Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dalla Valle Maya 1999 and 2001

One of the most elegant cabernet wines of Napa Valley, is the Maya of Dalla Valle. Although very rare, and seldom tasted of drunk, it’s always a pleasure to do so. The new winemaker Andy Ericson told me in August, that production now is very small due to the replanting program, and Maya is even rarer in the latest vintages, and vintages to come. The Maya vineyard is only 3.05 hectares, planted to two thirds of Cabernet Sauvignon and one third Cabernet Franc. Elevated above the valley floor, with a red volcanic soil and a perfect southern exposure to the sunshine as well as cooling breezes from San Pablo Bay, this vineyard creates unique conditions for a great wine. And great is what it is!

1999 Maya / 97-98
There is something magic about the 1999 vintage – the ripeness is there, but besides the winemakers who seek too high ripeness and richness in their wines (which makes them boring), the wines are overall very complex and elegant. So many well made and even exceptional wines were made in 1999, and Maya is no exception from that. It’s really a very fine wine, already when the cork is popped and you put the nose in the bottle, you understand that this will be a great wine experience. Imagine a cuvée of the very best classical styled Napa Valley wine, and a great wine in a perfect vintage of St-Emilion in Bordeaux, and then let wine reach an age of ten years, then we are getting very close to this!
There is still some primary red and dark fruit on the nose, but also more complex secondary aromas of lead pencils and cedar – but not really cigars – and the oak is extremely well integrated. There are really no rough parts at all on the nose, and also on the palate the wine is as seamless as can be. Of course there are tannins, rich and firm but ripe, and there is some sweetness from the fruits, but then acidity, mineral notes and a long, very complex richness takes over, and stays in the mouth for more than a minute. Only in the finish, some ripe fruit flavors take over and create a seductive balance to some very fine tobacco notes. This is a profound wine, at the same quality level as the magic 1994 Maya. Drink it over the next 6-8 years.

2001 Maya / 96-97
The competition in the tasting where I put this bottle was extreme – all the Napa Valley cult wines of Napa Valley were put in a blind tasting – and this one was next to Grace Family, Araujo Eisele Vineyard, Screaming Eagle and Sloan … and then came the rest. At first, it was very shy, elegant and youthful with delightful and pure cassis fruitiness, but within ten minutes a more complex nose and palate evolved. The oak is very fine, perfectly balanced with the fruit and medium intense body, and there are so many notes reminiscent of the finest bordelaise wines – foremost lead and cedar, but also a hint of grass. All those complex flavors are present on the palate, which also shows a beautiful balance of acidy, tannins and mineral notes, and in the lingering aftertaste there is layers of fruit, acidity and sweetness – but overall an elegance that is outstanding. All those lovely things mentioned, I don’t believe this is a wine to keep for a long time, also it is just too elegant to drink right now. And it really showed well, especially to the other elegant cult wines of the valley, those from Grace Family and Screaming Eagle. Drink it over the next 5-7 years.

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