Napa Valley Vintners Returns to London for a Stream of Premium Wine Events…

One of the best wine trips I have attended over the years was in 2007 when I was invited to the Master Napa Valley Programme in California soon after I was told that I had passed my Master of Wine. What could have been a very studious, head in the books note-taking trip instead turned into a much more celebratory, enjoyable, fully immersive, heads-up trip where I felt I could really soak up the knowledge and the wonderful wine atmosphere.

Over the years I have revelled in attending numerous superb alumni events in London hosted by Napa Valley Vintners. Finally in June 2022, we saw the return of a whole host of winemakers for the first time post pandemic. The tasting I attended was generously hosted by Pol Roger, who themselves won the superb “Lot 23” at the Premiere Napa Valley Auction.

Rosemary Cakebread presenting her wine Gallica.

The gathering was held at the superb London Michelin Star Restaurant Trinity and in attendance from Napa was Rosemary Cakebread, Diana Snowden-Seysses and Cathy Corison, three of the four doyenne responsible for the blended Premiere Napa Valley Auction Lot 23. Besides this rarity, we got to taste a selection of current releases from these top producers. Californian wine holds a special place in my affections and this was certainly a memorable return to London for the NVV.

Corison Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, St. Helena, Napa Valley, 13.8% Abv.

Fabulous dark and opaque, the aromatics are picante and spicy with notes of saline black currant, dried kelp, iodine, sandalwood, dried tobacco leaf and cedar spice. But for all it’s power packed in the glass, it’s also wonderfully elegant and textural with velvety tannins, creamy layers of cassis and hoisin plum sauce and vibrant nuances of tart black cherry. Persistent and focused, this is a beautiful wine from a near perfect vintage.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Snowden Cabernet Sauvignon Lis Ricos Vineyard 2017, Napa Valley, 13.2% Abv.

Dark broody aromatics with a distinct savoury, earthy note over layers of sweet black plum, plum sauce and stewed winter back berries that melts into black liquorice and sweet tobacco. The palate is plush and soft textured with a creamy, polished elegance, ripe tannins but also a glassy acidity that fames the wine before finishing with a graphite laden finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Gallica Cabernet Franc 2017, Oakville, Napa Valley, 14.2% Abv.

This elegant red shows a delicately savoury yet perfumed aromatics boasting red and black berry fruits and hints of exotic blueberry interwoven with nuances of sweet cedar, graphite and freshly tilled earth. The palate shows incredible finesse and vibrancy with sleek silky tannins, a delicious black fruited purity and a textural pinpoint focus. Very impressive.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Premiere Napa Valley Blend 2019 Lot 23 was purchased buy Pol Roger UK and is currently available in tiny quantities. All proceeds for the auction go to the Napa Valley Vintners’ sponsored charities.

Napa Valley’s Icon Estate Diamond Creek Release their New 2019 Trio of Reds…

Diamond Creek produces Single-Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons from their unique terroirs on Napa Valley’s Diamond Mountain. Produced with 100% estate-grown fruit, Gravelly Meadow, Red Rock Terrace and Volcanic Hill each express their geologically diverse micro sites whilst creating wonderfully complex and long-lived wines.

The 2019 vintage had a smaller crop than 2018 allowing the wines to perhaps show a little more concentration and depth from the lower resulting yields. The 2019 wines were still made and blended by previous owner Phil Ross but finished off and bottled by current winemaker Graham Wehmeier working under the new ownership.

Zoom tasting with winemaker Graham Wehmeier

The 2019 growing season offered excellent conditions with parallels in quality to the 2018 vintage with one exception – lower than expected yields. 2019 was also the first fully organic vintage for the estate. In 2018, the estate harvested 50 tons of grapes and in 2019, only 40 tons. A mild, wet spring led into a long summer of steady ripening. 2019 saw long hang times and a steady increase in phenolic ripeness. Selective hand picking began in early October followed by careful sorting and winemaking.

Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow 2019, Napa Valley, 14.6% Abv.

78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc.

