Feature Coverage

Star/NVV tasting panel: A vintage winemakers are proud to share

“At dinner tables around the globe, when a bottle of top Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon is opened, there is often great fanfare; every sip is highly anticipated.

“When you gather a group of the winemakers who make these cabernets in a room, however, they might as well be wearing lab coats. In the quick of a sip, a wine is dissected apart until it is barely breathing. It’s what winemakers do: they critique the structure of the wine — the fruit, the alcohol, the acidity, and more, before they’ll shriek ‘It’s Alive.’

“A funny thing happened, therefore, at the last St. Helena Star/Napa Valley Vintners Tasting Panel session on Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon wines. Winemakers and other trade tasted through a second set (Part II) of premium cabs at the CIA’s Rudd Center and — loved them. There was praise, there were compliments, and there was general consensus that these are the wines Napa Valley wants to show the world.

“Gone were the operation tables and forceps. The conversation following the tasting of these wines centered more upon the vintage (2010 was not easy, cooler; there are redder fruits as opposed to warmer years’ black fruits) and the wines will age for a very long time.

“Hugh Davies, owner of Schramsberg and J. Davies Estate, said you’d be happy drinking these wines 10, 15 or more years from now, as the quality is very good. Brooks Painter, winemaker at Castello di Amorosa, agreed that the 2010 vintage is one to put down, saying the wines have good density and color. Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker at Chimney Rock, believes the wines prove Napa Valley can do well in warm or cool years; that this vintage shows the versatility of the region.

“Christophe Smith from Titus Vineyards called the wines a uniform set, ‘all speaking in one voice’ having found consistency among these 2010 wines. Regardless of the general appreciation of the wines, panelists were asked to pick their favorites in a blind tasting of four flights of six wines each.

“The top two wines from each flight are: J. Davies Estate 2010. I wouldn’t want to be around if equally strong sister-wineries, J. Davies Estate and Schramsberg, decided to play king of the hill; each is powerful in its own right. The sparkling wines are some of the best in the world, and J. Davies’ big, structured cabs from the estate on Diamond Mountain are getting lots of praise. This 2010 is not shy — it is rich and concentrated, but wonderfully balanced.

“Any of these wines would ring in the New Year nicely, or they can be laid down for future New Years celebrations. Regardless, you’ll want to make sure to taste the vintage that Napa Valley winemakers are proud to share.”

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Catherine Seda Bugue, December 24, 2013
Star/NVV tasting panel: A vintage winemakers are proud to share