Memento Mori is a producer of premium Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, established by friends Hayes Drumwright, Adriel Lares, and Adam Craun with their inaugural vintage in 2010. Prior to establishing Memento Mori, the three friends traveled often to Napa and met Juan Mercado of Realm Cellars on one of these occasions. Juan introduced Hayes, Adriel, and Adam to famed winegrower Andy Beckstoffer and they negotiated the purchase of a small block of grapes from his Georges III Vineyard. Winemaker Sam Kaplan (also of Arkenstone and Nine Suns) joined as Memento Mori’s founding winemaker and he remains in the post to this day. Though Memento Mori no longer purchases fruit from the Georges III Vineyard, today they source from Beckstoffer’s Dr. Crane and Las Piedras vineyards, as well as the Weitz Vineyard, Oakville Ranch, and Vine Hill Ranch vineyards. The Memento Mori flagship wine is a blending of these sites, though they do produce highly limited quantities of single-vineyard bottlings as well.
Today’s Wine: 2017 Vanitas
100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.8% ABV
The 2017 Vanitas is opaque deep ruby in color and nearly black at its core. Given its youth, I decanted this for 3 hours though it is surprisingly expressive and complex. The nose is of pronounced intensity, offering up aromas of crème de cassis, blackberry, black cherry, black plum, black licorice, a hint of bell pepper, dried herbs, scorched earth, cedar, clove, and chocolate. There’s a touch of heat, though this should integrate with bottle age. Meanwhile the palate is also of pronounced intensity, showcasing notes of blackcurrant, blackberry, blueberry, anise, sweet tobacco, savory grilled herbs, a touch of vanilla, clove, charred oak, and mocha. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high but fine-grained tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish. Gorgeous now, but I need to revisit this in 3-5 years when I imagine tertiary notes may start surfacing.
Price: $100 (Wally’s Los Angeles exclusive). This is actually very well priced for a premium Napa Cab, even if it is the label’s “entry level.” The purity and depth of fruit is exceptional, and the primary note complexity at this stage only showcases promise for the years to come. Pedigree of the vineyards (Beckstoffer Dr. Crane and Las Piedras, Weitz Vineyard, Oakville Ranch, and Vine Hill Ranch) shines.
I very recently wrote about Massican when I reviewed the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, however I loved that wine so much I wanted to return today for another bottling.
Massican Winery was established in 2009 by winemaker Dan Petroski (also of Larkmead Vineyards) and was born out of his passion for Italy and the country’s lifestyle, culture, and wines. Massican is a very unique endeavor in Napa Valley, focusing exclusively on white grape varieties including Tocai Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Bianco, and Greco common in northeastern Italy as well as the more “expected” varieties of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. True to Dan’s mission, the Massican wines are not only made with uncommon varieties for Napa but they are also not the stereotypical oaky white wines the region is known for. Dan uses varying amounts of new and neutral oak as well as stainless steel, also not allowing his wines to go through malolactic fermentation so they maintain the crisp, fresh, and refreshing characteristics of each grape variety. Another contributing factor is how Dan picks his grapes at lower sugar levels, preserving the vibrant acidity and resulting in often lower-alcohol wines.
The 2019 Annia is pale yellow in color, and almost pale gold. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of yellow apple, tangerine, white peach, pear, honeysuckle, crushed stone, and mild green herbs. Meanwhile the flavors on the palate are also of medium intensity, with notes of white peach, lemon zest, pear, tangerine, white florals, and beeswax. This dry white blend is light- to medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length but well-rounded finish. I didn’t find this as vibrant or complex as the Sauvignon Blanc I recently reviewed, but it still makes for a fun summer wine and a perfect match for shellfish.
Price: $30. This is a fun wine for the price, however I do prefer the Massican Sauvignon Blanc and I think that offers stronger value given its complexity, vibrancy, and mouthwatering higher acidity. I still think this Annia is worth checking out though, because it’s uncommon to find these varieties coming out of Napa and it is a well-made wine.
