Luxe Napa Red Atop Pritchard Hill

Today’s Story: Ovid Napa Valley

Ovid Napa Valley is a “cult” winery established in 2000 by husband and wife Mark Nelson and Dana Johnson, and 2005 was their inaugural vintage. Situated at 1,400 feet elevation on secluded Pritchard Hill, Ovid consists of a 15 acre vineyard planted largely to Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, though it includes plots of Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Syrah as well. Ovid practices organic viticulture and the vineyard is broken into one-acre blocks with various rootstocks and clones to allow for an experimental philosophy of winemaking. Winemaker Austin Peterson has been with Ovid since 2006, and he enjoys utilizing both traditional and cutting edge winemaking techniques to produce wines with a sense of place. The Ovid winery utilizes gravity flow to minimize handling of the wines, and fermentation is accomplished using only native yeasts before the wines age and transfer to bottle unfined and unfiltered.

Ovid remains steadfast in their support of sustainable practices in the vineyards and the winery, keeping bees, using cover crops, and using their own compost to avoid inhibiting natural biodiversity. They also placed owl boxes, bluebird boxes, and an insectary garden on the property to facilitate a more natural form of pest control. Ovid even maintains a fruit and nut orchard where they grow cherries, plums, pluots, peaches, pomegranates, and persimmons which are then allocated to Napa restaurants including The French Laundry and The Restaurant at Meadowood (which unfortunately burned down in 2020). The winery itself is powered by solar energy and built of wood, stone, and concrete which blends effortlessly into the mountainous surroundings.

In terms of production, Ovid crafts four main wines which include their signature Ovid Napa Valley (Cabernet Sauvignon dominant), Hexameter (Cabernet Franc dominant), Loc. Cit. (100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the best plots only in the best vintages), and Syrah. As special as the main Ovid wines are, they also release highly limited quantities of Experiment bottlings which change vintage to vintage to showcase the unique blends, varieties, winemaking styles, and terroir Peterson has to play with. Total production is said to be between 1,000 and 1,200 cases per vintage, with roughly 85% of that going direct to customers on the membership list.

To learn more about Ovid and their wines, view pictures of the beautiful winery, or find the source for much of today’s information above, visit the Ovid website here.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Hexameter

65% Cabernet Franc, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot; 14.8% ABV

The 2015 Hexameter is opaque deep ruby in color, still certainly showcasing its youth. I decanted this for four hours, which I think it needed, guiding the nose into expressive aromas of blackberry, black cherry, blackcurrant, redcurrant, tobacco, green peppercorn, graphite, vanilla, and oak. On the palate, I get notes of black cherry, blackberry, spiced plum, blueberry, orange peel, violets, tobacco, cola, pencil shavings, graphite, and toasted oak. There’s a peppery and herbal characteristic to this wine that really showcases the Cabernet Franc well. This is full-bodied with high acidity, fine-grained medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $310. This is an incredibly delicious wine, though it is very young at this stage and I don’t think it offers great QPR. You could lob $100 off this price and I think that would be much fairer, though I am sure this will grow into an absolute showstopper with more cellaring.

The King’s Wine

Today’s Story: Château Lafite Rothschild

Château Lafite Rothschild is a world-renowned First Growth Bordeaux wine estate located in the left bank appellation of Pauillac. Though the winemaking prowess of Lafite came centuries later, the estate traces its roots to the year 1234 under ownership of Gombaud de Lafite and is labeled as a medieval fief during the 14th century. Though vines certainly existed on the property by the 17th century, it was Jacques de Ségur who is credited with planting the vineyards in the 1670s and 1680s and setting Lafite on its way to producing highly regarded wines. By the early 18th century, Lafite’s wines found a loyal following in the London market and, during the 1730s, became a darling of Prime Minister Robert Walpole. During that time, Jacques’ son Nicolas-Alexandre de Ségur improved the winemaking process and enhanced the quality and prestige of Lafite as he marketed it in France to the court of Versailles. By the mid-1700s, Lafite became known as “the King’s Wine” and found its place among the royal and aristocratic families of France.

