Iconic Oakville Cabernet

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.

I previously reviewed the 2011 Cave Collection Cabernet Sauvignon from Far Niente.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Cave Collection Cabernet Sauvignon

97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot; 14.5% ABV

The 2013 Cave Collection Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby in color and rather opaque. I decanted this for two hours, helping to open the wine with aromas of medium (+) intensity and a nose of blackberry, blueberry, redcurrant, violet, cigar box, graphite, chocolate, vanilla, and charred oak. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, with the palate showcasing notes of cassis, black plum, blueberry, black cherry, tobacco, black truffle, gravel, a hint of vanilla, and woodsmoke. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but fine-grained tannin, high alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $185. This is a very solid wine from an iconic Napa winery, though there are certainly better “values” out there. I think some of the other vintages from Far Niente show better than the 2013, though there’s no denying the quality level is high and this offers decent depth and great balance.

Premium Cabernet From Perhaps the World’s Greatest Wine Consultant

Today’s Story: Michel Rolland Napa Valley

Michel Rolland Napa Valley is the individual wine project of world-renowned wine consultant Michel Rolland, with its first vintage being 2010. Rolland grew up in Pomerol, France on his family’s estate Château Le Bon Pasteur, so one can say the path of winemaking started the day he was born. He excelled in his studies of viticulture and enology, ultimately purchasing an enology lab on the Right Bank of Bordeaux to begin his consulting career. Over time Rolland has consulted for hundreds of clients the world over, namely centered in his native Bordeaux in addition to Argentina, the United States, and other countries. With names on his resume like Château Ausone, Château L’Évangile, and Château Pontet-Canet it is also no surprise he consults for some of the greatest estates in the Napa Valley: Harlan Estate and Bryant Family to name a couple. As the Napa Valley became almost like a second home, Rolland decided to start his own venture sourcing from some of the greatest vineyards (many of them Beckstoffer) and MR Cabernet Sauvignon was born.

Today’s Wine: 2013 MR Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.7% ABV

The 2013 MR Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby in color and completely opaque. I decanted this for about 2 hours and drank it over the following hour or so. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose offering up notes of blackberry, blueberry, plum, orange rind, violet, cigar box, graphite, slate, mint, savory green herbs, a touch of smoke, and cedar. The flavors are also of pronounced intensity, with the concentrated palate showcasing notes of blackcurrant, blackberry, plum, black cherry, licorice, sweet tobacco, graphite, charred herbs, coffee grounds, clove, and cinnamon. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but silky and refined tannin, high alcohol, and a long finish. Very good and still quite youthful.

Price: $150. This is another high-quality Napa Cab in the ever-competitive price-point, and while for this saturated zone I cannot call this great “value” it certainly drinks at its price-point. Fruit sources here include the incredible sites of To Kalon, Missouri Hopper, Dr. Crane, and Stagecoach which, coupled with a limited production of 300 cases, contributes to the pricing. Nonetheless this is an incredibly concentrated, intense, and complex Napa Cab that was very enjoyable.

Bold and Powerful Stags Leap District Cabernet

Today’s Story: Odette Estate

Odette Estate is the newest property in the PlumpJack Group of wineries, established in 2012 by partners Gordon Getty, Gavin Newson, and John Conover. The trio found success with their earlier properties of PlumpJack in Oakville and CADE up on Howell Mountain, so they set their eyes on this third property in the historic Stags Leap District. The 45 acre property was owned by the Steltzner family who purchased it in 1964, and they first converted the land to vineyards in 1970. Though the family originally sold all of their fruit in those early years, they started making their own wine and released the first of it in the year 1980. This working winery was in full swing by the time the PlumpJack Group purchased the property in 2012, though the team immediately undertook a massive renovation project of both the facilities and caves. They also transitioned the entire property to organic farming like the other two properties.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, and remaining 10% between Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot; 15.2% ABV

The 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby in color and completely opaque. I decanted this for two hours to allow it to open up. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of blackberry compote, plum, crème de cassis, blueberry, black licorice, violet, sweet tobacco, a hint of truffle, graphite, vanilla, and clove. Flavors are also pronounced, and the palate offers up notes of blackberry, blackcurrant, black cherry, blueberry, black plum, anise, charred green herbs, mushroom, gravel, coffee grounds, and baking spice. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high tannin, high alcohol, and a long finish. Very good for the style, as these are meant to be big, bold, concentrated, and intense.

Price: $150. Though this is in an incredibly competitive price range, I do think it drinks at the level. While this isn’t my particular style of Cabernet (I prefer more restrained and terroir-driven bottlings made in a more traditional style), there is no denying it is of great quality. The complexity and balance here are quite good, and this wine would certainly appeal to a broad range of consumers.