Gravelly sandy based soils with the lowest yields shows a fabulously deep black opaque black cherry colour and seductive aromatics of sweet black berry, black currant, melted liquorice, crushed basalt, graphite and a pinch of sweet cinnamon oak spice.

On the palate, the impressive fruit concentration and depth is matched by stony, grippy mineral tannins, lashings of more salty black liquorice, blueberry spice and a rich vein of black currant and caramel cream intensity. A wine with lovely focused power, a sympathetic harmony, textural symmetry and plenty of generosity. Just Awesome.

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace 2019, Napa Valley, 14.5% Abv.

75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc.

Red iron soils yield a rich, opulent expressive nose of blueberry, red plum, mulberry, cassis, salty red liquorice and subtle iron filing wafts. There is a brighter, more fragrant red fruited feel to the steeply terraced fruit which naturally receives less direct sunlight.

The palate too is a picture of elegance and restraint with cool elegant layers of spicy red and black berry fruits, spicy red plum, hints of graphite, crème brûlée and buttered brown toast smothered in red currant jam. The tannins are subtly drying and sophisticated but lifted up by a wonderfully fresh frame of vivacious acids. Another beautiful expression of Cabernet Sauvignon.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill 2019, Napa Valley, 14.5% Abv.

76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 7% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot.

This south-facing hillside terraced vineyard with its grey ashy volcanic sandy soils yields another big, bold expression with a suitably dark black opaque colour. But there is nothing broody about the wine’s aromatics that burst out the glass with notes of gingerbread, saline black currant, melted tar, stewed black cherries, camphor and hints of graphite.

The palate is focused and powerful with a big concentration of creamy black and blue berry fruits, very fine grained, stern, mineral graphite tannins and an incredibly compact, precise yet generous mouthfeel. Lovely balance and seductive power. A real WOW wine!

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting a Sonoma Chardonnay Classic from Three Sticks Durell Vineyard 2018…

So lockdowns and travel bans have been an absolute bore but with the UK now learning to “live with Covid” with a vaccinated population… we are seeing the American wine producers starting to return to our shores for tastings and wine promotion. Today I had my first taste of the new (to the UK at least) Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 2018 that originally impressed me greatly when I tasted the 2016 vintage in September 2019.

Owned by proprietor William S. Price III, the Durell Vineyard forms part of this producers flagship vineyard holdings and has been the source of some iconic Sonoma Chardonnay for several decades. Grown on rocky ancient river bed and red volcanic clay soils, this vineyard site has been recognised for its ability to produce exceptional Chardonnay grapes that show wonderful fruit intensity along with impressive harmony while simultaneously expressing the minerality inherent in this site’s terroir.

Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 2018, Sonoma Coast, 14.1 Abv.

A pitch perfect vintage, the 2018 Chardonnay from this prestigious vineyard shows a lot of grace and cool climate subtlety with expressive aromatics of leesy lemon cream biscuits, yellow grapefruit preserve on warm white toast and delicate brioche and vanilla pod nuances. Creamy and full in the front of the palate, this slowly delivers a vibrant refreshing acidity that lifts the toasty yellow lemon peel citrus fruits and accentuates the creamy quince and honey characters before finishing with a final flourish of caramelized roasted cashew nuts and a dusting of vanilla pod spice. Simply lovely harmony and balance. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

A New Californian Icon Estate Launches their Wines in the UK – Tasting the Daou Estate 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Release…

The greatest challenge any producer in today’s fine wine world can submit themselves to is a comparative tasting pitching their pride and joy against their primary piers. For those participating, it is an announcement of confidence and intent. That is exactly what the brothers George and Daniel Daou (pronounced Dao… like the Portuguese Region) did to pitch their impressive estate to the UK market.

Coming from the Lebanon, the first rockets from the civil war in the 1970s landed in front of their house, leading to the family deciding to flee to France and then to the USA. George and Daniel eventually started a business, Daou Systems, an intranet system for the US health care system and so created the financial means to realised their American dream.