Though Lafite was arguably the pinnacle of Bordeaux winemaking at the time, even becoming a darling of Thomas Jefferson following a later visit in 1787, the estate experienced some difficulties with changing ownership for a number of reasons. First, Alexandre de Ségur did not have any sons so he divided his estate (which included Château Latour) amongst four daughters. His grandson, Count Nicolas Marie Alexandre de Ségur, inherited Lafite but he was forced to sell to relative Nicolas Pierre de Pichard in 1784 due to financial difficulties. This ownership, however, was also short-lived because Nicolas Pierre was executed as part of the Reign of Terror in 1794 during the French Revolution. Lafite fell into public ownership for a few years, until Dutchman Jean de Witt purchased it in 1797 and set off a string of changing ownerships until Baron James de Rothschild purchased Lafite in 1868.

Though the end of the 1800s and first half of the 1900s were quite turbulent for Lafite, the Rothschild family maintained ownership of the estate and brought it back to prominence after World War II. This period included the phylloxera and mildew crises, WWI, the Great Depression, and occupation by German forces during WWII which saw ransacking of the cellars and theft of historical bottles of Lafite. When Baron Elie de Rothschild regained control at the end of 1945, Lafite was once again on the path to greatness with fantastic vintages in 1945, 1947, and 1949. As Baron Elie restored the vineyards and buildings, improved farming methods, and opened the winery to new markets including the United States, Lafite prospered and continues to do so to this day.

The vineyards of Château Lafite Rothschild today consist of 112 hectares planted in the classic, well-draining, deep gravel soils of Pauillac (though this includes 4.5 hectares in Saint Estèphe). They are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon (70%), Merlot (25%), Cabernet Franc (3%), and Petit Verdot (2%) with an average vine age of 39 years. For the Grand Vin, however, they do not use fruit from vines younger than 10 years old so the average vine age for the Grand Vin is closer to 45 years. Lafite practices traditional viticulture based on strict yield control and manual harvests, and they use little to no chemical fertilizers and are transitioning to organic viticulture. Vines are typically re-planted when they reach an age of about 80 years.

In the cellar, Lafite practices traditional vinification methods and ferments their wines separately plot by plot. Some of the fermentation occurs in traditional large oak vats, while some occurs in stainless steel vats before the wines are tasted and drawn off into wine vats. Malolactic fermentation then occurs before the wine is transferred into barrels by batch. Blending occurs after the first racking of these barrels, and then the wines age for 18-20 months. The wines are fined with egg whites and then bottled.

Today’s 1st Wine: 1981 Château Lafite Rothschild

Bordeaux Blend (no details on Lafite’s website); 12% ABV

The 1981 Lafite is translucent medium to deep garnet in color. Keeping with the cellar master’s practices at Lafite, I double decanted this and served it 3 hours later. The nose is rather feminine and took some time to open up, showcasing aromas of redcurrant, licorice, cigar box, pencil shavings, tilled earth, earthy mushroom, graphite, gravel, and cedar. Meanwhile the palate is certainly still kicking, offering notes of blackcurrant, redcurrant, violets, tobacco, forest floor, black truffle, cracked black pepper, graphite, and cedar. This is very well-balanced and medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, well-integrated medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. I don’t see this improving, so drink up if you have any.

Price: $750 (though we acquired it years ago for much less). It is always a special occasion to drink a bottle of Lafite, and the pricing is certainly justifiable based on how perfectly balanced and complex these wines can be. This bottling, however, seems to be past its prime and I wouldn’t suggest spending the money on it at this point.

Today’s 2nd Wine: 1985 Château Lafite Rothschild

65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc; 12% ABV

The 1985 Lafite is translucent deep garnet in color, definitely a shade deeper than the 1981. I also double decanted this 3 hours before serving and it really came alive in the glass. The nose showcases classic aromas of blackcurrant, black cherry, black raspberry, lavender, cigar box, forest floor, black truffle, graphite, wet gravel, and grilled herbs. Meanwhile on the palate I get notes of cassis, redcurrant, dried plum, violets, tobacco, pencil shavings, scorched earth, black truffle, graphite, underbrush, and crushed rock minerality. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, dusty medium (-) tannins, and a long finish. Impeccably balanced with much more power than the 1981 vintage (no shock) tasted side-by-side.

Price: $985 (though we acquired it years ago for much less). This is perhaps the best vintage of Lafite I’ve tasted to date, and while the near four-digit price tag is seemingly outrageous I think it’s worth it for a special occasion.

