Premium Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Drenched in History

Today’s Story: Staglin Family Vineyard

Staglin Family Vineyard is a family-owned and operated wine producer located in the Rutherford AVA of California’s Napa Valley. The current estate was established by Shari and Garen Staglin in 1985, though this historic property on the Rutherford Bench traces its roots back much further. Back in 1864, John and Mary Steckter purchased 367 acres and planted the first grape vines on 60 acres surrounding their home. Ownership changed hands several times following John’s death in 1904, but came to a Texan gold and oil tycoon by the name of Frank Manley in 1922. Manley lived on the property with his family for several decades, ultimately selling the property to the Sullivan family in 1963 who, by marriage, had ties to the Latour family who owned Beaulieu Vineyard. The Sullivans sold the land containing the home, however they maintained ownership over the prune orchard where famed winemaker André Tchelistcheff converted the land to vineyards once again. Once up and running, fruit from this vineyard went toward BV’s premium Georges de Latour bottling until the Staglin family purchased the property in 1985.

Today the Staglin family owns just over 60 acres at their Rutherford estate, with roughly 51 acres planted to vineyards. While the focus here is on Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends, they also have Chardonnay and Sangiovese planted on the property. In 2002, the family completed construction of 24,000 square feet of state-of-the-art underground production facilities and caves to lighten their environmental impact and provide a proper resting place for their wines. The Staglin family’s premier wine is an Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (often blended with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot), though they produce an Estate Chardonnay as well which is rare for the AVA. Staglin also produces a range of wines under the name Salus, with these bottlings meant to be more approachable in their youth. Rooted in philanthropy, all proceeds from the Salus line are donated to fight schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot; 14.9% ABV

The 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby in color. I decanted this for an hour and drank it over the following hour or two. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of cassis, blackberry, black plum, redcurrant, cigar box, scorched earth, truffle, graphite, baking spice, light vanilla, and milk chocolate. Flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, while the palate offers up notes of black cherry, blackberry, crème de cassis, sweet tobacco, loamy earth, charcoal, charred herbs, vanilla, baking spice, and mocha. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium but silky tannin, high alcohol, and a long finish. Of very good quality, this powerful but not over the top Cabernet is both silky and elegant.

Price: $250. While it’s tough for me to call this a good “value,” the quality level here certainly puts this bottling into the correct pricing tier relative to premium Napa Valley Cabernet. The balance is nearly perfect here, while the wine offers up a very inviting drinking experience of great depth and length.

Napa Second Holding Up Quite Well

Today’s Story: Sloan Estate

Sloan Estate was founded in 1997 by Stuart Sloan, a former Seattle-based owner and executive of the Quality Food Centers supermarket chain. After he purchased 40 acres on the eastern hills of Rutherford between 875-990 feet in elevation, Sloan assembled a team of wine rockstars including vineyard manager David Abreu, winemaker Mark Aubert (replaced in 2004 by Martha McClellan), and shortly thereafter renowned consultant Michel Rolland. With 13 acres planted to vine, the team set about creating one of Napa Valley’s greatest Cabernet Sauvignon wines and crafted their first vintage in 2000. While the flagship wine is a proprietary blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (dominant), Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, Sloan released a second wine named Asterisk which is typically a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that debuted with the 2004 vintage. In 2011, longtime Sloan fans Sutong Pan and his daughter Jenny acquired Sloan Estate alongside the Goldin Group and to this day maintain the goals set forth by Stuart Sloan alongside the incredible winemaking team he put in place.

Today’s Wine: 2004 Asterisk

Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (no tech sheet); 14.5% ABV

The 2004 Asterisk is opaque deep garnet with ruby hues. I let this open up for about an hour and drank it over the following hour, allowing the nose to showcase aromas of blackberry, black plum, black cherry, tobacco, rocky earth, truffle, graphite, chocolate, clove, exotic spice, and well-integrated oak. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of blackberry, crème de cassis, black raspberry, purple florals, cigar box, smoky volcanic earth, earthy mushroom, black tea leaf, black pepper, coffee grounds, and dark chocolate. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium yet still firm tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Not drinking at all like it’s nearly 16 years old. Even though some tertiary notes are certainly starting to come through, there remains a significant backbone of dark fruit.

