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.

Pinot Noir From the Team Behind Far Niente

Today’s Story: EnRoute Winery

EnRoute was founded in 2007 by the partners behind Far Niente Winery thanks to their passion for Pinot Noir. Since they stick to Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon at their Far Niente estate, the owners decided it best to create EnRoute in the Russian River Valley, an AVA within Sonoma County known for their Pinot Noir. While EnRoute produces one blended Pinot Noir under the name Les Pommiers, their current releases focus on four single vineyard bottlings from Amber Ridge Vineyard, Bucher Vineyard, Marty’s Vineyard, and Northern Spy Vineyard. The first single vineyard offerings came in the 2013 vintage from Amber Ridge and Northern Spy. Also in 2013, EnRoute released their first Chardonnay under the name Brumaire for the morning fog. To check out some details about the EnRoute vineyards including maps, check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Northern Spy Vineyard Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.5% ABV

The 2014 Northern Spy Pinot Noir is deep ruby in color and actually almost purple at its core while being nearly fully opaque. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of cranberry, black cherry, dried raspberry, leather, bergamot, mint, cola, sweet tobacco, and rose. In the mouth, this wine offers notes of blackberry, strawberry rhubarb, ripe cherry, black tea leaf, baking spice, earth, tar, peppery spice, and oak. This Pinot is medium-bodied with mouthwatering high acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium length finish which is shorter than hoped.

Price: $85. Not my favorite single vineyard bottling from EnRoute, though this could be a vintage story. I’ve heard good things about the 2014 Hop Kiln Vineyard though, but have yet to pop it. Check out their Les Pommiers for $60 if you’re interested in exploring the brand. Pair this with roasted chicken, smoked salmon, or pork loin.