They recently launched their wines in London to a discerning crowd of journalists and aficionados with full confidence, pitching their wines against the world’s very best! Here’s how their wines performed against the competition!

Cyril Henschke 2015, Eden Valley, 14.5% Abv.

Warm broody black fruited nose full of sweet tobacco, tannery leather and stewed black plums. Sleek and polished texture with bright glassy acids, intense concentration yet admirably light on its feet. An ambitious wine that succeeds through superb restraint and balance.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Cullen Diana Madeline 2017, Margaret River, 13% Abv.

81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec. Cool dusty nose with blueberry and black berry fruits, hints of graphite and a slight leafy, sappy vegetal note. The palate is cool and sleek, ultra restrained and fine with gravel, graphite and wood spice nuances on the long finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Leoville Lases Cases 2017, Saint Julien, 13.28% Abv.

79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc and 10% Merlot. Shows beautiful aromatics of blueberry, sweet cedar, aniseed root, cedar spice, hedgerow and a brambly undertone. Dense and compact, the textured layers are folded over one another with seamless transition and a long, dense core of rich, taut black fruit. Very classy, sophisticated showing great potential.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau Montrose 2017, St Estephe, 13.5% Abv.

76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Dense dark and broody, this is archetypal Montrose with taut layers of creamy black fruits, creme de cassis, black cherry and hoisin plum sauce. Incredible tannins, fabulous blueberry length and a fabulous supple freshness. Very classy but approachable now.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vina Sena 2017, Aconcagua, Chile

52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, 15% Carmenere, 10% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petit Verdot aged for 22 months in oak. Rich and lifted, this has a much more intense aromatic overt attack with opulent layers of cassis, salted black currant and an intense finish lined with kelp, blue berry and black cherry.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vina Chadwick 2017, Maipo, 13.5% Abv.

96% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot. Deep savoury aromatics revealing forest floor, black currant, blueberry and graphite restraint. Cool and elegantly textured, this must have the most sophisticated palate balance in South America.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Opus One 2016, Oakville, Napa Valley

77% Cabnernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec aged 18 months in French oak barriques.Sure dense dark and compact, it smells expensive and tastes expensive. Subtle hints of creamy blue and black berry fruits coat the palate and overwhelm the senses. Sublime acids, a subtle mint leaf lift and a long, creamy opulent finish. Serious effort.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Daou Soul of a Lion 2017, Paso Robles, Adelaida District, 15% Abv.

Rich dark broody expression with plenty of opulent rich Cabernet fruit characters with notes of sweet black currant, blueberry, vanilla pod spice and a plush long length showing hints of molasses, blackberry compote and an exotic caramelised fig complexity. Multi-layered and textural, this is a serious Californian offering.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Duncan Family Release a Trio of Exceptional Wines from California – Tasting the New Release Wines from Twomey, Silver Oak and Ovid…

Twomey Cellars, Silver Oak and Ovid are three of California’s most iconic wineries brought together by their joint ownership under the Duncan family. The now iconic Silver Oak brand was established in 1972 by Ray Duncan and Justin Meyer and is currently operated by Ray’s sons David Duncan, who serves as the President and CEO, and his brother, Tim Duncan, who serves as Executive Vice President. The cult winery Ovid located on Pritchard Hill overlooking Napa Valley and the Silverado Trail is the most recent acquisition that was purchased in 2017 and continues to craft iconic and highly collectable wines under the ongoing stewardship of talented winemaker Austin Peterson.

Twomey Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2017, 14.3% abv.

I visited California in 2017 and of course who could forget the strong winter rains that brought a welcome relief to many years of drought. After a late March budbreak, good flowering conditions followed setting up a healthy crop size. After an intensely hot summer with two extended heatwaves, the harvest was a fairly brief two week affair and slightly later than recent previous vintages. The warmer, more inland location of the Ferrington Vineyard coupled with its sandy, gravelly soils guaranteed fruit flavour and opulence while the more coastal Monument Tree Vineyard with its cooler clay soils retained moisture well allowing the fruit to be picked several weeks later. Blended together, these two vineyards made for an expressive Pinot Noir with its own unique Anderson Valley elegance, freshness and intensity. The wine was aged for 13 months in 100% French oak with 31% of new barrels.