Textbook Viognier From Amador County

Today’s Story: Favia Erickson Winegrowers

Favia was founded in 2003 by viticulturist Annie Favia and winemaker Andy Erickson, a husband and wife duo. Annie has experience working with John Kongsgaard and Cathy Corison, though her viticulturist expertise came working under David Abreu. Andy also has an extensive resume, which includes winemaking stints at Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Ovid, Harlan Estate, and Staglin amongst others. Andy also consults for Arietta, Mayacamas, and Dancing Hares Vineyard.

I had an opportunity to visit Favia for a tour and tasting in the past, and it truly is a special experience. Annie and Andy live on the property in a home built in 1886 for the Carbone family, who are believed to be the first Italian immigrants to Napa Valley. Though modernized, Annie and Andy restored the home using historical documents alongside other structures on the property. A very cool feature, the cellar sits under the family home and Favia stores their wine right where they live. Strong believers in biodynamic practices and caring for the earth, Annie and Andy planted fruit trees, an olive orchard, and a garden (which we got to try a tomato from) in addition to the existing walnut orchard.

I highly suggest a visit to Favia if you take a trip to Napa Valley, as it’s a very small, unique tasting experience and is not too far from downtown Napa. In the meantime, check out their website here to browse their wines and see incredible pictures of the property. I also previously reviewed their 2013 Linea Sauvignon Blanc and 2014 Quarzo Syrah.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Suize Viognier

100% Viognier; 14.1% ABV

The 2016 Suize Viognier is deep straw in color with medium gold hues. Aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of white peach, mango, tangerine, honeysuckle, white rose, popcorn kernel, butter, and brioche. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, while the palate offers up notes of white peach, mango, tangerine, juniper berry, honeysuckle, beeswax, dried herbs, vanilla, and butter. This has the classic oily mouthfeel of Viognier as well. This dry white is full-bodied with medium acidity, high alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Quality here is good, with this being a textbook representation of the variety.

Price: $75. Price-wise and therefore value-wise this is pretty steep for a classic representation of Viognier. The quality, depth, and length here are all quite good though and it’s an enjoyable wine if you come across it and feel spendy.

Complex and Fun Experimental White Blend

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. They recently cleared more acreage to expand their vineyard holdings as well. 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 native and non-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 utilizing 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. I also previously wrote about Ovid when I reviewed the 2015 Hexameter.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Experiment No. W3.6

36.27% Sauvignon Blanc, 20.82% Grenache Blanc, 19.28% Albariño, 9.26% Viognier, 7.86% Roussanne, 6.51% Vermentino; 14.3% ABV

The 2016 Experiment No. W3.6 is pale yellow in color. Its aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of lemon zest, honeydew melon, Asian pear, mango, lemongrass, white lily, wet stone, and a touch of wax. The flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, and the palate offers up notes of yellow apple, pear, lemon and lime zest, mango, grapefruit, honeysuckle, grass, beeswax, and stony mineral. This dry white blend is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. This is a very good and fun wine.

Price: $110. Pricing here is a bit high in terms of value perspective, as this is very expensive for a Napa Valley white wine. Nonetheless, I love these Ovid Experiment bottlings as they show a fun side of winemaking while this one is complex, well-balanced, and downright quaffable. I think rarity of these wines plays an effect on the price but if you have the chance to try one I wouldn’t turn it down.

A Fix of Realm for the 2020 Vintage

Today’s Story: Realm Cellars

Realm Cellars was founded in 2002 with a focus on producing high-quality, limited production Bordeaux blend and single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Co-Founder Juan Mercado left his role as a hospital administrator in San Francisco to pursue working in the wine industry and, until recently, Realm sourced their fruit from historical, high-quality vineyards (like Dr. Crane, To Kalon, and Farella) rather than growing their own. Though Juan is no longer with Realm, the winery is spearheaded by Managing Partner Scott Becker and their excellent winemaker Benoit Touquette. Michel Rolland consults for the project as well.

One of my favorite aspects of Realm (more a “that’s really cool” kind of thing) is their inspiration from Shakespeare. For example, the title of my blog post on the 2016 The Bard starts the line “This blessed plot, this earth, this realm” from Shakespeare’s Richard II, a line noted on every bottle of Realm wine, on their corks, and highlighted on the label of The Bard. Realm’s Bordeaux blends include The Tempest, named for the violent storm and play thought to be one of Shakespeare’s last; Falstaff, named for the fat, vain, boastful, and cowardly knight present in four of Shakespeare’s plays for comic relief; and of course The Bard, named for Shakespeare himself. Each wine highlights a particular variety, ranging from Merlot to Cabernet Franc to Cabernet Sauvignon, respectively.

