Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2001 Napa Cabernet Retrospective

With the 2011 Napa vintage being unofficially declared a “difficult” vintage with low yields, low brix, and several weeks behind in harvest,  it was a pleasure to taste half a dozen Napa wines from the 2001 vintage.  Unlike this current vintage; ten years ago, 2001 was universally declared “excellent” with minimal rainfall, no seasonal heat spikes, and an upside-down year with a warmer than usual spring and a cooler summer. Ten years on it was great to see the provenance of the region and its wine demonstrating the benefits of ageing.

Signorello Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cab Franc, 11% Merlot)
Ruby red with cedar resin, cassis, and subtle herbal notes on nose. Medium-bodied with soft tannins, cedar, plum, black pepper and herbally CF notes. Long finish and drinking nicely now and for another 3-4 years. Release price $50 US

Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (76% Cabernet, 75% New French Barrique)
Ruby purple (youthful). Restrained nose that opened over an hour to reveal black cherry,  sweet spices, and a hint of earth. Elegant structure, the  most Bordelaise of the flight, with perfect balance of tannins, fruit, and acidity. Full-bodied with cassis, spice, black-cherry, pencil graphite, and hints of pepper.  Release price $100 US

Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select, Stags Leap District (100% Cabernet)
Dense purple colour with aromas of cedar, toast, and licorice. Full-bodied and concentrated with lush glycerol like tannins and loads of cassis, cedar resin, wood smoke and hints of chocolate. Youthful but so delightful to drink now;  should age another decade at least . Very long finish.

Heitz Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Martha’s Vineyard Oakville (100% CS, organically farmed)
Ruby purple with complex secondary aromas of tobacco leaf, kirsch, and eucalyptus. Full-bodied and concentrated, bigger and more tannic than the Shafer, with youthful ripe black cherry, mint, gout de pencil, and black plum notes. Should cellar another decade or more. Release price $100 US

Salvestrin Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena
Ruby red, showing the most age of the flight, with aromas of sweet fruit compote, and Asiatic spice. Medium-bodied, soft tannins, and juicy mulberry fruit and layers of warm Asian spice.  Drinking nicely now. Release price $50 US

Cain Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District
Ruby purple with lots of toast aromas. Medium bodied with mellowing tannins and layers of cedar, mocha, coffee, raspberry, and complex spices on the finish. Release price $90 US

Stylistically The Bordelaise like Clos du Val was a personal favourite with the Heitz and Shafer  showing the terror, benchmarks, and textbook descriptors of Napa.  All these wines would be perfect Autumn and winter drinking with hearty meat dishes to cut the tannin content.