A wonderfully deep seductive purple plum garnet colour, the Anderson Valley is always my favourite Pinot Noir in the Twomey range alongside the Bien Nacido and Russian River cuvees. Beautifully perfumed, the 2017 has fine lifted aromatics of crushed rose petals and sweet cherry blossoms along side alluring notes of demerara sugar, wet grey slate, pithy black cherry and wild fraises de bois fruit notes. The palate is fresh and pure with its usual elegance and translucence that always make it such a stand out wine. There is also a wonderful underlying depth and concentration all packaged up with a seamless texture, suave graphite mineral tannins and plenty of finesse. The finish bristles with notes of black cherry, sun raisined cranberries and red bramble berries from the forest floor making this another impressive release from Twomey Cellars. Drink now and over 8 to 10+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Alexander Valley, 13.9% Abv.

The 2016 vintage was of course the beginning of the end for the enduring drought that had plagued California. Ample rain in the winter months filled reservoirs and soil profiles allowing a strong start to the growing season. Warm weather in mid-February led to early budbreak which managed to avoid frost damage in spring time. The season was consistently warm throughout with two smaller heat spikes. Some cooler weeks in August followed bringing in plenty of coastal fog to protect the developing fruit. Ripening was steady and in balance resulting in a very healthy crop with intense flavours and concentration together with importantly a good fresh acidity backbone.

The 2016 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is comprised of 94.6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 0.5% Petit Verdot, 0.5% Cabernet Franc and 0.4% Malbec. The final blend was transferred to American oak barrels where it was aged for 24 months, with 50% of the barrels being new. The colour is a dark opaque ruby red and displays wonderfully ripe, exotic aromatics of violets, earthy crème de cassis, freshly baked blueberry muffins, dried baking herbs, sage, spearmint and vanilla pod spice. With a little more coaxing out the glass, evocative notes of creamy oak spice and black currant crumble start to emerge to reinforce this wines opulence and depth. The palate is fabulously dense and creamy with plush stony graphite tannins, a broad plump fleshy mid-palate weight and breadth that finishes with delicious notes of black currant, black cherry and raspberry confit. Just beautifully constructed and fine-tuned with balance, power and focus. Drink this from release and over the next 20 to 25+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Ovid Proprietary Red 2016, Napa Valley, 14.8% Abv.

After the meagre yields from previous drought vintages at the Pritchard Hill estate, 2016 delivered normal crop levels. The last weeks of August brought a warm finish to the growing season and set the ball in motion for the creation of a wine with density and power, freshness and vibrancy. The 2016 proprietary red is made from a blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot. The aromatics are indeed lifted and expansive from the start, displaying complex notes of graphite and violets, blueberry and mulberry, black bramble berries, saline cassis, and hedgerow spice. Lovely exotic notes of black salted liquorice, black currant and pithy black cherry melt on the palate that is luxurious and fleshy yet simultaneously vivacious, concentrated and beautifully fresh. It’s the attention to detail, the harmonious seamless flavours and the impressively fine grained tannins that steer this wine in a direction of greatness. The finish is long, hedonistic and intense and resonates with a super long, persistent mocha and espresso laden black fruited finish. Very classy indeed. Drink from release and over the next 10 to 15+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The wines are available to the UK trade on allocation through importer The Wine Treasury.

Ridge Monte Bello 2018 – Tasting One of the Most Highly Anticipated En-primeur Releases of the Year…

One of my favourite wine producers at anytime of the year let alone around Christmas time has got to be Ridge Vineyards. Is there a more Christmassy wine to match roast turkey and cranberry sauce than a fabulous vintage of Lytton Springs or Geyserville Zinfandel? But for me it has got to be their Monte Bello red blend and Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon that register as two of the most expressive fine wines produced anywhere in the world.