As far as their single vineyard wines go, Realm produces Farella (100% Cab), Houyi (100% Cab), Beckstoffer Dr. Crane (95% Cab, 5% Petit Verdot), Beckstoffer To Kalon (100% Cab), Moonracer (Cab dominant blend), and a white wine called Fidelio (Sauvignon Blanc). As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, recently Realm started producing wine from their own fruit which is where Moonracer comes in. This wine comes from their vineyard on Wappo Hill in the Stags Leap District and is named for the Wappo Native Americans who were known for bravery, strength, and athleticism. The Wappos often took part in (and are said to have won most) inter-tribal races during a full moon, hence the name Moonracer.

I previously reviewed the 2016 The Bard, 2013 The Tempest, and 2019 Fidelio Sauvignon Blanc from Realm.

Today’s Wine: 2020 La Fe Rosé

90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.9% ABV

The 2020 La Fe Rosé is pale copper in color. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of watermelon, white raspberry, white cherry, cantaloupe, rose petal, finely crushed stone, and a hint of underbrush. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity and the palate offers up notes of white peach, strawberry, bing cherry, watermelon, rose water, white pepper, stony mineral, and green herbs on the finish. This dry rosé is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, high alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $75. This is quite pricey for a rosé, so there are certainly better “values” out there on a dollar-per-dollar basis. Nonetheless this is a delightful bottle of wine and one of few Merlot/Cabernet blended rosés that I truly enjoyed. This maintains a brightness while offering up nice mineral tones in a fairly deep presentation. Perfect to keep up my Realm fix for a very tough vintage.

Note: This is the only wine Realm made in the 2020 vintage, and it’s also their first rosé. Following the 2020 fires in the Napa Valley, Realm’s winemaking team made the decision to not risk producing their Cabernet Sauvignon wines due to risk of smoke taint and loss of fruit. This rosé was carefully made and monitored using very delicate winemaking practices from Farella and Moonracer fruit.

San Benito County Pinot Noir Drinking Beautifully Right Now

Today’s Story: Williams Selyem

Williams Selyem is a highly-regarded winery with a homegrown, almost comical, origin story. During the 1970s, Burt Williams received several tons of free grapes from a grower with an abundance of fruit that would otherwise most likely go to waste. With his friend Ed Selyem, in 1979 the pair started making wine at Burt’s house over the weekends with Zinfandel grapes from the Martinelli family. Though the two set out to make wine only for themselves as a hobby, Burt and Ed fully devoted to the endeavor in 1981 and named their winery Hacienda del Rio.

They bottled their first vintage in 1982 and released it commercially in 1983, however Hacienda Winery quickly sent a cease and desist letter that resulted in removal of “Hacienda” from Burt and Ed’s labels. In 1984, Burt and Ed moved production to a nearby garage in Fulton and released the first vintage with the now famous and globally-recognized Williams Selyem label.

Williams Selyem picked up steam very quickly for a new winery in California. In 1985, they released their first vineyard-designated Pinot Noir from the Rochioli Vineyard and in 1987 that wine won the California State Fair Sweepstakes Prize for top red wine. With its status blown open, Williams Selyem grew a cult following and they needed to create a waitlist that immediately spanned 2-3 years. In 1989, Williams Selyem relocated to the Allen Ranch facility on Westside Road and in 1992 Burt and Ed quit their day jobs to focus 100% on their wine.

Six years later, however, in 1998 Burt and Ed sold Williams Selyem to John Dyson who was a longtime customer. John and his wife Kathe still own the winery today, and throughout their proprietorship greatly expanded winemaking by adding estate vineyards along the way. In my opinion, their crowning and historic achievement came in 2009 when Wine Enthusiast Magazine rated the 2007 Williams Selyem Litton Estate Pinot Noir 100 points. This was the first North American Pinot Noir in history to achieve a perfect score by a major wine publication, and while I do not buy wine simply based on score and have my issues with the scale, I can appreciate the historic achievement. In early 2021, Domaine Faiveley of Burgundy purchased a minority stake in Williams Selyem which may one day lead to their ownership. So far though, there doesn’t appear to be any major changes in the production of wine.