The Winner Is…

This should come as no shock, but the 1985 absolutely steals the show here. The 1981 vintage is certainly alive and kicking, but is very feminine and I think past its peak in the plateau phase or start of the declining phase. The 1985 is showing its Comet Vintage pedigree, still offering incredible power and a structure that suggests there is still plenty of time to enjoy this bottling. Both wines are incredibly well-balanced and an absolute pleasure to drink, but the 1985 is simply the more perfectly wrapped package.

Beautifully Aged Napa Valley Icon

Today’s Story: Robert Mondavi Winery

Robert Mondavi is a historical and world-renowned Napa Valley winery established by Robert Mondavi in 1966. With the immense history and promise Mondavi felt with the To Kalon Vineyard in Oakville, he set up his winery there amongst the vines and set out to craft Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that could compete with the greatest wines in the world. Mondavi did not only set his sites on Cabernet Sauvignon, however, releasing his first Fumé Blanc (made with Sauvignon Blanc) in 1968 which is the wine that ultimately became his signature bottling. As Mondavi’s prowess started to show in those early years, he also expanded into the Stags Leap District by acquiring the Wappo Hill Vineyard planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon in 1969. In 1970, Mondavi met for the first time with Baron Philippe de Rothschild and the duo voiced an idea of creating a joint venture that ultimately became Opus One, established in 1978 with an inaugural vintage of 1979.

As Mondavi’s wines grew in prominence, so did his reputation almost like a father to Napa Valley winemaking. He was instrumental in bringing music to the Valley with his Summer Music Festival, showcased his philanthropic mindset by helping to pioneer Auction Napa Valley, and advanced the magic of food and wine pairing by creating the Mission Tour, Great Chefs of France, and Great Chefs of America programs. Robert Mondavi’s impact on Napa Valley and the wine world beyond is as strong and steadfast now as it was back then, and the world of California winemaking will forever thank him.

Today’s Wine: 1981 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 12.7% ABV

The 1981 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is translucent medium garnet in color, with very minimal sediment thrown from the bottle. Given some time to blossom in the glass, the nose opens to showcase aromas of blackcurrant, black cherry, plum, cigar box, forest floor, mushroom, dried underbrush, green pepper, and wet gravel. Meanwhile the palate is equally as gorgeous, characterized by notes of blackberry, blackcurrant, redcurrant, tobacco, charred earth, earthy mushroom, green herbs, cracked black pepper, and rocky mineral. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, dusty medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $190 (we paid much less years ago). With how this is drinking right now, $190 is a fantastic price for a well-stored bottle though it is very hard to find in the marketplace. This drinks like some of the beautiful aged Bordeaux wines I’ve had, and showcases the incredible prowess of Robert Mondavi in the “good old days” of Napa.

Tear-Jerking Champagne From the Fantastic 2002 Vintage

Today’s Story: Dom Pérignon

I wrote about the 2003 Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne yesterday, so I will save you the duplicate history lesson and jump right into today’s tasting notes for the 2002 vintage. If you missed yesterday’s post though, feel free to give it a quick read. At the very least you can compare consecutive vintage tasting notes!

Today’s Wine: 2002 Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne

Typically about 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay (exact blend unknown); 12.5% ABV

The 2002 Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne is transparent deep gold in color. I drank this over the course of a couple hours, and it only got bigger and bigger with air. The nose is stupidly complex, showcasing aromas of lemon curd, green apple, pear, honeysuckle, jasmine, incense, chalk, saline mineral, brioche, vanilla cream, butter, and almond. Meanwhile the palate is equally as mind-boggling, displaying notes of crisp green apple skins, peach, apricot, stone fruit, white florals, white truffle, chalk, limestone, white smoke, dill, caramel, butterscotch, and hazelnut. This is medium- to full-bodied with a creamy mouthfeel and razor sharp high acidity into an endlessly long finish.

Price: $270 (paid $180 a few years ago). This is in a very, very special place right now and provided one of those unique drinking experiences where a wine makes me tear up. Though there are no doubt better “value” brands out there, this 2002 is worth its price.

A Titan Showing the Scars of Age and a Tough Vintage

Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!

Dom Pierre Pérignon (supposedly)

Today’s Story: Dom Pérignon

Dom Pérignon is a very famous Champagne produced as the prestige cuvée of Champagne house Moët & Chandon. Though the first vintage was 1921 and it first released to the market in 1936, Dom Pérignon takes its name from Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Pérignon (1638-1715) who became cellar master in the Abbey of Hautvillers. Though Dom Pierre did not “invent” sparkling Champagne (as many myths state), he was instrumental in quality control at a time when weak Champagne bottles were prone to explosion due to refermentation in the bottle as the wines aged. Some of his contributions included the use of blending to improve quality of the wine, perfecting the process of pressing white wine from black grapes, introducing corks instead of wood, and strengthening the glass of bottles to minimize time bombs in the cellar.