Domaine Méo-Camuzet is a very highly regarded domain in the Côte-d’Or of Burgundy, situated in the heart of the prized Vosne-Romanée appellation. The domain was established by Étienne Camuzet, a political figure who represented the Côte-d’Or as mayor of Vosne-Romanée and an MP in Paris. Étienne purchased the Château du Clos de Vougeot in 1920, but due to his political commitments did not live there or farm the vineyards and instead leased it out to tenant farmers. Though he sold the château in late 1944 (it was heavily damaged during the war), 20 hectares of vineyards went up for sale and he retained 3 hectares for himself. Upon Étienne’s death in 1946, the holdings passed to his daughter Maria Noirot and she kept the tenant farming system in place. Having no heirs of her own, with Maria’s death in 1959 the domain passed to her nephew Jean Méo who was in General de Gaulle’s cabinet. Jean Méo took over the domain with help from his parents, but kept to the tenant farming system with the legendary Henri Jayer being one of them. In 1981, the domain was named Domaine Méo-Camuzet, domain bottling and labelling commenced with the 1983 vintage, and Jean Méo proposed passing the reins onto his son Jean-Nicolas in 1984.
Jean-Nicolas took several years to pick up the task, immersing himself in the domain in 1989 following education at the University of Burgundy to study oenology. He also studied at the University of Pennsylvania to build his business acumen. As he was nearing retirement in 1988, Henri Jayer agreed to coach Jean-Nicolas alongside Christian Faurois, a son of another highly regarded tenant farmer. As Jean-Nicolas learned, grew, and experimented with new techniques at the domain, the Méo-Camuzet wines gained great appreciation around the world, particularly in the American markets where Jean-Nicolas used his business savvy to his advantage. By 2008, all tenant farmers had retired and Jean-Nicolas took complete management responsibility over the vineyards. As he struggled to keep up with demand, he and his sisters established the Méo-Camuzet Frère & Soeurs négociant business to expand their portfolio into wider and more accessible bottlings. Today, Jean-Nicolas runs Méo-Camuzet with his wife Nathalie and they have three children who will perhaps one day carry on the family legacy. Christian Faurois remains a right-hand-man as well.
Domaine Méo-Camuzet today consists of 14 hectares of vineyards which include holdings in a range of villages, 1er Crus, and several Grand Crus. Practically all viticulture is organic, though the domain does not seek certification so in their most difficult vineyards or vintages they can react prudently if needed. For instance, some of their sites that are difficult to farm may need small amounts of occasional herbicide or anti-rot treatments. Harvesting is completed entirely by hand, and sorting first occurs at the vineyard level where fruit deemed below quality standards is dropped to the ground. Fruit is sorted again and destemmed at the winery, before fermentation begins in concrete vats with temperature control only ensuring the temperature doesn’t cross over the critical 95 degree Fahrenheit level. The wines mature in new oak barrels, ranging from about 50% new for the lower level wines up to 100% new for the Grand Crus. Come bottling, the wines see no fining or filtration.
The 2018 Bourgogne Côte-d’Or Cuvée Étienne Camuzet is pale to medium ruby in color and transparent. This took a good hour to open up in the glass, eventually showing aromas of medium intensity. The nose showcases notes of ripe red cherry, cranberry, black raspberry, red rose petal, leather, dried herbs, crushed rock minerality, and a hint baking spice. Meanwhile the flavors on the palate are also of medium intensity, displaying notes of black cherry, red plum, crunchy cranberry, brambly black raspberry, anise, tobacco, cola, stony mineral, clove, and a touch of smoke. This dry red is light- to medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Overall pretty complex for its youth and very well-balanced. Purity and freshness of fruit here is gorgeous, as is the minerality.
Price: $65 ($40-50 in Europe). Given where the pricing of Burgundy has headed, I think this is actually pretty decent value. I certainly think this drinks about the regional Bourgogne level, and should only improve with several more years of bottle age.
Weingut Fritz Haag is a historic family-owned wine estate established by the Haag family in 1605 in Brauneberg of the Mosel winegrowing region of Germany. In its more recent “modern” history, Fritz Haag was under the leadership of Wilhelm Haag beginning in 1957 when he returned to help his ill father. An expected one-harvest stay turned into full-time winemaking for Wilhelm, ultimately resulting in exceptional quality wines being produced by the estate which garnered international acclaim and earned Wilhelm the German Winemaker of the Year title in 1994 by Gault Millau’s Guide to German Wines. Wilhelm passed the reins onto his son Oliver in 2005, and he runs the estate to this day with his wife Jessica.
