Exploring the Beautiful Historic Estate of Inglenook in Rutherford, Napa Valley…

A big day of tasting on day 4 of our epic California trip, started at the iconic Francis Ford Coppola estate of Inglenook and ended with a tasting and dinner at another iconic estate, Silver Oak Winery in Napa Valley.

Film director Francis Ford Coppola has lived at the estate since the early 70s, raising his family there, slowly piecing the Inglenook entity back together again and restoring it to its former historic glory. Head of winemaking is the famous Philippe Bascule, who was chief winemaker at Chateau Margaux for several decades. 

Philippe’s first vine to bottle vintage at Inglenook was the 2012 vintage. But with the sad demise of Chateau Margaux’s Paul Pontallier on the 28th March 2016 at just 59, it was fully expected that the call would come from the Mentzelopoulos family to recall Philippe back to Bordeaux to take up the wine making responsibilities at Margaux again. 

So Philippe will remain the de facto head wine maker with Chris Phelps acting as the full time man on the ground overseeing future Inglenook production on a day to day basis. Chris made over 10 vintages of Dominus back in the day and now also produces a small amount of super premium Napa Cabernet on the side under the Ad Vinum label from fruit from the “Sleeping Lady Vineyard” in Yountville.

Inglenook Rubicon 2013 

13.8 Abv,. Beautifully fragrant and classical nose with sweet tobacco, chocolate mocha spice, espresso, buttered brown toast, and sweet leafy cedar nuances. Unusually, the Rubicon 2013 is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, but certainly does not lack any complexity. Very precise, elegant and focused, this wine oozes class and finesse. Texturally seamless, this wine has Bordeaux in its roots, with intense black berry fruit framed by fresh, vibrant acids. Very fine breadth as well as depth, this is definitely a wine for cellaring. 

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

Inglenook Rubicon 2015 (Cask Sample)
14.2 Abv,. Rich, lush and very intense, the nose is powerful and extrovert, with layers of vanilla pod spice, sweet blueberry, black cherry, kirsch and fleshy black black currant pastille. Tannins are sweet and round and finely balanced. A beautiful work in progress, there is more immediacy and overt generous fruit than the 2013. The finish is very salty and spicy with black liquorice length. Superb!

(Wine Safari Score: 95-96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

14.2 Abv., 87 CS, 8 Franc, 3 PV, 2 Merlot

Very taught, broody and restrained, you need to coax the black, spicy graphite fruit out the glass. Subtle cedary, spicy dusty chalk notes create a very classical feel. Touches of dark chocolate and black berries linger on a very harmonious palate where the acids are soft and incredibly integrated. Slightly shy now, this wine shows great potential. 

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

California Day 3 – Tasting the New Vintages from Silverado Winery…

Owned by Diane Miller, Walt Disney’s daughter, and ex-NFL quarterback husband Ron Miller, Silverado’s winemaking success has been firmly rooted in their six vineyards, allowing them all to express their own inherent quality characteristics. Since opening in 1981, the winery has grown to nearly 162 hectares which are all farmed organically and sustainably, from which Silverado Winery produces Estate and Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Chardonnay wines.

Sadly my buddy Russ Weiss, the Silverado President, was not around when we tasted, but as always, it was great to get an early snap shot of the new vintages that will be heading to the UK later in 2017. I’ve always been a big fan of their wines which thankfully are sold at very reasonable prices in the UK. If you have not tried these wines, seek them out and discover an elegant, pure, supple, restrained expression of Napa and Carneros.

Vineburg Carneros Chardonnay 2015

14.5 Abv., 4% neutral oak, no malo, French puncheons. Dusty, dry lemon, pithy citrus. Chalky and dusty leesy, the palate is vibrant, bright and fresh, packed full of white stone fruits. Classical interpretation. 

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

88% CS, Merlot & Petit Verdot – 14.6 Abv., Rich creamy nose of blue berry crumble and black berry confit. Plenty of graphite and cedar spice with attractive violet perfume. Palate is sleek, linear and fresh, light on its feet and super elegant. Very polished and precise with super creamy sweet tannins. A real beauty. 

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

Solo Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

14.2 Abv., Big dark fruited dusty nose with classic Cab notes of violets, tobacco, black current and graphite. Massive rich intense unctuous core, wonderful balance and fresh vibrant finish. Tannins are creamy and dense, with plenty of power and concentration. Impressive wine, one to age in the cellar. 