The latest Ridge releases are always highly anticipated and recently I tasted their Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 and also their benchmark Monte Bello red blend 2018. Only 75% of the components made the final blend for Monte Bello. Chatting to Eric Baugher in London, the 2012-2016 vintages were hot and dry, while 2017 was more hot and wet to start before reverting back to a hot and dry summer, with fruit harvested late August.

Tasting with Ridge’s Eric Baugher in London.

The 2018 growing season was marked by unusually erratic and unpredictable swings in temperature and rainfall. The 2018 vintage was back to drought conditions in December – January, usually the coldest and wettest months of winter, with some storms in March with massive rain bringing some relief. Some showers in the Monte Bello vineyard during bloom (mid-May) definitely resulted in reduced yields. The final run up to harvest was mild, not too hot or cold but water stress did finally kick in towards end of August as harvest beckoned, as a result of the dry winter conditions.

Ridge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Santa Cruz Mountains, 13.8 Abv.

77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc blend. This 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon displays a very harmonious, integrated aromatic profile already with subtle notes of violets, lavender and white blossom supported by blueberry and black currant fruits, vanilla pod spice and pretty, complexing spice finery of cinnamon stick, tobacco leaf, and dried mint. The palate shows weight and gravitas, a broad fleshy texture twinned with vibrantly fresh acids and dry, powder fine tannins. Already so elegant and balanced but certainly plenty of extra horsepower waiting to exert itself. Give this wine a couple more years in the cellar and start popping corks from 2022+ onwards.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 2018, Santa Cruz Mountains (Barrel Sample Blend)

The Monte Bello site of Ridge Vineyards lies 2600 feet above sea level in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The 2018 is an indicative blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc. Young and plush, the attractive nose is understandably dense and dark fruited with a noticeable vail of brûléed oak spice, buttered brown toast and vanilla pod espresso nuances. But scratch the veneer and there are ample fruit notes of black currant, earthy cassis, black bramble berry dusted with toasted coffee bean spice. On the palate the flavours are more integrated and tight knit with a real freshness of acidity bolstering black berries, black cherry and a crunchy blue berry vitality. Sleek and mouth-fillingly textural but also quite a bit more serious than the Cabernet Sauvignon (blend) with additional multi-dimensional layers of leafy sap, graphite and a pulsating muscular mineral tannin core. An enthralling, captivating wine that carries off a very well rehearsed act of fine wine seduction.

(Wine Safari Score: 97-98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The 2018 Ridge Monte Bello is scheduled for physical release in the Autumn of 2021 but is being offered for sale En-primeur now from fine wine merchants.

Premium Napa Valley Estate Diamond Creek Release Another Iconic Trio of Wines in 2017…

Owner Phil Ross stands at the helm of this iconic estate being only the second generation to run this winery in its 52 year history. As Napa’s foremost Cabernet estate, Diamond Creek continues to produce wines of heroic character and definition, whose promise with age is simply breath-taking. The three single vineyards – Volcanic Hill, Gravelly Meadow and Red Rock Terrace – are revered by connoisseurs the world over. 

These three, distinctly different vineyards are tucked away in a cavernous hillside surrounded by thick forest on secluded Diamond Mountain. It really is a remarkable place. Even more remarkable considering the visionary Al Brounstein had no idea what lay beneath the dense woodland when he happened to make room for vines in the late 1960s. Al famously borrowed tractors from Robert Mondavi and the Heitz family to prepare the virgin soil vineyards only to reveal three distinct terroir soils. So he decided he couldn’t blend them together like many encouraged him to do at the time. The original vineyards were planted in 1968 and 1972 with some additional plantings in 1995.

Diamond Creek produces on average 24,000 bottles per year or around 6,000 bottles per vineyard with 15 permanent employees working in the vineyards and cellar. 1971 was the first vintage but 1972 is considered the first official, commercial vintage release.