Originally, Dom Pérignon was bottled using vintage Moët & Chandon Champagne transferred to their new, specially designed Dom bottles so it was essentially an oenothèque. This ended with the 1943 vintage, however, and Dom was produced entirely separately for the next released vintage of 1947 and beyond. Why the gap you might ask? Well, Dom Pérignon is only produced as a vintage Champagne when the quality is high enough, so this Champagne has only been produced in 44 vintages from 1921 to 2010. Wildly enough, Dom Pérignon only released more than two vintages in a row three times until 2004 when vintages of 2005 and 2006 mark the first time ever five vintages were made consecutively (2002-2006).

Dom Pérignon is always a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, forgetting the third permitted grape of Pinot Meunier included in many other Champagnes. Across vintages, the Chef de Cave at Dom Pérignon sticks to roughly 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay, however they maintain the flexibility of blending up to a maximum 60% for one variety depending on vintage conditions. I would be remiss, though, if I forget to mention that in one vintage (1970) they went over and the blend was 65% Chardonnay and 35% Pinot Noir. This is the only time one variety accounted for more than 60% of the blend. All grapes are sourced from Grand Cru Champagne vineyards, save for one historical 1er Cru vineyard at Hautvillers which keeps the wine from being labeled as a Grand Cru Champagne.

Today’s Wine: 2003 Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne

60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay; 12.5% ABV

The 2003 Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne is transparent deep gold in color with delicate effervescence. The nose is still gorgeous, offering up aromas of golden delicious apple, pear, honeysuckle, white lily, white truffle, brioche, white pepper, and vanilla cream. However, unfortunately the palate seems fairly advanced and displays notes of green apple skins, canned golden pear, white florals, almond, caramel, toffee, and hazelnut. This wine falls apart on the palate, proving rather disappointing compared to the last several bottles of 2003 I’ve enjoyed that showed the prowess of the producer in a tough vintage. This is light-bodied with medium (+) acidity and a moderately dry but medium (-) length finish.

Price: $250 (paid $170 several years ago). I had high hopes for this bottle, largely since we held it for a number of years and also since the prior 3 bottles of 2003 I enjoyed were fantastic. I’d say skip this if you come across it (though it could be an off bottle), and put the money toward 2002 or a more recent vintage like 2008.

50 Year Old Port Still Kicking

Today’s Story: Warre’s

Warre’s is a large, historical Port company established in 1670 as the first and oldest British Port company in Portugal. Though no members of the Warre family were involved at that time, two Englishmen named William Burgoyne and John Jackson established Burgoyne & Jackson as a trading company involved in wine, olive oil, fruit, cod, and wool trading. As the company grew over time and added new partners, it was known as Clark & Thornton by 1723. In 1729, however, William Warre (1706-1773) arrived in Portugal from India and joined the business which became Messrs. Clark, Thornton & Warre. By the time the Warre family shifted into control and the company was known as Warre & Sons near the end of the 18th century, Warre’s was one of the largest exporters of Port accounting for about 10% of the total with 21 companies in the trade.

Under the Warre family, Warre’s grew and became ever more prestigious, particularly under another William Warre (1784-1853). This William completed an illustrious military career fighting alongside the Anglo-Portuguese army with the Duke of Wellington (whom he supplied with Port wine) in nearly every major battle of the Peninsular War (1807-1814). A half century later, Andrew James Symington joined Warre & Co. in 1905 and took sole ownership in 1908. Andrew James comes from a long, long lineage of the Port making Symington family, which spans 13 generations and 350 years of history, so he was a natural individual to pick up the reigns of this great company. More than a century later, the Symington family still owns and operates Warre’s and six members of the family are actively involved in day-to-day operations today.

Not only is Warre’s the last Port producer of British origin owned by a single family, they are also one of the few great estates who own 100% of their vineyards (named Quinta da Cavadinha, Quinta do Retiro Antigo, and Quinta da Telhada). This point of pride and tradition carries into the cellars as well, where they continue to make some of their Port by the traditional treading method in shallow stone treading tanks (though not all is made this way). Instead, Warre’s introduced the first automatic treading machine in a stainless steel tank with pistons that mimic human treading to produce a large number of their wines. Fermentation lasts a very short period of time (roughly 2 days) because Port is fortified and a natural grape spirit is added to interrupt the process when about half of the natural sugar is converted to alcohol. This is why Warre’s Port is sweet, rich, and high in alcohol while commanding great longevity in the cellar.

