Friday, August 6, 2010

2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Spottswoode

Spottswoode is a very well managed estate with 16.20 hectares of organic farmed vineyards (since 1985 – they are now moving towards biodynamic practices) at the foot of Spring Mountain just west of the small hamlet St Helena in Napa Valley. It’s mainly planted to Cabernet Sauvignon (15.20 hectares) with a few of the in total 23 small blocks planted with Cabernet Franc and also Petit Verdot, as well as one hectare of Sauvignon Blanc. Spottswoode makes one of the finest sauvignons of Napa Valley, it’s well worth looking for.
Besides the first seven vintages since the founding of Spottswoode in 1982, when Mark Aubert was the winemaker, this has always been an “only women vineyard and winery”. It’s own by Beth Novak-Milliken and her mother Mary Novak, and wines have been made by the talented winemakers Mia Klein (1990-1995) and Rosemary Cakebread (1996-2005) and since then by Jennifer Williams who came to Spottswoode as assistant winemaker already in 2002.
The winery is relatively small, but allows the winemaking team to ferment each block separate in the 17 small stainless steel tanks and three cement vats, as well as three cement eggs that are all used for the red wines.
I was never really impressed but the early vintages, and they never kept very well either. Of course the vines were young back then, but also the acidity was adjusted in the early years to the extent the wines were a bit out of balanced. After moving to organic practices, the wines became much more nuanced and elegant in the end of the 80s, and even more so in the early 90s. Although Spottswoode made a very good 1992 and 1994, the 1995 vintage makes the turning point in the history of the estate. Since the magnificent 1995, almost every vintage have been very good to excellent.
Today Spottswoode counts among finest wine estates of Napa Valley.

1995 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon / 95 p
I don’t know the precise blend of this vintage, but normallythe estate wine is made of 95-98 percent of Cabernet Sauvignon and just a small splash of Cabernet Franc. Depending on the vineyard block and vintage, fermentation and maceration stretches from four to six weeks, with a daily pump over to make a gentle extraction, and the different lots are kept separately in French oak barrels from coopers Taransaud, Nadalie and Seguin-Moreau for one year when the first blend is done. The wine will then go back to the barrels for another ten to twelve months of ageing before it’s bottled with just a light filtration.
Now, at an age of 15 years, this wine is just gorgeous. Color is still dark, but with the first visible notes of age. The nose is open, deep, rich and intense with lovely notes of sweet dark cherries and blackberries as well as black olives and some secondary and highly complex aromas. As always, the oak flavor is well absorbed by the wine and the ageing process. It’s easy to take a shortcut and describe this wine as “bordeaux like”, and for sure it is, at least on the nose. On the palate, however, it’s more full, riper and longer, but it carries the same seductive finesse and tannic structure as its counterparts from Bordeaux. The texture is more silky. There’s also a note of mint here that I find very attractive. Another great thing about this wine – it opens up beautifully with air, which indicates a long life and further ageing for those who like to keep some bottles.
The 1995 vintage is definitely a very good one at Spottswoode, and it’s recommended to keep the fine wines from Spottswoode for at least ten, or rather 15 years before pulling the cork. Part of the magic in these wines comes with age!
Drink it 2010-2018.

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