The Fritz Haag estate consists of 19.5 hectares, with the vineyards planted entirely to the Riesling variety on very steep slopes along the Mosel River. As part of their holdings, Fritz Haag owns substantial holdings in the highly regarded Brauneberger Juffer and Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr vineyards which produce their highest quality fruit for the Grosses Gewächs wines and Prädikatswein. Fritz Haag produces a range of Rieslings, going from dry all the way to sweet wines made with botrytis-affected grapes but they keep production to around 5,500 cases per year with mild fluctuations due to vintage conditions.
To preserve the pronounced aroma and flavor characteristics of their wines, Fritz Haag utilizes stainless steel and some old oak during the winemaking process. Fermentations occur only with indigenous yeasts, and the name of the game is to produce exceptionally pure wines that show true sense of place.
To explore Weingut Fritz Haag further, you can check out their website here.
Today’s Story: 2019 Riesling
100% Riesling; 11% ABV
The 2019 Riesling is transparent pale straw in color. This wine leaps out of the glass with pronounced intensity, offering up aromas of green apple, lime zest, white peach, white florals, petrol, jasmine, and slate. Meanwhile the palate is also of pronounced intensity, showcasing notes of lemon, lime, white peach, crisp green apple, elderflower, a hint of beeswax, and saline minerality. This slightly off-dry (feinherb style) Riesling is light-bodied with gorgeous high acidity, medium (-) alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. A perfect summer bottle with great balance and just a touch of sweetness to help balance the mouthwatering acidity.
Price: $22 (cheaper in Europe). I think this offers very solid value for Mosel Riesling and it was an absolute pleasure to drink. The acidity is gorgeous, the style is beautifully balanced, and the aromas and flavors mesh seamlessly into a refreshing wine. I’ll be buying more of this.
Saxum Vineyards is a highly regarded winery in the Willow Creek District of Paso Robles, established in 2002 by husband and wife Justin and Heather Smith. The winery is situated in the James Berry Vineyard, a property purchased by Justin’s father around 1980 which he planted to white grape varieties popular at the time. However, toward the end of the 1980s the Smith family started replanting their vineyard to Rhône varieties following the suggestion by a friend, and today Saxum is known for their Grenache, Syrah, and Mataro dominated blends.
The Saxum vineyards are planted on steep hillsides and rocky soils, with the region offering sunny days and cool ocean breezes. Yields are kept low to create healthy, concentrated berries and the fruit is picked at optimal ripeness to ensure profound texture in the finished product. A sustainable and rather uncertified organic viticultural philosophy is followed by minimal intervention in the cellar, allowing each of the ten crus produced by Saxum to show a true sense of place while being profound and elegant at the same time. Saxum produces roughly 8,000 cases of wine per vintage nowadays, with all bottles highly allocated to a mailing list with a very small amount making it to retail or restaurants. To put this demand into perspective, I’ve been on the Saxum waiting list for about 4 years already and from what I hear have several more years to go.
To learn more about Saxum, particularly their individual bottlings with incredible libraries of tasting notes, check out the website here.
The 2016 Broken Stones is opaque deep purple in color with deep ruby hues. I decanted this for 3 hours and drank it over the following 2 given its youth. There’s pronounced intensity on the nose, offering up aromas of blackberry, juicy black plum, black cherry, violet, lavender, licorice, roasted game, grilled herbs, scorched earth, gravel, clove, vanilla, and charred cedar. With the proper stemware, the alcohol level goes practically unnoticed. Meanwhile the palate also offers flavors with pronounced intensity, including blackberry, blueberry, black plum, anise, smoked meat, violet, cracked black pepper, dried green herbs, a touch of smoke, vanilla, baking spice, and coffee grounds. This dry red blend is full-bodied with medium acidity, high and grippy tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish. Surprisingly the alcohol practically blows off and this wine showcases great depth, balance, and immense promise at such a young age.
Price: $135. While there are better “values” out there, I think this is fairly priced in the secondary market even though it gets released at $98. The complexity, elegant power, and depth to these wines are truly special based on the several I’ve tasted over the years and this 2016 Broken Stones is no different.
