Beauty from Howell Mountain

Today’s Story: O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery

O’Shaughnessy is a small, family-owned winery founded by Betty O’Shaughnessy Woolls and Paul Woolls in the late 1990s. Betty’s background is in real estate investment and development, though she grew a passion for food and wine that ultimately brought her to Napa Valley in 1990 when she purchased a home with vineyards in Oakville. Paul’s background on the other hand is law, though he also developed a passion for wine living in New Mexico during his college years. The two met at a wine tasting and have been partners in life and in winemaking ever since.

In 1997, the couple planted 35 acres on Howell Mountain (29 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and the remaining 6 acres a mix of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec, Carmenere, St. Macaire and Gros Verdot) on a 120 acre property. Several years later, in 2000, they expanded to Mt. Veeder by acquiring a 55 acre property to which 17 acres are planted. O’Shaughnessy’s Mt. Veeder holdings grew again in 2006 with the addition of a 265 acre property, though only 32 acres are planted and most is Cabernet Sauvignon. Lastly, we cannot forget the Oakville property where 32 acres surrounding Betty and Paul’s home are planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

O’Shaughnessy, like many smaller high-quality wineries with more-or-less distinctive vineyard sites, employs a winemaking philosophy that puts terroir at the forefront. Though the winery and all equipment is quite modern, the winemaker Sean Capiaux seeks to produce classic wines that are naturally fermented and bottled unfined and unfiltered. The resulting wines are elegant, expressive, and age-worthy while demanding respect for a still reasonable price tag.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

79% Cabernet Sauvignon, remaining 21% a blend of Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Carmenère, Petit Verdot, and St. Macaire; 15.2% ABV

The 2014 Howell Mountain Cab is an opaque, deep ruby/purple color with rim variation heavy on the purple side. Decanting is a must with this one, as its youth and powerful profile demand air time. The nose offers aromas of classic mountain fruit such as blueberry (very prominent) and blackberry alongside licorice, violet, aged leather, earth, dark chocolate, graphite, and oak. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of blueberry, crushed blackberry, plum, wild black raspberry, red and purple florals, crushed stone, and dried silt. As expected this is full-bodied with high acidity, elegant medium tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $110. I think this is appropriately priced while being a wonderful representation of Howell Mountain. O’Shaughnessy produces some of my favorite Cabernets, I just wish I got to drink them more often. Pair this with steak, lamb, a good burger, or beef short ribs.

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