We have all heard about the famous 60 Minutes US news TV show that documented the “French Paradox” – one of the pivotal moments in Californian wine history and one of two events that Phil Ross states as being an absolute game changer for Diamond Creek and its sales. The other was of course The Judgement of Paris in 1976, though regrettably, Steven Spurrier did not ask Diamond Creek to submit a wine.

Phil Ross considers 2017 another great vintage in a similar mould to the epic 2016 as the drought was over with beneficial spring weather. There were some unfortunate fires at the end of the season but luckily 95% of Diamond Creek and their Napa neighbours had already finished harvesting. Quality at Diamond Creek is considered to be very good.

Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace 2017, 14.5 Abv.

Fabulous hallmark elegance and opulence with defined notes of blueberry and liquorice tinged with black currant, saline creme de cassis and a hedonistic, youthful kiss of salted caramel vanilla pod spice. Palate is supremely elegant with saline, intense, piquant notes of red berry confit reduction, blueberry spice, tart crunchy acids and a super intense, long graphite laced finish. Elegance and power, precision and purity. Fantastic!

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow 2017, 14.5 Abv.

The Gravelly Meadow is altogether darker and more broody with pronounced notes of crushed granite, black cherry, blueberry spice, violets and cherry blossom. The palate follows with creamy, gravelly, stony piquant black berry fruits, cherry stone, graphite, salted caramel and drying, suave mineral tannins. Broader, denser and more four-square, this is much more masculine in frame and texture and noticeably more broody, restrained and mineral in a more Paulliac / St Estephe style.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill 2017, 14.5 Abv

A massive wine that eats up the 100% new French oak but still reveals fabulously intense perfumed aromas of black cherry, kirsch liquor, blueberry reduction, creme de cassis and subtle notes of musk, violets and purple flowers. So fabulous expressive and complex already, showing a palate of incredible generosity, sweet blue and black fruited concentration framed by intense, sweet tannins dusted with nuances of blueberry jam on brown toast and vanilla pod sweet spice. Fantastic power, plush concentration and genuinely impressive depth and breadth! Wow, such a complete wine!

(Wine Safari Score: 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Christian Moueix and the Dominus Estate Release One of Napa Valley’s Most Iconic 2016 Wines…

It all started in the late 1960s, while studying at the university of California at Davis, Christian Moueix discovered his love for the Napa Valley and its expressive wines. In 1981, he discovered the historic Napanook Vineyard, a 42 hectare site which provided fruit for some of the finest Napa wines from the 1940s and 1950s. In 1982, Moueix entered into a partnership to develop the vineyard and in 1995, became its sole owner.

In the 2016 growing season, rainy days were spread out evenly over the course of a warmer than average winter. November 2015 to March 2016 saw 31.2 inches total rainfall (78cm). With soil water reserves full, the vines grew quickly with dense canopies. Flowering (9th May) and veraison (21st July) unfolded in warm and dry conditions and one heat spike of 39°C was recorded on 26th July. Ripening slowed down in August because of cooler temperatures and late morning fog. Leaf plucking and higher temperatures in September helped the fruit to ripen consistently.

I last visited California in March 2017 and already then the excitement surrounding the 2016 vintage was palpable. Another drought vintage that yielded exceptional quality with power and balance. Along with other iconic Napa producers like Ridge, Diamond Creek, Spottswoode and Stags Leap Winery, the Dominus Estate forms a powerful cornerstone of a small sought after group of more classically orientated producers who’s final outlook and philosophy always tips a hat to the old world and Bordeaux in particular.