RAEN Winery is a relatively small Pinot-Noir-focused venture established in the Sonoma Coast of California in 2013 by brothers Carlo and Dante Mondavi. As fourth-generation winegrowers and the children of Tim Mondavi (who was instrumental in the production of California Pinot Noir during the early 1970s), Carlo and Dante grew an absolute passion for wine and particularly Pinot Noir. Working with three unique vineyard sites, RAEN produces a Sonoma Coast Royal St. Robert Pinot Noir, a Fort Ross-Seaview Home Field Pinot Noir, and a Freestone-Occidental Bodega Pinot Noir. They also produce small quantities of Chardonnay from the Charles Ranch Vineyard in Fort Ross-Seaview and The Monarch Challenge Rosé to benefit The Monarch Challenge movement. RAEN’s wines are fermented 100% whole cluster with native yeast and age in neutral French oak barrels for 10-20 months depending on site and vintage. When the team feels the wines are ready, they are bottled unfined and unfiltered with the goal of allowing each bottling to showcase a true sense of place.
Fun fact: RAEN is named for Research in Agriculture and Enology Naturally.
To learn more about the wines or details about each vineyard site, you can visit the RAEN website here.
Today’s Wine: 2019 The Monarch Challenge Rosé
100% Pinot Noir; 12.9% ABV
The 2019 Monarch Challenge Rosé is transparent medium copper in color. The aromas are of medium (-) intensity and the nose isn’t all that complex, showcasing notes of fresh strawberry, raspberry, watermelon, rose, mild herbs, and dried stone minerality. Meanwhile on the palate flavors are of medium intensity, showcasing strawberry, raspberry, pomegranate, orange zest, white pepper, and dried herbs. This dry rosé is light- to medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Overall, while not complex this is a refreshing and enjoyable wine that went down quickly.
Price: $25 (I paid $19). This is pretty fairly-priced and I am glad to have gotten it on sale which makes it even more reasonable. These wines also support a great cause, with 100% of the proceeds going to The Monarch Challenge which is a movement supporting cleaner farming in the areas of Sonoma and Napa.
I wrote about Radio-Coteau a short six days ago, however I was so pleasantly taken aback by the 2011 Las Colinas Syrah I ventured out to pick up a bottle of their Pinot Noir. If you read the backstory on Radio-Coteau in my last post, feel free to skip the next paragraph and jump right into today’s tasting notes.
Radio-Coteau is somewhat of a cult winery (though not in the sense many people use the term nowadays) established by winemaker Eric Sussman in 2002. Though the winery is situated in Sebastopol and Eric owns a ridgetop estate vineyard above the town of Occidental, he also sources fruit from vineyards throughout the cooler climates of the northern coast within western Sonoma County and Anderson Valley. Eric brings his impressive history with wine to Radio-Coteau, one that includes stints in Washington’s Yakima Valley, the 1995 vintage in Pauillac on the Left Bank of Bordeaux, and the 1996 vintage in Burgundy at Domaine Comte Armand of Pommard and Domaine Jacques Prieur of Meursault. It was in France when Eric first heard the term “radio-coteau,” which means “word of mouth” or literally “broadcasting from the hillside.” Coupled with his flair for Old World style wines, Eric named his winery after this phrase to signify both a tight-knit community mindset as well as his wines being a true representation of the terroir. Working extensively with organic and biodynamic viticulture in well-drained marine soils, Eric produces refined examples of Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Zinfandel.
Once again, I do recommend a visit to the winery’s interactive website here.
Today’s Wine: 2010 Savoy Pinot Noir
100% Pinot Noir; 14.1% ABV
The 2010 Savoy Pinot Noir is medium to deep garnet in color. Given 45 minutes or so to blossom in the glass, this showcases pronounced intensity with aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, stemmy wild strawberry, red rose petal, black olive, leather, forest floor/wet leaves, dried green herbs, mint, clove, and cinnamon. Meanwhile on the palate I get equally complex flavors with pronounced intensity, with notes of black cherry, plum, pomegranate, red rose, tobacco, forest floor, earthy mushroom, grilled herbs, cracked green peppercorn, clove, and charred oak. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish. This is very Burgundian but the ripeness of the California fruit does shine through. While the alcohol doesn’t show heat per se, the body is certainly boosted by it. 462 cases produced.
Price: $75. This is getting up there in price for Cali Pinot, however I think it does deserve to fight up alongside the “big boys” of cult Pinot Noirs that sell for $100-125. While there are no doubt better value plays closer to $50, I would buy this again.
