Selections for October 2016

A Mi Sueño-Style Story


Rolando Herrera of Mi Sueño doesn’t have exclusive rights to the “Michoacan Farmworker Makes Good” tale.  Over four decades ago Lupe Maldonado made the same trip north from Atacheo, Mexico to work vineyards in the Napa Valley.  His first significant stint was for Sterling Vineyards and that’s when (in 1971) Peter Newton asked him for help with the creation of his new winery.  Ultimately Lupe became Newton’s Vineyard manager then passed that baton on to son Hugo in 1999.  Along the way, Lupe acquired land in Jamieson Canyon along Highway 12 (Napa Valley frequenters know this recently-improved southern valley access from Cordelia) for a vineyard of his own.  More recently, the Maldonados have set up a winery facility and tasting room in Napa’s NORTHERN extreme of Calistoga.  That outlet, fine restaurants, and good wine shops like ourselves are now Maldonado’s main conveyers.  We have long carried the winery’s excellent Chardonnay, and this is the first TWS placement of their Proprietary Red Wine.

Lupe’s former employer is remembered in this blend.  The Cabernet Sauvignon component hails from Newton’s Spring Mountain vineyard.  Added to that is Merlot from Vidal Vineyard in Napa, and Syrah from Maldonado’s own Los Olivos Vineyard plot in Jamieson Canyon.  The three varieties combine to provide a lovely fragrance of flowers, black cherries, and chocolate.  The textures are soothingly broad yet refreshingly lithe.  This 2012 is a good demonstration of the vintage’s generosity of fruit and fast-track development.  Unlike 2013, 2012’s often lack the “core” of acid-tannin structure desirable for long-term aging, somewhat like the 1997’s which so impressed us in their fruit-forward youth but dismayed those who thought they’d cellar forever.  We suggest you start drinking your ‘12’s if you aren’t already.  While some are impressively built, many will lose their best feature of forward fruit sooner than later.

As I was saying . . .


Two days ago we opened several bottles for a client interested in a multi-case purchase for an upcoming event (we do this).  Among the inspirations was the now half-empty bottle of Le Pich currently residing on my desk.  It is in very good shape 48 hours after its first exposure to air, confirming its durability and bolstering my assertion about the general difference between vintages 2012 and 2013.  If you open this sooner than later we recommend a bit of decanting and a juicy medium-rare ribeye!

Le Pich is the “second label” of Purlieu, whose most expensive single-vineyard Cabernets sell for well over $150.  It is the handiwork of Julien Fayard who began his winemaking training in Provence and Bordeaux.  In the latter region he worked at none other than First Growth Lafite-Rothschild and even lived in the Chateau itself.  In the United States he has since applied that exposure to his work at Gemstone, Dalla Valle, Lail, and Quintessa.  He also served as Philippe Melka’s director of winemaking for five years. 

Of course, it also takes outstanding fruit to make outstanding wine.  This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, called “A sleeper of the vintage” by Robert Parker, sources grapes from Coombsville, Pritchard Hill, and the famed To Kalon Vineyard of Oakville.  Purlieu’s vineyard manager Steve Matthiasson oversees those plots with talent amassed from working with Araujo, Chappellet, David Arthur, and the like.

The sum of great winemaking pedigree, excellent fruit sources professionally farmed, and a rock star vintage:  Intense purple-black color, a perfume redolent of purple flowers and black fruits, and a mouth of intense, compact richness which will wonderfully unwind for years to come.  2013 rocks, my friends.