How They Used to Make ‘Em . . . By folks who should know!
2014 MEYER FAMILY ‘Spitfire’ CABERNET SAUVIGNON – Oakville, Napa Valley
I recently attended an industry event where all the famous and lesser-known producers in Napa’s Oakville district were pouring their Cabernets. Even Screaming Eagle attended (with but one bottle to share). I skipped that longer line and tried a myriad of others. Everything from this region in the heart of Napa was tasting terrific, and the prices for nearly everything there were appalling. “Why must great wine be accessible to only the most enabled?” I wondered for the millionth time in my wine career.
… So it is with some satisfaction AND a sense of irony that we are providing you with a classical example of that place sporting a not-TOO-spectacular price tag. Irony? Yes: The folks who produce this Oakville product could be blamed for making Napa Valley Cabernet too expensively famous! We elaborate with a timeline:
1964: Justin Meyer becomes assistant to Brother Timothy at Christian Brothers Winery
1972: Justin and Bonny partner with Ray Duncan on a project called Silver Oak
1999: Purchase of Yorkville Winery to produce Meyer Family Wines in the very un-Napa Yorkville Highlands (adjacent to the Anderson Valley).
2001: The Meyer Family sells Silver Oak to the Duncan Family
2008: A return to Napa Valley Cabernet-making for the Meyer Family: “Fluffy Billows” and “Spitfire” Cabernets, made from a newly-purchased block next to the original Bonny’s Vineyard. The former is aged in French oak. The “Spitfire” we are providing for yet another vintage remembers Meyer’s Silver Oak roots with an American Oak treatment, a lower alcohol ensuring a longer life, and a classical Oakville panoply of flavors such as black raspberry, cedar, olive tapenade, and cherries. There is a great linearity of acids and tannins framing this wine, requiring a rich ribeye treatment if the uncorking happens sooner than later. Otherwise, age this tribute to Oakville for up to 15 years!
“Ummm, didn’t you already give us this?”
2012 WILLIAM HARRISON CABERNET FRANC – Rutherford, Napa Valley
Yep, we’ve probably shown you William Harrison Cab Franc at least three times before, with the 2011 vintage happening just last September. You’re seeing the label so often because of its consistent effectiveness per the price, a club feature you faithful members deserve.
William Harrison is located in Rutherford, easily found on the Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail. Its tasting room design and vibe are comforting throwbacks to a time when this place was less commercialized – and more affordable. Many of our members have visited this place and concur. William Harrison’s reasonably-priced wines are nearly all derived from estate fruit coming from right around the winery itself, and their ongoing effectiveness with Cabernet Franc is rare - long after many got into the Cab Franc game and, realizing its challenges, quickly got right back out.
The 2011 we last gave you was a standout in a difficult vintage, and I believe it will outlast this younger wine in your cellar. You can hold that ‘11 a little longer if you still have it, but get to this soon. Generally speaking, Napa Valley 2012’s sport fully ripe fruit and very affable textures. This lack of structure makes for a more “drink now” wine type. Perhaps you’re among those who waited too long to open their 1997’s, thinking a “great” vintage is always a durable one. Don’t re-live the disappointment!
Sultry scents of dusty cherries, red brick (is that “Rutherford Dust” we’re sensing?), sagebrush, and vanilla are best expressed if this is served at cellar temperature. The palate weight: Medium-bodied. The delivery: Lush. The overall attitude of this Cabernet Franc: Cheerful, drinkable charm. The food to go along: Veal, if you do that sort of thing. If not, consider the easy mellowness of the wine and get creative: A nice mushroom dish, perhaps? Something involving truffles? Hmmmm . . .