Price: $150. This is certainly a great value next to the Sloan flagship and other cult Napa Cabs/Bordeaux blends, and drinks magnificently well for its age. Pair this with filet mignon, herb roasted lamb, or duck breast.

Fun Bottling from BV

Today’s Story: Beaulieu Vineyard

Beaulieu Vineyard is one of the most historic wineries in Napa Valley, founded in 1900 by Georges de Latour and his wife Fernande. I wrote about them previously in A Winery Synonymous with Napa Valley Itself when I reviewed the 2014 Tapestry Reserve, as well as in The Maestro when I reviewed the 2010 Maestro Collection Ranch No. 1. If you are not familiar with the history of BV, I highly suggest reading my first post linked above or checking out their website. Today, I will provide you with a little background on their famous Clone wines.

BV produces two highly limited wines with a clone designation, the Clone 4 and Clone 6. BV selected both clones after a 14-year series of trials with UC Davis that began in 1980 because they wanted to determine which clones best suited the terroir for their Rutherford vineyards. The Clone 6 (aka Jackson clone) was first planted during the 1880s by UC Davis professor Eugene Hilgard at the field station at Jackson in the Sierra Foothills, however it was abandoned until the past several decades. Clone 6 is characterized by small loose clusters and small berries that yield concentrated flavors and muscular tannins. The Clone 4 (aka Mendoza clone), meanwhile, was identified and isolated in Argentina before coming to the United States and is characterized by tight clusters of large berries that yield lush and opulent wines. Both Clone 4 and Clone 6 are components for the Georges de Latour and other reserve Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings.

Today’s Wine: 2008 Clone 6

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.9% ABV

The 2008 Clone 6 is opaque deep ruby in color with purple hues at its core. I let this open up in a decanter and the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant, anise, ripe red fruit, forest floor, earthy mushroom, tar, smoke, tobacco, and some oaky spice. Once in the mouth, this wine displays notes of blackberry, blueberry, black cherry, prune, redcurrant, black licorice, coffee bean, cigar box, scorched earth, dried underbrush, black pepper, and oak. This utterly complex and gorgeous wine is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium refined tannins, and a long finish with some inky black fruit notes. The 2008 Clone 6 is not slowing down anytime soon, still full of fruit character and not taking on a ton of tertiary notes or any sediment in the bottle.

Price: $225 on BV’s website (though we purchased this from them in 2015 for ~$150). This is a great special celebration Cabernet Sauvignon, though their less-expensive Georges de Latour ($145-175 depending on vintage) is just as good if not better. Pair this with steak, lamb, or pepper-crusted ahi tuna.

The Maestro

Today’s Story: Beaulieu Vineyard

Beaulieu Vineyard is one of the most historic wineries in Napa Valley, founded in 1900 by Georges de Latour and his wife Fernande. I previously wrote about their history in A Winery Synonymous with Napa Valley Itself back on December 8, and if you are unfamiliar with the winery or their history I highly suggest reading this prior post.

Though I won’t rewrite the entire backstory here today, I do want to give more color on the Maestro Collection which my wine today is part of. As I discussed in my prior post, world-renowned viticulturist and enologist André Tchelistcheff joined BV and brought European methods of cultivation and pruning with him. His contributions from the start seem endless, from his tasting of the 1936 vintage of the BV Private Reserve and encouraging Georges de Latour to bottle it separately to his experimentations with micro-plots of different grape varieties and small-lot fermentation. As one of the most influential and iconic winemakers in the Napa Valley, André worked with BV for 40 years as winemaker and gained the nickname the “Maestro.” Though André retired in 1973, he joined BV again in 1991 to help the winemaking team study the effects of vintage and bottle age on 50 vintages of Private Reserve Georges de Latour and he also helped experiment with small-lot wines. It is these small-lot wines produced using unique varietals, vineyard lots, and blends that make up the Maestro Collection, justifiably named in André’s honor.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Maestro Collection Ranch No. 1 Red Blend