Today’s Wine: 1970 Tercentenary Vintage Porto

Port Blend (Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barocca, Touriga Francesa, and Tinta Amarela); 20.5% ABV

The 1970 Tercentenary Vintage Porto is translucent pale ruby in color with garnet variation (I’d never guess this is 50 years old). The nose on this is absolutely captivating and only got better after several hours, showcasing aromas of ripe red cherry, pomegranate, strawberry rhubarb, fig, cola, spice cake, tar, clove, and sweet rum spice. The palate is fantastic as well, characterized by notes of cherry, black raspberry, dates, cranberry, rose, anise, rum cake, toffee, caramel, chocolate, and baking spice. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, light tannins, and a long finish. A really fun and exciting wine that is beautifully balanced.

Price: $250 (but I’m seeing it up to $900 online). This was a gift to my father, so in our eyes it was the best value we could ever find! Jokes aside, I think if you can find a properly stored bottling with great provenance this could be really fun to try, though I’d hope closer to the $250 price. I can’t see this selling for $900.

Profound Bourgogne Blanc From Perhaps the Greatest Name in Meursault

Today’s Story: Domaine Roulot

Domaine Roulot is a renowned Burgundy wine estate situated in the village of Meursault in the Côte de Beaune sub-region. Though Roulot’s history dates back to at least 1830 when Guillaume Roulot registered as a vigneron, the modern domaine traces its roots more directly to a 1930 founding and growing success following WWII under Guy Roulot. Guy came into some vineyard property through his marriage to Geneviève Coche, though he quickly set about purchasing additional vineyard parcels of village and 1er Cru classifications. Unique at the time, Guy vinified and bottled his wines by single vineyard, also mastering the lieu-dit practice of bottling a named vineyard without its own “legal” classification within the larger village. Guy made some of the greatest white Burgundy at the time, even later having his 1973 Meursault Charmes place second for the white wines at the Judgment of Paris in 1976. Sadly, Guy passed away suddenly and far too soon in 1982 and left his domaine in a precarious situation since his son Jean-Marc was in Paris studying acting. Though Domaine Roulot had several winemakers come in until Jean-Marc returned home, it wasn’t until 1989 when he fully took the reigns.

Shortly after taking over, Jean-Marc transitioned fully to organic viticulture and he has not used any herbicides since. Further, any treatments used in the vineyards ensure minimal if any impact on the natural microbial life amongst the vines. In the cellar, Jean-Marc crafts wines based on a philosophy that they should be what he likes to drink, not necessarily what the “modern palate” likes to drink. While many of the wines of Meursault can be rich and concentrated, Roulot’s wines are often described as chiseled, linear, precise, restrained, tense, and transparent. He achieves these descriptors through incredibly rigorous harvesting, very gentle pressing of the fruit, indigenous yeast fermentation, barrel aging for 12 months on lees followed by 6 months in stainless steel, and modest use of new oak of between 10% and 30%. Roulot even minimizes stirring the lees (and mainly does it in vintages of higher acidity), which is a practice more common with producers who like adding richness to the wines.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Bourgogne Blanc

100% Chardonnay; 13.2% ABV

The 2017 Bourgogne Blanc is transparent pale gold/straw yellow in color with water white variation around the rim of the glass. I decanted this for 2 hours due to its youth, and to be honest it probably could’ve decanted for longer. Once open, the nose showcases aromas of peach, green apple, apricot, white florals, matchstick, flint, wet river stone, dill, and almond. Meanwhile on the palate I get notes of golden pear, lemon zest, green apple skins, white peach, honeysuckle, crushed rock, light green herbs, flint, and hazelnut. This very linear and precise Bourgogne Blanc is medium- to full-bodied with gorgeous high acidity into a long finish. Not as intense as I was expecting, but give this at least 4-5 more years of cellaring before touching it.

Price: $90. This is no doubt a fantastic Bourgogne Blanc, and though I opened it young I think there are better values out there. If you can find this closer to $65-70 (and I know a few locations are still priced that way) I would be more intrigued. We shall see if I am proven wrong with more bottle age.