Big Table Farm is a relatively small winery and farm established in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in 2006 by winemaker Brian Marcy and artist/farmer Clare Carver. Brian worked with wine in Napa Valley prior to starting Big Table Farm, spending a decade with stints at heavyweights like Turley Wine cellars, Neyers Vineyards, Blankiet Estate, and Marcassin to hone his craft. Meanwhile Clare is a gifted artist and designs wine labels, many of which have been awarded. Dedicated to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and small amounts of Pinot Gris and Syrah, Big Table Farm commenced with only 150 cases of wine and has grown to a few thousand cases today. The wines are made in a minimal style, designed to showcase each unique source’s terroir and all wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. With a major emphasis on sustainability and Clare’s passion for farming, the duo’s 70 acre property also acts as a working farm where they produce seasonal vegetables and raise animals. A visit to the property will not only showcase the wines, but you will see hens, pigs, goats, draft horses, and cows wandering about with an area dedicated to bee hives as well.
Big Table Farm has an outstanding website, filled with pictures, videos, and incredible detail. I highly recommend visiting them here.
Today’s Wine: 2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay
100% Chardonnay; 13.2% ABV
The 2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay is transparent medium gold in color and slightly hazy. This really started to show nicely after 30-45 minutes in the glass, with the nose showcasing medium intense aromas of yellow apple, golden pear, a hint of lemon custard, white florals, chalky mineral, a hint of smoke, and mild white peppery spice. Meanwhile the palate is also of medium intensity, displaying notes of yellow apple, crisp pear, dried pineapple, wet stone, dried herbs, honeysuckle, dill, and a hint of oak. This dry Chardonnay is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Took some coaxing to pull apart the notes on this one, but the balance is incredible.
Price: $44 (I paid $28 on sale). I think the typical $44ish price tag is very reasonable here, as this is a fun, different, delicious, and well-made Chardonnay. If you are fortunate to find it on sale like I did, snag it because this offers tremendous value at the $28 level I paid.
Château Haut-Bailly is a historic Bordeaux wine estate, established during the 1530s by the Goyanèche and Daitze families in the Left Bank appellation of Pessac-Léognan. Haut-Bailly remained in the Daitze family until 1630, when it was purchased by Firmin Le Bailly and Nicolas de Leuvarde who were two wealthy Parisian bankers. It was Firmin Le Bailly who provided the estate with its name, still in use to this day. The Le Bailly family invested significantly in the improvement of the estate and its wines, passing it from generation to generation until 1736 when Thomas Barton came along. Barton, who was an Irishman, used his business savvy and connections to trumpet the quality of Haut-Bailly wines and helped spread them to England and Ireland where they became highly regarded. In 1872, Alcide Bellot des Minières purchased the Haut-Bailly estate and constructed the château which remains to this day. des Minières was also a gifted winemaker, adhering to precise and science-backed philosophies that further improved the wines and, in pricing terms, put them up with Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Margaux, and Château Haut-Brion. Unfortunately, phylloxera took its toll on the estate during the very late 1800s and Haut-Bailly entered the 20th century under a sense of turmoil.
During the first half of the 20th century, Haut-Bailly changed hands multiple times, new and questionable winemaking practices occurred, and the reputation faltered. In 1955, however, Belgian négociant Daniel Sanders purchased the estate and commenced a renaissance for both quality and reputation. Daniel and his son Jean renovated the vineyards and the winery, while also increasing the rigorous quality standards set in place to select fruit for the Grand Vin. By this point Haut-Bailly was a classified Cru Classé in the Classification of Graves in 1953 and 1959, and the wines certainly lived up to it. During the 1970s, however, the wines did take a slight dip once again as Daniel remained reluctant in his old age to give up control to his son Jean. With Daniel’s death in 1980, however, Jean fully took the helm and resumed the rise in quality. Haut-Bailly shifted into the hands of its current owners in 1988, when American banker Robert G. Wilmers purchased the estate. Jean Sanders remained on the team which later included fourth generation Véronique Sanders in a general manager capacity. Though Robert unfortunately passed away in 2017, Haut-Bailly remains in his family’s care with the same dedication and passion to this great and historic estate.
Château Haut-Bailly today consists of 30 hectares of vineyards situated in prime sandy and gravelly soils in the heart of the Pessac-Léognan appellation. The vineyards are planted to 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, and 3% Cabernet Franc, with the plots undulating and at times reaching 20 meters higher than other plots around them. Haut-Bailly also maintains 4 hectares of century-old vines planted by Alcide Bellot des Minières, and while largely planted to Cabernet Sauvignon these special vineyards have plots of Carmenère, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot as well.