I previously reviewed the 2014 Ferrington Vineyard Pinot Noir and 2016 Three Sisters Vineyard Chardonnay from Williams Selyem.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Vista Verde Vineyard Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.6% ABV

The 2013 Vista Verde Vineyard Pinot Noir is medium ruby in color and rather youthful in appearance. Given some time in the glass, this opens with aromas of medium (+) intensity and a nose of dried cherry, black raspberry, muddled strawberry, lavender, leather, scorched earth, charred green herbs, and smoke. The flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, with the palate showcasing notes of black cherry, plum, cranberry, black tea, smoked meat, a hint of black olive, dried herbs, crushed stone, smoke, and clove. This dry red is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, light and fully-integrated tannin, medium alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $110 (paid $75 from the winery). While there are better values out there especially at today’s market pricing for this bottle, the $75 level we purchased these at is rather fair. This wine is complex, well-balanced, and finishes long while being of incredible quality. Drinking beautifully right now.

Santa Ynez Valley Red Blend Drinking Beautifully After a Decade

Today’s Story: Jonata

Jonata is a red-wine-focused winery established in the Santa Ynez Valley by Stan Kroenke, owner of Screaming Eagle and the LA Rams. Jonata’s vines are planted in the Santa Ynez Valley on California’s Central Coast, and although Kroenke bought 586 acres of property only 84 acres are planted under vine. Like many wineries in the area, Jonata found success planting Rhône varieties such as Syrah but also grows Sangiovese and Bordeaux varieties. As far as soil goes, the entire Jonata property is sand (specifically Careaga Sandstone) which is known to be highly aerative with low water holding capacity and therefore low fertility for fruit. However, thanks to their adept winemaker Matt Dees, Jonata is able to produce exceptional wines and some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon in the Ballard Canyon appellation.

On the topic of quality, Jonata in their words seeks to become “the vanguard of an emerging quality movement in California winegrowing.” Great care is put into their vineyards and the winemaking process, resulting in a relatively small production of about 4,725 cases per year across 8 wines (2,426 cases being their Todos red blend). Sustainability is also a major point of focus for the winery, integrating livestock (chicken, turkeys, goats, pigs, and sheep) into the farming model to naturally enhance the soil. Jonata also maintains a communal garden and an orchard that produces olive oil and honey from bees raised on the ranch. Source: https://www.jonata.com/.

I previously wrote about the 2005 El Corazón de Jonata, 2010 Tierra, and 2006 El Alma de Jonata.

Today’s Wine: 2010 El Desafio de Jonata

43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Cabernet Franc, 14% Petit Verdot, 11% Merlot; 14.5% ABV

The 2010 El Desafio de Jonata is deep ruby in color and completely opaque. I gave this about an hour in the decanter, which helped remove some light sediment and the wine opened beautifully. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of blackberry, plum, black cherry, blueberry, licorice, green bell pepper, underbrush, scorched earth, a hint of truffle, light baking spice, and cocoa. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium (+) intensity and the palate offers notes of black cherry, redcurrant, brambly blackberry, spiced plum, sweet tobacco, violets, smoked meat, charred herbs, green peppercorn, gravel, mocha, and a touch of vanilla. This dry red blend is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but fine-grained and well-integrated tannin, high alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $130. This is a very competitive price-point, especially compared to many of the Cabernet-dominant blends in the “more famous” Napa Valley. However, I think this bottling is well worth its price as it is both intense, complex, and finishes long. This is drinking beautifully right now.

The Newest Project From the Harlan Family

Today’s Story: Promontory

Promontory is a boutique, ultra-premium winery established in the Napa Valley in 2009 by H. William “Bill” Harlan. During the early 1980s, Bill was hiking along the mountainous southwestern ridge of Oakville when he discovered a vast “territory” scooped out of rugged landscape. Bill immediately fell captivated by the untamed property and set his eyes upon it for what might become another family winemaking venture, however the Harlan family was unable to acquire the land until 2008. Today the property consists of about 900 acres, though only about 50 acres are planted to vine with a plan to grow to no more than 70 acres. The site is incredibly unique in that it contains two fault lines, creating drastic topographical and soil variation amongst volcanic, sedimentary, and metamorphic soils. Each vintage, winemaker David Cilli and his team harvest the fruit across roughly 70 different lots which is a painstaking and mind-boggling feat to ultimately blend and showcase the terroir at its best.

When it comes to the winemaking itself, David and team have the best equipment and fermentation vessels to play with. Upon receipt of their fruit and each micro-lot, fermentation vessels range in size and include oak tank, concrete tank, stainless steel tank, and individual barrels. The fermentation room (pictured below) is set up such that a hopper can descend to be filled with fruit, then raised and moved above the tanks to fill each individually via gravity. Once fermentation is complete, the wine is moved to Stockinger casks for an extended aging period. This is rather unusual for a Napa winery, as Stockinger vessels (made in Austria) are large and offer arguably as little oak influence as possible due to the size and toasting program selected. This use, coupled with a five-year aging program, allows the wine to integrate the minimal oak seamlessly while showcasing the fruit and territory in the best way possible.

