Today’s Story: Far Niente
Far Niente was founded in 1885 by a forty-niner of the California gold rush named John Benson. John constructed his winery just below the hillsides in western Oakville, and he had it designed by Hamden McIntyre who was behind the Christian Brothers winery (now the CIA at Greystone). Like several prominent wineries today, John built Far Niente to function as a gravity flow winery.
Though Far Niente was quite successful for its first few decades, during the onset of Prohibition in 1919 it was abandoned and fell into disrepair. It wasn’t until sixty years later in 1979 that a man by the name of Gil Nickel purchased the dilapidated winery and began a three year restoration project. Winemaking resumed once again in 1982 with the harvest of the estate’s first Cabernet Sauvignon as well as Chardonnay. To this day, Far Niente continues to only produce Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
Switching gears a little bit, in addition to their Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay bottlings you can find at many wine stores (and sometimes grocery stores), Far Niente releases a Cave Collection. Their Cave Collection wines make up an annual limited release of wines from the Far Niente library and are simply the Cabs and Chards put aside by the winery for further aging before release. You can tell the difference between a normal bottle and a Cave Collection by the black band added around the capsule. Their goal with the Cave Collection, which started in the late 1980s, is to provide collectors an opportunity to taste more mature wines without waiting years to age them themselves. This is a great way for wine enthusiasts and collectors to guarantee provenance of aged wine.
Today’s Wine: 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Cave Collection
100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.7% ABV
I’ve had a lot of wine from Far Niente (including their family of wines Nickel & Nickel, EnRoute, Bella Union, and Dolce) but this bottle truly surprised me. Had I tasted this blind, I probably would’ve called it Left Bank Bordeaux. In appearance this is deep, opaque ruby. I opened this bottle for an hour, then decanted it for about another hour. The nose offers aromas of blackcurrant, crushed blackberry, forest floor, slight barnyard, purple florals, graphite, and mocha. Once in the mouth, I get flavors of blackberry, blueberry, cigar box, pencil shavings, damp earth, dark roast coffee grounds, and slight pepper. Full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, dusty and refined medium tannins, and a long finish with notes of blackberry and black cherry. With a very tough vintage for Napa in 2011, Far Niente killed it with this bottling.
Price: $240. A good bottle of wine for a special occasion (we opened this with family in town from out of state). Pair this with filet mignon or slow cooked short rib.