Harvest and winemaking at Haut-Bailly follow the philosophy of gentleness and minimal intervention. All plots are harvested individually by hand so fruit is picked at optimal ripeness for each variety. After initial sorting in the vineyards, the fruit is destemmed and sorted by hand again before transferring directly into vats for fermentation. Each plot is vinified separately as well, allowing the winemaking team a plethora of blending options to showcase the varieties and terroir in the best sense possible vintage to vintage. Following time in concrete vats, the wines age in French oak barrels for 16-18 months before they are bottled.
To view the source of the information above, please check out the Château Haut-Bailly website here. You can also view pictures of the estate and peruse their portfolio which interestingly includes a Rosé.
Today’s Wine: 2001 Château Haut-Bailly
65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot; 12.5% ABV
The 2001 Château Haut-Bailly is opaque deep ruby in color with deep garnet variation at the rim. This required a good 1.5 to 2 hours to decant, but it blossomed beautifully. The nose is of pronounced intensity, showcasing classic aromas of crème de cassis, redcurrant, violet, cigar box, black truffle, scorched earth, graphite, pencil shavings, black pepper, gravel, and a touch of vanilla. Meanwhile on the palate I get flavors of pronounced intensity including blackberry, black plum, cassis, licorice, violet, dried tobacco, mushroom, a hint of green bell pepper, dried green herbs, clove, and charred cedar. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high but very fine-grained and luxurious tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Gorgeous right now but certainly has the stuffing to develop further for at least another decade.
Price: $120. 2001 is a sleeper vintage in Bordeaux, and selection can sometimes be difficult. However, this 2001 Haut-Bailly is firing on all cylinders and offers very solid value in my opinion given its complexity, performance, age, and promise for the future. Well done.
Hyde de Villaine Wines (HdV) is a family owned and operated wine estate established in Carneros in 2000 as a joint venture between the Hyde family of Napa Valley and the de Villaine family of Burgundy. Spearheaded by Larry Hyde, a member of one of the region’s most highly regarded winegrowing families, and Aubert de Villaine, co-director of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, HdV came to fruition through Aubert’s marriage to Pamela Fairbanks who is Larry’s cousin. Using fruit exclusively from the coveted Hyde Vineyard in eastern Carneros, HdV crafts Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and small amounts of Syrah as well as a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend utilizing minimal intervention winemaking in an effort to allow the wines to speak of their terroir, variety, and vintage.
The vines which provide fruit for HdV Wines are farmed with a combination of sustainable, organic, and biodynamic practices to both ensure the land is viable for generations to come and this helps the grapes truly express themselves rather than a heavy hand. HdV receives first right of refusal in the vineyards, with remaining fruit sold to Napa heavyweights of the likes of Kistler, Patz & Hall, DuMOL, Ramey, and Schramsberg amongst others. HdV typically picks their fruit a couple weeks earlier than those around them, in large part to preserve more of the natural acidity and a beautiful minerality after the style of Burgundy. There is rigorous sorting in the vineyards, at the picking bins, and again at the winery to ensure only the highest quality fruit makes it into the wines. The winery itself is organized such that gravity plays a dominant part, and the wines see a combination of stainless steel, wooden vats, and oak barrels over time. Overall the winemaking philosophy is minimal intervention, again circling back to the idea that all wines should demonstrate a true sense of place. Chardonnay ages in 15-20% new medium toast French oak for about a year, followed by 3-4 months in stainless steel before being bottled unfined and unfiltered.
To learn more or explore the HdV portfolio of wines, check out their website here.
Today’s Wine: 2016 Le Début Chardonnay
100% Chardonnay; 13.9% ABV
The 2016 Le Début Chardonnay is transparent medium gold in color. After about 30 to 45 minutes in the glass, the nose showcases aromas of pineapple, ripe pear, peach, lemon zest, honeysuckle, dried vanilla, almond, and light butter with medium intensity. The palate is much more pronounced in intensity with notes of yellow apple, yellow pear, lemon curd, peach, pineapple, wet stone, dill, vanilla cream, and light smoke. This is dry and medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. 550 cases produced.
Price: $50. This is a very good Napa Chardonnay, and on a value perspective I believe it is relatively fairly priced. You can certainly find wines of this quality or slightly better for about $10-15 less, but naturally they become much harder to find. I would certainly explore more wines in the HdV portfolio.