Solid Aged Volnay, but Over the Peak

Today’s Story: Maison Nicolas Potel

Maison Nicolas Potel was established in 1997 as a négociant business by Nicolas Potel following the passing of his father Gérard Potel of Domaine de la Pousse d’Or. Thanks to his father’s influence and respect within Burgundy for helping to improve quality, ripeness, and concentration in the region’s wines, Nicolas was able to access some of the great 1er and Grand Crus of the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. For example, Roumier, Lafon, and Jean-Marc Boillot (all who looked up to Gérard) sold Nicolas fruit to help jumpstart his namesake venture. By 2002, Nicolas was making wines from 50 different appellations. Shortly thereafter, however, Nicolas ran into cash flow issues during the global economic uncertainty and sold his Maison (including naming rights) to the Cottin brothers of négociant Labouré-Roi in 2004. Nicolas stayed on until 2009 when tensions boiled over, with the Cottin brothers saying his side projects competed with Maison Nicolas Potel and Nicolas saying they disagreed with his philosophy of quality over quantity. Though Nicolas moved on and established Domaine de Bellene with his own vineyards, Maison Nicolas Potel continues making wines under his name to this day.

A traditionalist and staunch proponent of quality over quantity, Nicolas worked with 35+ year old vines whose growers often practice organic or biodynamic viticulture. In the cellar, he practiced minimally invasive winemaking which included pressing with a vertical wine press, maturing the wines for 12-16 months on the lees without racking, and adding minimal SO2. All told, Nicolas adapted each wine to the vintage but at his core wanted to make wines as naturally as possible so they could express each terroir in the truest sense. Though this philosophy remains at Maison Nicolas Potel after he left, the wines bearing Nicolas’ name naturally don’t seem to be the same.

Today’s Wine: 2002 Volnay 1er Cru Pitures

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2002 Volnay 1er Cru Pitures is translucent medium garnet in color with slight bricking (though not too bad). This needed about an hour to blossom in the glass, helping to lift the fading nose to showcase aromas of forest floor, earthy mushroom, leather, grilled green herbs, and gravel followed by red fruits of cherry, raspberry, and strawberry all on their way out the door. The fruit is slightly more alive on the palate but is certainly still fading, displaying notes of tart red cherry, black raspberry, cranberry, truffle, tobacco, leather, loamy earth, garden herbs, and slight smoke. This is light-bodied with medium acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium length finish (shorter than I’d like, but that’s the age). There’s still decent structure here, but overall the fruit is fading fast. Drink up if you have any.

Price: $130 (looks like it used to be $70 when last priced on wine-searcher in 2017). I think at its peak drinking window this would’ve been a fantastic bottle for the price. However, given how advanced this is now I would pass on it if you come across it.

Top-Notch Napa Cab With Historical Pedigree

Today’s Story: Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars was established in 1970 by Warren Winiarski in what became the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. Warren purchased the 44 acre property, which was primarily a prune orchard, and replanted it to Cabernet Sauvignon and small plots of Merlot next to Nathan Fay’s vineyard which was the first Cabernet Sauvignon planted in the district. Initially called Stag’s Leap Vineyards, the first vintage came in 1972 at rented winemaking facilities with Warren as winemaker assisted by the renowned André Tchelistcheff. In 1973, winemaking moved to new facilities at the S.L.V. estate and this second vintage is the first made in commercial quantities. A few short years later, in 1976, the 1973 S.L.V. shocked the world by winning the now famous Judgment of Paris blind tasting panel where it bested the red wines of Bordeaux (including 1970 vintages of Château Mouton Rothschild and Château Haut-Brion). Following the success, Stag’s Leap continued to grow and acquired the neighboring FAY Vineyard in 1986, producing their first FAY Cabernet Sauvignon in 1990. They expanded again in 1996 with the purchase of the Arcadia Vineyard from Mike Grgich, which is planted to Chardonnay. Though Warren sold Stag’s Leap in 2007, his family retains ownership of the Arcadia Vineyard and sells fruit to Stag’s Leap on a contract basis.