I unfortunately could not find a percentage breakdown of varieties in this wine, though I do know this to be Cabernet Sauvignon dominant (I assume ~70-75%) blended with Merlot and a splash of Petit Verdot. 14.8% ABV

The 2010 Maestro Collection Ranch No. 1 is medium ruby in color and almost entirely opaque. This needs about an hour to open up, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, cassis, plum, dried earth, cigar box, chocolate, nutmeg, and oak. Once in the mouth, I get notes of blackberry, blueberry, black cherry, sweet tobacco, slate, leather, vanilla, and a hint of licorice. This wine is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, dusty medium (+) tannins, and a long finish with herbaceous overtones.

Price: $95. While this is a delicious wine and the Maestro Collection is fairly limited, I find it hard to justify paying twice the price of a BV Tapestry Reserve which I consistently find to be good value. Pair this with steak, a good burger, or lamb.

A Winery Synonymous with Napa Valley Itself

Today’s Story: Beaulieu Vineyard

Beaulieu Vineyard is one of the most historic wineries in Napa Valley, founded in 1900 by Georges de Latour and his wife Fernande. Located in the Rutherford AVA, BV got its name from Fernande when she first saw the property and said it was a “beautiful place,” or “beau lieu.” Georges de Latour sold his successful cream of tartar business shortly thereafter and the couple purchased 4 acres with the intent of producing wines that could stand up to their native France. When they began planting, de Latour brought in Phylloxera-resistant rootstock from Europe in order to buck the trend of a California wine industry in trouble.

Though I have written about several wineries with origins in the late 1800s or early 1900s, BV is different in that unlike many of their neighbors they not only survived Prohibition but thrived during Prohibition. How? BV started selling sacramental wine to the Catholic Church and saw their business increase by four times while those around them shuttered their wineries. Once Prohibition ended, however, the story becomes more “traditional” Napa with de Latour focusing on how to create the best wines from his land by instituting updated farming and winemaking techniques. In an effort to raise his status higher, de Latour traveled to his native France to meet André Tchelistcheff, a world-renowned viticulturist and enologist, who championed continuous innovation. It was André who, upon tasting the 1936 vintage of BV’s Private Reserve wine, encouraged de Latour to bottle their flagship wine. André would become BV’s winemaker, a role he would maintain for over 30 years. In 1940 BV released their first Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine still in production today.

BV has come a very long way from the initial 4 acre plot in 1900. BV currently operates on roughly 1,100 acres of estate vineyards, broken down into different “Ranch” designations. Ranch 1 (79 planted acres) came along in 1903, Ranch 2 (85 planted acres) in 1910, Ranch 3 in 1933 after the repeal of Prohibition, and so on. One of the cool features of BV’s winemaking technique is that each small vineyard lot stays separated throughout the entire process (not an easy feat with their vast holdings). During winemaking, each wine ferments such that the best expression of the fruit results. For instance, the white wines are cold-fermented to display a bright, vibrant character while the red wines are cold-soaked to showcase optimal color, flavor, and tannin. The reds are then fermented in small barrels and aged in oak varying in age, level of toast, and type.

For more on Beaulieu Vineyard’s history, portfolio of wines, or winemaking processes check out the website here, a source of much of the information above.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Tapestry Reserve

76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, and remaining 11% between Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc; 14.8% ABV

The 2014 Tapestry is deep ruby in color and is slightly transparent. I simply let this open up in the glass, and once it did the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, dark plum, redcurrant, cedar, crushed rock, light baking spice, and a touch of oak. Once in the mouth, this wine shows notes of black cherry, blueberry, pomegranate, dry chalky earth, licorice, graphite, vanilla, and green cooking herbs. This wine is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium yet refined tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Tapestry is always a wonderful wine from this storied producer.

Price: $45. This is a great value Bordeaux blend, a view I consistently have when trying this bottling across vintages. From a producer that makes wine from $7 per bottle to $100+ per bottle, this is great for BV’s portfolio as well as the overall wine community portfolio. Pair this with steak, a good burger, or lamb.