Unlike the other Harlan family properties that can be difficult or downright impossible to visit, Promontory is open to the public with reservations and tasting experiences are incredibly intimate. I’ve had the privilege of visiting Promontory three times so far, and each time one is met with Champagne while taking in the sites and discussing the Promontory philosophy. Next comes a tour of the production facilities and the cellar which includes a sample from cask, leading up to a sit-down tasting of two library bottlings of Promontory. As a bonus, I included some photos from my visits below today’s tasting notes.

Today’s Wine: 2011 Promontory

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.5% ABV

The 2011 Promontory is deep ruby in color and rather youthful in appearance. I decanted this for about an hour and drank it over the following one to two hours. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the rather complex nose showcasing notes of blackcurrant, blackberry, dried blueberry, licorice, violets, tobacco, crushed volcanic rock, graphite, savory green herbs, menthol, a hint of pyrazine, and mocha. There’s a touch of very well-integrated fine oak there as well. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity, with the palate displaying notes of blackberry, blueberry, plum, sweet tobacco, anise, violets, graphite, scorched earth, black truffle, charred green herbs, black pepper, espresso, and mild vanilla. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but refined tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish. This is an outstanding wine and is perfectly balanced.

Price: $850. This is a price-point where it’s somewhat impossible to discuss value, however this is an exceptional wine. I’ve been in love with the 2011 Napa Cabernet vintage as they come into their own over the past year or two and this is perhaps my favorite of the vintage. Though 2011 needs careful vetting at times, the 2011 Promontory is intense, complex, and beautifully balanced with gas left in the tank for cellaring.

Photos From My Visits

View from the reception hall, facing Harlan Estate.
Fermentation room, with varying vessel size and material visible.
Our glasses set up in the cellar for our cask sample of the 2019 vintage.

A Young and Exciting Project Out of Sonoma County

Today’s Story: Source & Sink

Source & Sink is a growing wine producer established in 2018 by Chicago natives Rande Feldman and Aaron Cherny. Rande has wine in his blood, having worked as a grower, winemaker, and cellar master over the years. Meanwhile Aaron comes from an Investment Banking background, though he left his Finance life behind to work harvest in Sonoma in 2017. Rande and Aaron met during this harvest experience, and the idea for Source & Sink spawned out of their desire to showcase the incredible wines of Sonoma through a new venture.

Rande and Aaron view starting in the vineyard as a necessity to making incredible wine, so they utilized their connections to source fruit from some of Sonoma’s great sites. Kimberly Vineyard is of special importance, not only for its gnarly old vines and plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre, but because Rande and Aaron have been able to spearhead farming in a transition to organic and biodynamic practices. The duo also sources from Liquid Amber, Hooley Vineyard, Bedrock Vineyards, and Benguerel Vineyard with an emphasis on organic farming and minimal intervention the name of the game. Rande and Aaron prize their old and often own-rooted vines, all while revitalizing varieties like Alicante Bouschet in a march forward for quality Sonoma wines. Meanwhile when it comes to harvest and winemaking, an emphasis is put on preserved natural acidity and the use of minimal intervention, amphora, and neutral oak to allow the wines to show their sense of variety and place.

Fun Fact: Source & Sink gets its name from the “positive flow of energy created by the vine’s sources that is later translocated to the vine’s points of interest known as sinks (i.e. roots, leaf tips, and fruit).”

Today’s Wine: 2019 Alicante Bouschet

100% Alicante Bouschet; 12.2% ABV

The 2019 Alicante Bouschet is deep purple in color with deep ruby hues. I decanted this for 30-45 minutes and drank it over the following hour or so. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose offering up a bouquet of black cherry, brambleberry, black plum, blackcurrant, anise, charred green herbs, crushed rock, and black pepper. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate showcases notes of blackberry compote, black plum, black cherry, licorice, sweet tobacco, black pepper, and mineral. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) tannin, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. A touch jammy but very well-balanced and a great representation of the variety. 74 cases produced.

Price: $35. This is a very fair price-point for this bottling, as it offers a restrained yet at the same time powerful representation of Alicante Bouschet. The 50% whole cluster fermentation shows a bit, offering added herbal and spicy complexities, while the aging in amphora and neutral oak allow the wine to show itself in transparent fashion. There is good balance, length, and depth here.