Stag’s Leap owns and farms the two estate vineyards of FAY and S.L.V. The FAY Vineyard consists of about 66 acres mostly planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, but with 1.5 acres planted to Cabernet Franc. Stag’s Leap refers to this as their “water element” vineyard, as the soil is composed of more alluvial soils of Bale gravelly clay loam and volcanic alluvium. Think of the wines of FAY offering more softness, delicate perfume, and rich berries. S.L.V. meanwhile consists of about 35 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and 1.5 acres of Cabernet Franc and is the more “fire element” vineyard. Planted in more volcanic soils, the S.L.V. Vineyard offers more multilayered structure, complexity, aging potential, and “spicy intensity.” Stag’s Leap practices sustainable viticulture, which includes practices such as maintaining cover crops, utilizing drip irrigation, managing pests with beneficial bugs and nesting homes for owls, and following rigorous canopy management.

Today’s Wine: 2007 Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.5% ABV

The 2007 Cask 23 is opaque deep ruby in color with deep purple and black hues in the bowl, showcasing no signs of its age at this point. After 3.5 hours in the decanter, the nose opens to showcase aromas of black cherry, blackcurrant, black plum, cigar box, loamy earth, black truffle, graphite, cedar spill, cracked pepper, and nutmeg. Meanwhile on the palate, I get notes of crème de cassis, black cherry, blackberry, redcurrant, tobacco, cola, forest floor, black pepper, chocolate, and oaky spice. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but refined tannins, and a very long finish. Gorgeous right now but this has several years left in the tank.

Price: $220. I’m at the price-point where I don’t think I can call this a good value, but I do not think it’s outrageously overpriced either. This is a top-tier Napa Cab that is complex while offering great depth and aging potential, though I’ve had similar wines for $50 to $70 less as well.

A Familiar Producer, but a Special Vineyard

Today’s Story: Davies Vineyards

Davies Vineyards should be familiar to those of you who have been around since the beginning of this blog, namely because I reviewed the 2012 Ferrington Pinot Noir, 2012 JD Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 Jamie Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2015 Piedra Libre Vineyards Pinot Noir. I’ve even reviewed one of their sparkling wines under the Schramsberg label, the 2005 J. Schram Sparkling Rosé. Now it’s rare I review this many wines from the same producer, and more rare that I’m reviewing another one today. However, the fruit for today’s wine comes from a vineyard (and vintner) I hold in very high regard, and whose 2014 Cabernet I reviewed in the rightfully titled What Wine Is Meant to Be.

Davies Vineyards is one of the most storied wineries in Napa, tracing their roots back to 1862 when Jacob Schram purchased 200 acres and began the development of hillside vineyards in Napa. In 1870, Chinese laborers dug what became the first hillside caves in Napa Valley for aging and storing wine, with the winery quickly ramping up production. By 1880, Schramsberg was producing 8,403 cases of wine annually from 50 acres of vines, which ramped up to about 28,361 cases from 100 acres of vines by the year 1890. Fortunes would change in the early 1900s, however, when Jacob Schram died in 1905 and the winery sold in 1912.

It wasn’t until 1965, however, that Jack and Jamie Davies purchased the 200 acre Schramsberg property and crushed the first grapes under their proprietorship. Jumping forward in time to 1994, the Davies family started replanting their Diamond Mountain vineyard property with Cabernet Sauvignon and other red Bordeaux varietals, paving the way toward their exceptional red wines in circulation today.

Several years later in 1998, Jack Davies unfortunately passed away and his wife Jamie became Chairman of the winery. Then, in 2000, Davies truly became a family affair when their son Hugh became head winemaker. His 2001 J. Davies Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, the first vintage from the replanted vines, released in 2004 and is named in honor of Jack. Known for this Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Davies also produces sparkling wine under the Schramsberg label and an assortment of Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast to the Anderson Valley and beyond.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Red Cap Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.6% ABV

The 2013 Red Cap Vineyard Cab is mostly opaque deep ruby in color with deep purple hues in the bowl of the glass. Given a couple of hours to open up, the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, blueberry, redcurrant, violets, volcanic soil, wet slate, green peppercorn, and oak. Meanwhile on the palate I get notes of blueberry, blackcurrant, black cherry, black raspberry, licorice, sweet tobacco, loamy earth, grilled herbs, and a hint of smoke. This is full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Great mountain fruit on this one but the structure is slightly underwhelming. 200 cases produced.

Price: $80. I think this is pretty fairly priced, however there are still markings of a consistent style of winemaking (justifiably so) that makes it very similar to the rest of the Davies bottlings. I’d say go for the namesake Red Cap Vineyards wines for roughly the same price if you’re in the club, or for $15-20 more if you’re not.