and perhaps a sense of dustiness or – even – iron.   

Éleve is the “red” kind of Cabernet Sauvignon to my mouth, and I’d attribute this to the source.  The sub-appellation of Rutherford is famous for providing many of the effects described above, especially an overall sense of “dust”.  We have shown you this place and that style before, most often via the wines of William Harrison.  The bottle before you reflects contributions from Rutherford’s famous Bella Oaks Vineyard (reference Heitz Cellars and Staglin Family) and winemakers Fernando Castro and Adam Webb.  Officially, Fernando is the winemaker for Falcor.  This south Napa winery which is too large (by design) for its own production needs and thereby accommodates “custom crush” and storage services to the likes of Adam for his own Odisea, Gardienne des Vignes, and Eleve labels.  Adam in turn accommodates our own Domaine des Plus-de-Vie project.  Yes, Livermore Valley fruit headed north to Napa once again in 2016!

This beautiful expression of redness is happening beside my keyboard right now, from a bottle opened yesterday.  The fact that it “overnighted” so well tells me you could age this for at least five years; something you can’t say about all the 2012’s.  I’d owe this to the aforementioned tangy-ness you find in redder wines; acidity (not tannins) is the greater preserver.

And now for Purple . . .

2012 DANCING HARES ‘Mad Hatter’ RED WINE – Napa Valley

Here is yet another value opportunity from The Wine Steward while it lasts.  Having bought the last available cases of 2012 Mad Hatter we were afforded a better deal and can do the same for you.  Several online wine concerns offer this sumptuous blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc, 11% Merlot, and 7% Petit Verdot, but none gets close to our club member price.  I don’t usually commit much note writing to the topic of price but maybe I should; finding you value is a vital part of our “product”!

Howell Mountain is known for more sumptuously “purple” wines, and if that effect rolls downhill it certainly reached Dancing Hares Vineyard.  Contrary to my purple wine definition, however, Howell Mountain’s expression of the color always includes the nerve or energy of the redder style.  As decadent and supple as this blend is, there is a vibrancy hovering above that keeps the palate engaged.

This winery is owned by none other than Tuck and Boo Beckstoffer, whose wisdom and wherewithal brings in Andy Erickson (Staglin, Spottswoode . . .) as full-time winemaker and globe-trotting Michel Rolland for consultation support.

Intriguing scents of cassis verging on grapefruit, along with cherries and blue fruits, excite the nose.  The palate brings us blackberries and espresso on a frame that is – as mentioned before – full yet exciting.  A full-throttle cocktail wine, Mad Hatter is even better with a steak off the grill!