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


Tasting the Legendary Diamond Creek 2014 New Releases with Philip Ross…

For more than four decades, Diamond Creek has been a touchstone for those who prize long-lived, highly sought-after expressions of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

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.
These 2014s from Diamond Creek join 2012 and 2013 in a trio of historic vintages at a time when many of the world’s top red wine producing regions have struggled with difficult growing conditions. 

Red Rock Terrace 2014, 14.5 Abv.

Blue berry pie, cassis and graphite nose with exotic spice, cherry and kirsch liquor. The fruit from this cool north facing vineyard make this wine extra bright and crisp and the palate is so vibrant, fresh and supremely elegant. (Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Gravelly Meadow 2014, 14.5 Abv.

Beautiful wine made from grapes grown on 5 acres of old river bed soils. Nose is laden with minerality. Quite primal. Mixed cooperage with medium to heavy toasting suits the power of this wine. So much spice and dusty gravel make this wine feel a little more austere and restrained. Palate is textured and complex with black plum, saline cassis, black current leaf and finishes with a fantastically long, seamless intensity. A real wow wine! (Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Volcanic Hill 2014, 14.5 Abv.

A more restrained, dark, broody nose with hints of dusty sweet black plums and violet perfume. Palate is broad and powerful with a fruit cake edge, raisined cherries and lashings of ripe cassis fruit. A real plush luxurious core of concentration from the warmest of the three Diamond Creek vineyards. A very impressive wine. (Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Such a privilege to taste these wines. An even greater privilege would be to put a case of each of these gems in a cellar and age for 20-30 years! 

Redman Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ~ An Aussie Coonawarra Classic…

Not sure whether it’s a sign of my age or a sign of the times, but I don’t seem to drink that much Australian red anymore. To be fair, I do enjoy the cooler climate whites as well as many of the more new wave wines from people like Tom Shobbrook, Si in Western Australia, Luke Lambert and Timo Mayer in the Yarra Valley. 

But for Sunday lunch today, I ventured to the cigar shaped Coonawarra with its red terra rossa soils over white limestone. The Redman Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the real classics. Established in 1908, the Redman winery was a pioneer of the region, being an independent, family owned winery producing estate-grown red wines made by a 4th generation winemaker.

Tasting Note: This Redman Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, at a modest 13.5 Abv, was made from low yielding vines grown on the classic terra rossa soils. On opening, the nose was saline, broody and closed with black berries, cassies, bramble spice and earthy red currants. Given air, the wine blossoms, while always remaining taught, fresh, cool and nervy with tart Victoria plums, crunchy black berry and earthy forest fruits. Also no shortage of classic cedar and violet perfume on the nose, and spicy cigar box and cassis leaf on the palate, with dry limestone tannins. Finish is cool, crisp, crunchy and taught with great varietal intensity and length, which suggests this wine can surely be cellared for 10-15 years. A fine effort from the Aussies. (Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

Taking ownership of Stellenbosch’s unique terroirs…

Last year at Cape Wine 2015, I had the honour of chairing the excellent ‘Kingdom of Cabernet’ seminar featuring 20 of Stellenbosch’s top winemakers, presenting one of their top Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

This fantastic event signalled appellation Stellenbosch’s fight back against the terroirists of the Swartland. As wine commentator Tim Atkin MW observed at the time… “It’s easier to sell a revolution than a renaissance!” I thought this comment summed up perfectly the paranoia many Stellenbosch producers were grappling with.

We all knew Stellenbosch’s sub-terroirs like the Helderberg, Simonsberg, Jonkershoek, Bottelary Hills, Polkadraai, etc could produce exemplary examples of Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends. But this region is not limited to Cabernet excellence as the new release Craven Faure Vineyard 2015 Pinot Noir illustrates.

The 2014 version of this wine was an esoteric interpretation of Pinot Noir from Mick and Janine Craven, showing cool chalky, sappy spice, black foresty stalky fruits and a taught fresh gravelly finish at 10.5 Abv. The 2015 however, takes Stellenbosch Pinot Noir to a whole different level. Still immaculately cool, precise and pure, this wine gushes with 2015’s opulent, plush, black fruit concentration. A really beautiful wine with excellent development potential. A real stand out achievement that’s worth hunting down.

Cabernet, Syrah, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and now Pinot Noir. Just goes to show what magic grapes grown on great Stellenbosch terroirs, in the right hands, can produce! Even the Swartlanders are a little bit jealous! Hey Ryan?

(Ryan Mostert telling Wineanorak Jamie Goode how wonderful Stellenbosch’s terroir is… 😄)