Dominos Napanook Proprietary Red 2016, Napa Valley

84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc. Exotically spicy nose with layers of cherry spice, cinnamon, sweet cedar, blueberry and green peppercorn spice with a faint touch of orange liquor. Palate shows opulent fleshy weight, loose knit saline acids and a piquant, spicy, bramble berry finish. Plenty of intensity and power with accessible opulence. Drink now to 2030+.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Dominus Proprietary Red 2016, Napa Valley

84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc. This is the 33rd vintage of Dominus. Deep dark beauty packed full of graphite spice, minerality, spicy black berry and sappy black plum intensity. Plush, creamy and textural, this shows plenty of regal sweet tannin focus with fine grained grip and a long blueberry and bramble berry confit finish. This fine vintage trades on massive concentration, opulent weight and a tight classical gravelly mineral finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Three Sticks Release their New Benchmark Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 2016…

This week in late September was all about Californian wine in London with the Collectable California Tasting at the US Embassy showcasing some incredible wines from Harlan to Scarecrow, Ovid to Silver Oak. However great the Californian reds are, one thing these US producers are masters of is the production of really interesting premium Chardonnay.

One of my favourite whites on show was the exceptional 2016 new release Three Sticks Chardonnay. Owned by proprietor William S. Price III, the Durell Vineyard forms part of this producers flagship vineyard holdings and has been the source of iconic Sonoma Chardonnay for several decades.

Grown on rocky ancient river bed and red volcanic clay soils, this vineyard site has been recognised for its ability to produce exceptional Chardonnay grapes that show wonderful fruit intensity along with impressive harmony while simultaneously expressing the minerality inherent in this site’s terroir.

Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, Sonoma Coast, 14.5 Abv.

A delicious bright enticing lemon yellow, this wine has a lofty complex bouquet of pithy white citrus, leesy lemon cream biscuits, dried herbs, gingerbread and a pronounced crushed gravel minerality. Full, round, intense and glycerol in the mouth with the silky, fleshy lemon pastille fruit concentration punctuated by piquant, zippy fresh acids and sweet grapefruit confit and vanilla pod oak complexity. The pedigree of the Durell Vineyard fruit is clear for all to see. Classically cool climate Californian in style, this is a truly flavour packed expression of premium Sonoma coast Chardonnay.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Silver Oak Cellars Delivers Once Again With Their 2014 Cabernet Sauvignons…

Silver Oak Cellars is an iconic family-owned Californian winery dedicated to producing truly premium Cabernet Sauvignon. Silver Oak was established in 1972 by Ray Duncan and Justin Meyer and is currently operated by Ray’s sons David Duncan, who serves as the President and CEO, and his brother, Tim Duncan, who serves as Executive Vice President. 

Silver Oak has two wineries… one in Oakville in the centre of Napa Valley and one in Geyserville in the Alexander Valley. The Duncan Family also established Twomey Cellars back in 1999, named after Ray Duncan’s mother, where they produce Pinot Noir, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Twomey has its own wineries in Calistoga and Healdsburg. 

After an amenable spring, drought conditions prevailed throughout the year leading to an early harvest in California, making this one of the main signatures of the 2014 growing season in Napa Valley. The best 2014s are fragrant, aromatically expressive, opulent and accessible wines that retain structural delineation, freshness and finesse. While 2014 yielded quite different red expressions to 2013, the wines show excellent medium to long term ageing potential.

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, 14 Abv.

The wine that started it all back in 1972, the Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 has a delicate but complex sweet fruited nose with strata of wet tobacco, sweet leaf, black plum and a subtle macerated fruit cake opulence. The palate is majestic and very classy, finely poised, elegant but also self assured. The concentration is notable yet the structure seamless, almost weightless – zero gravity finesse! After the block buster 2013 Alexander Valley, we definitely have another full throttle lift off here as well. A truly grand gentlemanly expression of age worthy Californian Cabernet.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, 14.2 Abv.

A legendary wine from an iconic wine region, this 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet shows a rather exotic piquant expression but with archetypal Cabernet notes of cassis reduction, saline oyster shell, sweet black cherry and an alluring cinnamon, vanilla pod oak spice. Full bodied and imposing, this wine is powerful yet finely symmetrical and super toned with beautifully precise sweet tannins, sweet tobacco hints and a long, concentrated creamy depth. Very fine harmony and finesse, this is a deceptively accessible Napa Valley cuvée but one with plenty of heart, soul and extract for the long term. It could even evolve into a real Californian classic.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

#LifeisaCabernet